Human Rights Legal Support Centre

Frequently Asked Questions

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Human Rights Applications

This is general information only. It is not legal advice about your situation.


What should I do to prepare if I am thinking of making a human rights application?

  • Take notes – details are important. Particularly: dates, names, and specific comments or actions that you found discriminatory.
  • Remain focussed on the important issues and don’t get distracted by details that are not relevant.
  • Find anything in writing that would support your claim, like a contract or e-mails.
  • Consider if there are any other people who have witnessed the discrimination. Are others being discriminated against or harassed? Talk to people you trust.
  • If you have talked to a supervisor or boss, write down what they did or didn’t do if it is important to your potential claim.
  • Consider if there are other ways to resolve the situation without starting a legal process. Is there someone who could intervene effectively?

 

Please read “What you need to know before contacting us”.

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How do I file a human rights application?

If you have experienced discrimination, you can file an application at the Tribunal. The Tribunal is responsible for accepting and resolving claims of discrimination.

For more information on the role of the Tribunal, see their description or click here for a copy of the application form.

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If I file a human rights application, who will investigate my case?

Discrimination claims do not have to be investigated before being filed at the Tribunal. In most cases, the primary evidence needed at the hearing is the testimony of both sides and any witnesses. The Tribunal process requires you and the party on the other side to disclose, without an investigation and in advance of the hearing, all the relevant information, including documents.

In more complicated cases, the Code provides plenty of tools to help an applicant to access the evidence needed to prove discrimination. The Tribunal can, for example, order your employer to provide you with copies of documents that have been withheld. In a rare case where more is required, the Tribunal has the authority to order an investigation. The Centre retains experts to identify evidence of discrimination as needed.

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How do I decide how much financial compensation to ask for in my application to the Tribunal?

It is hard to put a dollar amount on the hurt caused by discrimination. If you are successful in proving discrimination, the Tribunal will try to compensate you for the experience of discrimination. The Tribunal will compare your facts with the facts in other decisions and consider the amount of compensation ordered in similar cases.

For example, the Tribunal will consider the impact that the discrimination had on you and whether it happened on one occasion or over a long period of time.

Your application can also ask for compensation for special costs that you incurred because of the discrimination, such as lost wages or moving costs.

At the time that you file your application, it may be too early for you to know the full financial impact of the discrimination. If that is the case, include that information on your application form and let the Tribunal know your estimate of how much compensation is likely to be appropriate over a longer period.

For more information, read “What remedies are available to me at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario?”

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Once the Tribunal accepts my application, does this mean that my case will be successful?

No. The Tribunal will process an application that is complete and is within its area of the authority. If the Tribunal needs more information before accepting your application, it will inform you of what is needed and give you time to provide the information.

Having your application accepted as filed at the Tribunal is the first stage in the process. To find out more about the full process, go to the Tribunal website and read the guides.

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How long does the Tribunal process take?

The goal of the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario is to hold a hearing within one year of the application being filed. Many applications are resolved earlier than that through negotiations between the parties or through the Tribunal’s mediation process.

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Does every application go to a hearing? Will the Tribunal help me find a resolution without a formal hearing?

The Tribunal offers mediation to both sides to a human rights claim. The goal is to help the parties to find a mutually acceptable resolution through the mediation process. If one or both sides do not agree to mediation, or if mediation does not resolve the dispute, the Tribunal holds a hearing to decide whether or not discrimination occurred.

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Where can I find out more about mediation and about how to settle my claim?

For more information on the Tribunal’s mediation process, read “How does the HRTO assist the parties to resolve the application?” You can also read: ”What do I need to know about mediation”.

To give you examples of how human rights claims can be settled, the Centre has posted summaries of settlements that we negotiated at mediations. [include mediation link here when posted, in French and English]

The Centre can help you explore options for settling your claim even before you file an application. You can discuss this with a Human Rights Advisor by phoning our advice line. Please visit our Contacts page.

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Why would I want to settle my case at mediation? Isn’t it always better to go to a hearing?

Every case is different. There are many reasons why an applicant might want to settle a discrimination application by way of a mediated settlement. He or she may want to resolve the dispute quickly or may want to avoid the time and stress involved in a full public hearing.

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How can I find out more about the Tribunal`s full application process from beginning to end?

For a detailed explanation of the application process, please consult the guides available on the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario website.

The Centre has also prepared a guide to the Tribunal’s mediation process and a guide to the Tribunal’s hearing process

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What can the Tribunal do if it holds a hearing and decides that discrimination has occurred?

The Tribunal has the power to order financial or other compensation. For information about the orders that the Tribunal can make, see our Remedies Available information.

And see [include hearing link here when posted, in French and English]

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It is not just about money. Can I ask the Tribunal to make an order to prevent future discrimination?

Yes, the Tribunal has the power to make orders to prevent discrimination from happening in the future. For example, an employer, landlord, service provider, professional association or union could be ordered by the Tribunal to:

  • Develop or amend human rights policies and procedures
  • Distribute new policies to all staff
  • Display signage stating that the respondent complies with the Human Rights Code, or sometimes with a more specific message such as: We welcome Breastfeeding!
  • Retain an outside consultant to deliver human rights training to all staff or senior management at an organization.
  • Distribute a copy of harassment policies to all current and future employees.
  • Change hiring procedures
  • Display information about Ontario’s Human Rights Code in a condominium or apartment lobby.

 

For further examples see some of our cases.

And to view all decisions of the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario see: Human Rights Decisions

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Will information about my human rights application be made public?

The information in your application, as well as other information about your case, may become public in the course of the Tribunal processes. For example, your information will become public at the hearing and in the Tribunal’s decision. Tribunal decisions, both interim and final, are available to the public on Canlii, but may also be searchable on the internet by name.

The details of many mediated settlements are confidential. The law requires the Tribunal to share your Application and any filed Response with the Commission, if requested.

Your information could also become public in response to a request to the Tribunal under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

For more information on the Tribunal’s policies on privacy, go to: Tribunal’s policies on privacy

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How old do you have to be to file a human rights application?

In most cases, you need to be 18 years of age to file a human rights application in Ontario. People who are16 and17 years old and who have “withdrawn from parental control” – that is, are living away from their parents - can make an application under the Code if they have experienced unequal treatment in occupying or renting housing.

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Can I file a human rights application if I am also filing an application using another process?

The Code allows the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO) to dismiss all or part of an application where the Tribunal finds that another proceeding has appropriately dealt with the substance of the application. This avoids duplication of proceedings or re-opening issues that have already been dealt with elsewhere.

If an applicant has initiated another process that has been completed, the party on the other side may ask the Tribunal to dismiss the application. The Tribunal will not make a decision to dismiss the application without giving both sides a chance to state their position on whether the other proceeding has appropriately dealt with the substance of the discrimination application.

 

Here are some examples of other proceedings that could affect your human rights application:

  • A grievance arbitration
  • A hearing before the Workplace Safety and Insurance Appeals Tribunal
  • A hearing before the Landlord and Tenant Board.

The Tribunal may decide to defer (delay) a discrimination application if the same issues are still being considered in another proceeding and the results would also apply to the same parties.

Before the Tribunal decides to defer (delay) an application, both parties are given the opportunity to state their position on whether a deferral is appropriate.

For further explanation, please read information on Deferral and Early Dismissal.

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Where can I find decisions of the Tribunal?

There are a number of sources where you can find human rights decisions.
Please see our “Finding a human rights decision” page for a complete list.

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Common Legal Terms

To find definitions for terms in the human rights context such as applicant, respondent, accommodation, undue hardship, etc. please see our common legal terms page.

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