Sask. to review law allowing landlords to turn away gays

Saskatchewan Justice Minister Gord Wyant is reviewing a section of the province's Human Rights Code that allows discrimination against some renters over sexual orientation.

Landlords of smaller units where their own families also live can discriminate

From housing section of the Human Rights Code

(3) Subsection (1) [discrimination in housing matters not allowed] does not apply to discrimination on the basis of the sex or sexual orientation of a person with respect to the renting or leasing of any dwelling unit in any housing accommodation that is composed of not more than two dwelling units, where the owner of the housing accommodation or the owner's family resides in one of the two dwelling units.

Saskatchewan Justice Minister Gord Wyant is reviewing a section of the province's Human Rights Code that allows discrimination against some renters over sexual orientation.

The code permits landlords of one- or two-unit homes to discriminate on the basis of sex or sexual orientation when they rent out space in a building in which they or their family members also live.

Wyant said that in most cases, the Human Rights Code prevents this kind of discrimination, but there's an exception with respect to duplexes and other form of housing that only have one or two units.

"It's concerning that there are exceptions in the code that have the effect of discriminating against people," he said. "That's what we need to look at."

Wyant said Thursday he'll ask his officials and the Human Rights Commission to review the code.

"To the best of my knowledge we've had no complaints and no complaints to the Human Rights Commission," Wyant added. "But again, that's no excuse for not looking at a provision which would conceivably be discriminatory, and given the evolution of society over a number of years."

Clause inserted into code in 1993

According to Hansard, the official record of debates from the legislature, Saskatchewan politicians were alerted to the clause when the NDP government of the day introduced amendments to the province's Human Rights Code in 1993.

On Apr. 29, 1993, Minister of Justice Bob Mitchell pointed out that the new section, dealing with discrimination and homosexuals, included an important exception.

"Mr. Speaker, before I leave the sexual orientation provisions of this bill, I should note an important exception to its application," Mitchell said. "In effect the exception permits discrimination in one circumstance."

Mitchell then outlined how the code allows for a homeowner who rents a suite in their home to make distinctions on the basis of sex.

"This provision, by virtue of this bill, Mr. Speaker, is being extended so that a homeowner renting one suite may decline to rent that suite to a homosexual," Mitchell said.

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