March 28, 2008
The AODA Alliance here makes public the brief it submitted to the Human Rights Tribunal. It addresses the Tribunal’s proposed new rules of procedure. These proposed rules spell out the hoops discrimination victims would have to get through after June 30, 2008 to present a discrimination complaint to the Human Rights Tribunal.
This brief identifies serious problems with these proposed new rules. These rules are so user-unfriendly that it will be very important for any discrimination victim to have a lawyer from beginning to end to navigate the human rights process. These rules would make it harder to file a discrimination case than was the case under the old system before Bill 107, and even harder than filing a lawsuit in court. They make it harder to get a case to early mediation than at present.
Although they say the Tribunal will fulfil its duty to accommodate minorities under the Code, these rules don’t ensure that the Tribunal will operate in a fully accessible, barrier-free way for discrimination victims and others. For example, the proposed rules and the Tribunal’s related practice directions violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, by proclaiming that the Human Rights Tribunal won’t provide any interpreters for witnesses and parties to a case who don’t communicate in English, French or Sign Language, except in exceptional cases. Section 14 of the Charter guarantees to every witness or party at a proceeding the constitutional right to an interpreter.
By these rules, the Tribunal would bestow on itself sweeping, excessive, unnecessary new powers. These include the power to set hearing dates without even consulting the parties, the power to indefinitely defer a case, and the power to selectively exempt a party from having to obey the rules. They would also set up new procedures that could let the Tribunal block people from being able to present all the relevant non-repetitive witnesses they need to prove their case. The proposed rules don’t set clear, strict criteria to limit these sweeping powers. They don’t require the Tribunal to give reasons when using them. Bill 107 reduces the courts’ power to police this.
These rules fly in the face of one of the McGuinty Government’s key reasons for passing Bill 107. The Government promised that every discrimination victim would get a hearing on their case. Yet these rules let the Tribunal refuse to deal with a case at the outset, acting behind closed doors, without any hearing if the discrimination victim’s application form isn’t “complete.” The rules don’t require the Tribunal to give reasons for tossing an application at the door so a discrimination victim can fix it up, though the Tribunal website says the Tribunal would give explanations.
The proposed rules would also give the Tribunal sweeping power to direct that a case will be decided at a “written hearing,” not at a hearing in person that the discrimination victim can attend. As a cruel irony, The McGuinty Government and Bill 107’s proponents blasted the old Human Rights Code and urged reform, in no small part because the Human Rights Commission could dismiss a human rights case behind closed doors without giving the discrimination victim a hearing in person.
This brief makes detailed, constructive recommendations to fix these serious problems. It also points out that the Tribunal’s limited, largely invitation-only consultation on these rules doesn’t fulfil Bill 107’s requirement that there be a public consultation before the Tribunal can enact rules of procedure.
If you don’t have time to now read all the details in this brief, you can read read the short summary at the start of the brief. It summarizes problems with the proposed rules, and the AODA Alliance’s recommendations for reform.
Even though the Tribunal has refused to extend its March 14, 2008 deadline for any of you (apart from the AODA Alliance) to give feedback on the rules, we nevertheless urge everyone to let the Tribunal, Ontario Attorney General Chris Bentley and Premier Dalton McGuinty know if you support the AODA Alliance brief. It would be great if you could send them at least a short note. Tell them that the concerns the AODA Alliance raises in its March 28, 2008 brief on the Human Rights Tribunal’s rules are valid and need to be fully addressed.
You can contact the Human Rights Tribunal at:
Use Subject line: Public Consultation – Proposed Rules of Procedure
Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario
Public Consultation – Proposed Rules of Procedure
Attn: Christine Dion, Office of the Chair
400 University Avenue, 7th Floor
Toronto ON M7A 1T7
Facsimile: (416) 212-5638
You can email Ontario Attorney General Chris Bentley at:
Use subject line: Proposed Human Rights Tribunal Rules of Procedure
The Honourable Chris Bentley
Attorney General of Ontario
720 Bay Street
Toll Free: 800-518-7901
To send feedback to Premier McGuinty, you need to go to a web page, which is:
Also send us your feedback at:
Even though the Tribunal’s deadline for feedback has passed, and the Tribunal may well ignore what you say, it is important to try to share your views and to get as many others to do the same. Send in feedback as individuals, and on behalf of any organization for whom you are authorized to speak.
Download the 0308-Brief-on-Human-Rights-Tribunal-Rules (MS Word format)
Download the 0308-Table-of-contents-Brief-on-human-rights-tribunal-rules (MS Word format)
Note: an online version of the Brief to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario on its Proposed Permanent Rules of Procedure will be available on April 1 2008.