Human Rights Legal Support Centre

Welcome to the Human Rights Legal Support Centre

The Human Rights Legal Support Centre offers human rights legal services to individuals throughout Ontario who have experienced discrimination contrary to Ontario's Human Rights Code. Our services may include legal assistance in filing applications at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, and legal representation at mediations and hearings.

There are many problems that are not related to the Human Rights Code. A project of CLEO, Your Legal Rights is a website of free legal information for people in Ontario. This site has free, practical, and easy-to-find legal information produced by hundreds of organizations across Ontario.

Ontario's Divisional Court rejects police and doctor's efforts to bar human rights claims: The Human Rights Legal Support Centre successfully defended two clients seeking justice beyond the narrow scope of a professional regulatory body's oversight. 

Update: Gender identity application was resolved October 27th at the HRTO.

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To read the full decision, visit Canlii

What is New at the Centre

Our Challenge to the Changes to IBI Services in Ontario: A Lead Case Approach

Since the provincial government’s announcement of the changes to IBI services, our office has received calls from dozens of parents who want to challenge the reduction or elimination of IBI services for their children with autism.   Our office has limited resources and cannot provide direct representation to every family. 

We are in the process of preparing applications to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario in a small number of cases. We think these cases will represent the best facts for arguing that the changes to IBI services are age discrimination and therefore against the law. By choosing these Lead Cases, we hope to influence outcomes for other families in the same situation.  

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Board of Directors appoints Sharmaine Hall as the new HRLSC Executive Director and thanks Kathy Laird for successfully leading the HRLSC for its first eight years. 

It is with great pleasure that the Board wishes to announce that it has appointed Sharmaine Hall to the lead the HRLSC as its Executive Director. Sharmaine’s appointment comes after conducting an exhaustive search based on criteria collectively developed by the Board and staff of the Centre.

As many of you know, immediately prior to assuming her position with the HRLSC, Sharmaine was the Executive Director of Hamilton’s Dundurn Community Legal Services. While in that position, Sharmaine worked with the Clinic’s various funders, and a variety of community based stakeholders and communities. Since assuming her position with the HRLSC, among other accomplishments, Sharmaine has led the successful implementation of the Centre’s partnership with Osgoode Hall Law School’s Anti-Discrimination Intensive Program. 

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Sexual Harassment and Sexual Violence: Pursuing a Claim at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario

Survivors of sexual harassment and violence in the workplace and in other specific social settings (for example, in schools, at your doctor’s office, on campus) have the right to protection under Ontario’s Human Rights Code.   This is in addition to participating in a criminal process, or, as an alternative to a civil lawsuit. Claims of sexual harassment can be filed directly at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.  If you want to pursue a claim, you can obtain free legal services from the Human Rights Legal Support Centre. 

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Toronto Catholic District School Board changes accessibility procedures in response to human rights claim

A Toronto mother’s human rights claim has resulted in a settlement with the Toronto Catholic School Board to change accessibility policies and procedures across the entire board. The enhanced policy and procedures will be communicated to all elementary and secondary schools.  The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario issued an order on consent of the parties.

The Human Rights Legal Support Centre represented the mother, who was taken aback when she discovered her daughter’s brand new school had accessible washrooms – but just for adults.  The Centre’s lawyer, Marisa Scotto di Luzio, spoke for the mother (who was not named to protect her child’s identity). “We hope that school boards across the province will follow The Toronto Board’s lead.  We also hope the provincial government will comb the Ontario Building Code to identify other accessibility gaps.”

To read the full decision, visit Canlii

Trans woman settles human rights case with City of Hamilton 

The City of Hamilton reached an agreement to settle a human rights application involving a trans woman who was denied access to the women's washroom at the MacNab Bus Terminal in Hamilton by a City employee. The trans woman was provided access to the family washroom.

The City of Hamilton recognizes the right of trans people set out in Ontario's Human Rights Code which includes the right to access facilities in accordance with their self-identified gender identity. The City is committed to communicating that a trans person will not be required to use a separate facility because of the preferences or negative attitudes of others.  The City is committed to providing accommodation options for washrooms and change rooms on an individualized basis. 

Read the full media release on Canada Newswire

Waitress constructively dismissed after asking for pregnancy-related changes at work

Jaques v 1633092 Ontario Ltd. Tosh Steakhouse 2016 HRTO 403

Michelle Jaques worked at Tosh Steakhouse for three years.  After she became pregnant, on her doctor’s advice, Ms. Jaques advised her employer that it was medically inadvisable for her to go up and down the stairs to the second floor dining room.   

After initially agreeing to her request as per her doctor’s advice, the restaurant told Ms. Jaques that “it was not possible” to have her work only on the ground floor.  In testimony, the employer referred to internal shift policies prohibiting the change.  The Centre represented Ms. Jaques and argued before the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario that there were no written policies in place and that, even if such policies existed, adapting the policies to accommodate her medical restrictions would not be an “undue hardship” for the restaurant.

The Tribunal accepted the Centre’s arguments and found the employer had failed to take the necessary steps required under the Human Rights Code to accommodate her needs as a pregnant employee. Pregnancy is specifically included in the Code’s protection against discrimination based on sex. The Centre represented Ms. Jaques and the Tribunal ordered:

  • $15,000 compensation for the discrimination
  • $4,170.60 in lost wages
  • Training for the directors and managers of the restaurant

Click here to see full decision

For more information about accommodation under Ontario’s Human Rights Code see: Your Right to Accommodation on our web site.

Durham Police “tailored testimony” not credible: Racial profiling upheld

TORONTO December 22, 2015 - Joseph Briggs went to buy a sandwich. What happened next was the subject of a five-day hearing before the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.  In the end, Vice Chair Alison Renton concluded Briggs was the target of racial profiling by Durham Regional Police Services when they ran his license plate in the parking lot of a restaurant and then followed him one hour later.    

“Objectively, I find that the racial profiling and discrimination … experienced, which included being racially profiled by having his license plate checked because he was black, and ‘trying to catch him’ is a serious violation of the [Human Rights] Code. The applicant went out at 1:30 a.m. to purchase a sandwich from a 24-hour restaurant, a relatively simple exercise,” read Vice Chair Renton’s 73-page decision.

To read the full decision, visit Canlii