A Guide to Human Rights

Discrimination and Harassment


Vancouver Island University is committed to providing an environment that is free of harassment and other forms of discrimination. Under the Vancouver Island University Human Rights Policy and Procedures, and under BC's Human Rights Code, the institution has a responsibility to take steps to prevent harassment by:

  • educating members about discrimination and its eradication
  • providing procedures to handle complaints, and
  • remedying situations where discrimination or harassment occurs.

University members are responsible for treating each other with respect and dignity. All employees, administrators, faculty and support staff, are responsible for assisting the academic and administrative leadership in maintaining an institutional environment that is fair and equitable.

VIU has a Diversity, Equity and Human Rights Director to assist the institution in meeting its responsibilities in relation to human rights. The Director is available to provide educational sessions and to assist University members dealing with human rights issues.

University members with a problem or complaint related to discrimination or harassment should consult the Director regarding options for addressing the situation and/or filing a complaint.


Discrimination is differences in treatment of individuals, or groups of individuals, on the basis of a prohibited ground under the B.C. Human Rights Code. The prohibited grounds include:

  • race, colour, ancestry, or place of origin
  • political belief
  • religion
  • marital status
  • family status
  • physical or mental disability
  • sex
  • sexual orientation
  • gender identity or expression
  • age
  • unrelated criminal conviction

Discrimination occurs when actions, decisions, or educational/ workplace structures impose disadvantages on a person or group of persons protected by human rights legislation that is not imposed on others.

Examples include:

  • Provision of unequal facilities and resources to male and female students.
  • Hiring criteria or program admission criteria that have the effect of eliminating candidates from protected groups and that serve no bona fide purpose.
  • Failure to provide appropriate accommodation to students or employees with documented disabilities.
  • Allowing a poisoned environment to develop in relation to a protected ground in the course of any University related activity.


Harassment is a form of discrimination and is defined as behaviour or the effect of behaviour, whether direct or indirect, which meets one of the following conditions:

  • is abusive or demeaning
  • would be viewed by a reasonable person experiencing the behaviour or effect of the behaviour, as an interference with her/his participation in an institutional related activity
  • creates a poisoned environment

Harassment, in order to be considered a form of discrimination, must adversely affect the recipient on one or more of the prohibited grounds under the B.C. Human Rights Code.

Harassment can occur between peers, between students/instructors, or in the supervisory relationship.

Examples include:

  • verbal abuse or threats
  • unwelcome remarks, jokes, innuendos or taunting
  • displaying of offensive or derogatory pictures or signs
  • graffiti, posters, email, web pages, which promote hatred or violence

What these examples all have in common is that an individual or group is being singled out for this treatment on the basis of a protected ground, such as their race or colour, sexual orientation, or disability.


Sexual Harassment is behaviour of a sexual nature by a person who knows, or ought reasonably to know, that the behaviour is unwanted or unwelcome; and

  • which interferes with another person's participation in an institution-related activity, or
  • leads to or implies employment or academically-related consequences for the person harassed, or
  • which creates a poisoned environment.

Examples include:

  • repeated, unwelcome invitations or requests to socialize.
  • derogatory and/or offensive comments about women or men.
  • unnecessary and unwelcome physical contact such as hugging, patting, pinching.
  • criminal harassment ("stalking") and sexual assault, including acquaintance/date rape.

A relationship of mutual consent, a hug between friends, mutual flirtation or any other activity that is welcomed and consensual is not sexual harassment.


If You Experience Discrimination or Harassment

  • Contact the Diversity, Equity and Human Rights Office at 250.740.6440 for confidential advice and information.
  • Don't pretend it isn't happening. It will probably not go away.
  • Refuse to blame yourself; someone else's behaviour is not your responsibility or fault.
  • Tell the person - if you are able - clearly, firmly, and directly that his or her behaviour is offensive and that you want it to stop immediately.
  • Write down what is happening. Carefully document the dates, times, locations, witnesses and details of all incidents.

You can stop the behaviour by taking action, either by yourself or with the help of others. While reporting violations of human rights can be intimidating, assistance in addressing these situations is often required.

If a Complaint is Made About Your Behaviour

  • Try to resolve the issue informally, with the assistance of the Diversity, Equity and Human Rights Director, when necessary.
  • Get support and advice. Unionized employees can consult with their union representative and students can contact Student Affairs or the VIU Student Union (VIUSU).
  • If a formal process is required, ensure you understand your rights and the procedures that will be followed under the University Procedures and your union contract.
  • Co-operative fully with the person(s) conducting the investigation, so that the facts may be determined.


The privacy of parties to a complaint will be maintained by VIU representatives charged with responding to and resolving complaints of discrimination and harassment. There are, however, a number of circumstances outlined in the procedure where the disclosure of some information may be necessary and/or appropriate.

If you are concerned about the circumstances in which VIU may disclose information, please discuss this issue with the Director prior to providing any details on your specific situation.


Threatening, intimidating or discriminating against someone who has filed a complaint or who is providing evidence or assistance in complaint proceedings is a breach of the Vancouver Island University Human Rights and Policy and Procedures.

Frivolous, vexations or malicious complaints

The filing of a complaint that is determined to be frivolous, vexatious, or malicious is a breach of the Vancouver Island University Human Rights Policy and Procedures.

Regional Campuses

University members at regional campuses can connect with the Diversity, Equity and Human Rights Office by e-mailing HumanRights@viu.ca, or by calling local 250.740.6440 at the Nanaimo campus. The Director will connect with you promptly, either in person or by phone.

Students can also consult a campus counsellor, who can assist in making contact with the Director.