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The Ontario Policy Pod on the System for Monitoring the Employment Rights of Persons with Disabilities identified a need for a user friendly, online comprehensive resource to access literature on human rights law, in respect disability and employment discrimination.

Canadian Human Rights Law Themes

Based on pre-existing knowledge from previous research, a listing of key Canadian human rights law themes was created, as a starting place in terms of search terms and as a mechanism to organizing data.  The themes set out key concepts of human rights law under three principal components of disability law prima facia discrimination, reasonable accommodation and undue hardship. Under each of these components, key sub-concepts and seminal cases were listed. For example, under prima facia discrimination we identified the following key sub-concepts: social construction of disability, no direct or causal connection between the impugned action and the discrimination, potential and perceived disability, adverse effects discrimination\constructive discrimination, discrimination on account of disability, breach of zero-tolerance policy, harassment & poisoned work environment, and reprisal. In all, there was initially twenty subcategories. These key components,  subcategories and seminal cases provided initial search terms.

Through-out the project we continued to refine and expand the key terms listing. Ultimately, the  grew from an initial three-page document to an eleven-page document with four classes, twenty sub-classes and twenty-one sub-sub classes, listing 118 relevant articles.

We determined that some of sub themes, were becoming too detailed, were lists which could never be definitive, such as types of accommodations or types of disabilities or were list of criteria. However, none of this was lost as will be discussed below, as it is captured in tagging the articles in the database.

We refined the key terms to four broad core disability and employment related themes: defining disability, disability discrimination the duty to accommodate and litigation related issues encompassing collectively 17 sub themes. Two of the sub themes has collectively 11 further sub-sub themes, while maintain all the literature. This will serve the user as a conceptual mapping of Canadian human rights law, as it applies to employment and persons with disabilities.

Searchable Data Base

A Master Catalogue excel database was created, to list articles in a more searchable format. Articles were tagged with key terms to assist in searching. We annotated all articles, to provide a brief summary of the main points, to assist searchers in identifying relevant literature. Articles were categorized based on the following criteria:

  • Author, Year, Title and Citation
  • Format
    • Print, PDF, RTF DOC, HTML, E-Book, or other
  • Literature: Source Type
    • Grey
      • Conference Paper
      • Blog Post/Commentary
      • Policy/Guide
      • Webpage
      • Submission/Report
    • Academic
      • Book, Chapter, or Journal Article
  • Main Category/Sub-Category/Other Relevant Tags
    • Based on terminology labelled on the Taxonomy
    • To be used as the database filters and content criteria for portal
  • Notes on How to Access
    • Indicating where the source is made available
  • Open Access (Y/N)
  • Links/Code/ISBN or Call Number
  • Short Description
    • Two-liner summary made by researcher, may also make reference to official abstract if available


Search criteria were developed iteratively. Initial search terms were based on the key themes and seminal cases. Our reviewing of the literature resulting from the initial search terms lead to additional terms, which were also searched. In total, we derived fifty search terms. Search terms are listed at Appendix A

Academic literature

Initially, we identified a number of academic databases to systematically search, applying the established search terms. The databases were: CanLII; LexusNexus Academic; Legal Source, Google Scholar, CBCA Complete, Sociological Abstracts, and Disability in the Modern World. After repeated searches, it became evident that CBCA Complete, Sociological Abstracts, and Disability in the Modern World, were not netting relevant literature and subsequently searching these data bases were abandoned.

We also initially identified a number of key area specific journals to be searched: Canadian Journal of Human Rights, Canadian Labour & Employment Law Journal; Canadian Journal of Disability Studies. These journals were systematically searched applying the search terms discussed above.

Our searches resourced literature from twenty-seven Journals. As expected, the vast majority of the literature was found in legal journals. However, articles were also found in diverse journals including disability specific journals, employment specific journals and interdisciplinary journals. A list of Journals accessed is set out in Table one.

In addition, we searched specific authors, who we were aware of doing significant research and writing on human rights and disability, to assure we found all their relevant works. We conducted author specific searches for in excess of twelve authors.

Table 1 - List of Journals

Alberta Law Review Osgoode Digital Commons
Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism Osgoode Hall Law Journal
Canadian Journal of Disability Studies Ottawa Law Review
Canadian Journal of Human Rights Ottawa Law Review
Canadian Journal of Woman and the Law Queen’s Law Journal
Canadian Labour & Employment Law Journal Saskatchewan Law Review
Cardoza Journal of International and Comparative Law Societies
Common Law World Review Supreme Court Law Review
Dalhousie Law Journal The Advocates Quarterly
Disability and Society The Court
Employee Responsibilities and Rights Journal The Supreme Court Law Review
Journal of Law & Equality University of New Brunswick Law Journal
Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation Western Journal of Legal Studies
Manitoba Law Journal Windsor Review of Legal and Social Issues
McGill Journal of Law and Health Windsor Year Book of Access to Justice


Grey literature

We also searched grey literature to fill gaps on issues where there was no academic literature. We excluded grey literature where academic sources were available on the topic. We excluded news articles.  We applied the criteria set out in the AACODS checklist. Particularly, we focused on the authority of the author and their expertise and the reputability of the organization. Articles were included only if they were significant or provided additional context. We derived sixty significant grey articles. The majority of these articles were written by legal practitioners. Sources included lawyers and law firms practicing in this area, conference proceedings, Bar Association papers. Specifically, related are a number of articles by the Canadian Human Rights Reporter.  Articles from disability specific experts include ARCH disability Law Center and Canadian Council on Disability.


We have tagged the article with relevant terms, as an aid to searchability. Each article is tagged with up to three different types of tags being a main category, a sub-category and other relevant tags. Main categories are the broad area of human rights law discussed, such as: “Duty to Accommodate”, “Defining Disability”, “Discrimination”. Sub-categories are more specific elements of these specific areas of law. For instance, an article tagged with “Duty to Accommodate” as a main category, may, for example, have a sub-category of “Duties and Responsibilities in the Accommodation Process” or “Appropriate Accommodation”. Lastly, additional relevant tags may identify the article as being in respect to a certain disability or the tags may be in respect to a more specific aspect of the category or sub-category. For example, in respect to accommodation the Other Relevant Tag, may be “Forms of Accommodation”. The multiple levels of tagging provide searchers with a spectrum of terms, that may help them discover relevant articles.


The literature search, which is at the heart of Canadian Work Disability Accommodation Law Resource Digital Portal, was systematic and iterative, rendering a comprehensive data bank of Canadian human rights disability employment legal literature. It will serve as a comprehensive research tool.