Whether you are looking to learn more about your legal options inside and outside Ontario’s human rights system, preparing to file a human rights application, or are getting ready for a mediation or hearing, this How-to Guide is here with information, explanations, tips and links to help you.
This guide is general information only. It is not legal advice about your situation. This guide is not a substitute for a lawyer’s research, analysis and judgment. This guide is reliable as of the date of publication (January 2021). You should be aware that the law and procedures under the Human Rights Code (Code) and at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO) are subject to change without notice.
Everyone in Canada is entitled to the same fundamental human rights including the right to equality and dignity, and to live free from discrimination and harassment. In Canada, human rights are protected by federal, provincial and territorial laws.
Our Glossary of frequently used legal definitions can help get you started.
This section outlines where, and with whom to file a human rights claim or complaint.
A time limit to file a legal claim, including an HRTO application under the Code, is called a limitation period. You must file your HRTO application within either one (1) year or within six (6) months, depending on the type of HRTO application you are intending to file.
To be a party in a case at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO), a person must have legal capacity. A person may be legally incapable because they are under eighteen (18) years old and are considered a minor, or because they do not have the mental capacity to make decisions about the issues in their case which means they do not have legal capacity.
Proving discrimination or harassment under the Human Rights Code (Code) at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO) is harder and more complicated than most people may think or believe. This section outlines the definitions of harassment, discrimination, and evidence.
The duty to accommodate recognizes that people have different needs and require different solutions to gain equal access and treatment in public services, housing and employment. To accommodate someone often means to remove the barriers which prevent people from having equal access to jobs, housing, and the use of services, goods and facilities (e.g. public transit, stores, or schools).
If you have filed a human rights application, or are considering doing so, it can be helpful to read decisions of the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario that deal with other cases similar to your own. You may find a decision that is about a factual situation that is similar to the facts in your human rights application. This can help you figure out if whether what happened to you would be considered by the Tribunal to be discrimination under Ontario’s Human Rights Code.
Learn everything you need to know to file an HRTO application.
The HRTO follows the following steps:
Once the HRTO receives the application, it will send you a letter/email confirming receipt of the application. The HRTO will then review your application to make sure there are no issues with it before it is sent to the Respondent(s).
- Application is incomplete
- Application is not within provincial jurisdiction
- Facts set out in application do not engage a social area and/or ground protected by the Code
- Application filed beyond one (1) year of last incident
- Application may need to be deferred due to another legal proceeding that is ongoing
- Application may need to be dismissed due to another legal proceeding that has concluded
Notice of Incomplete Application: Will list which questions were missed and will give you a deadline to respond by
Notice of Intent to Dismiss: Will set out what issue(s) the HRTO has with the application and will ask you to provide submissions by a certain date
Notice of Intent to Defer: Will ask for submissions on whether the application should be deferred pending completion of the other legal proceeding.
NOTE: If you do not respond to the HRTO Notice, the application could be dismissed as “abandoned”. If you require more time to prepare submissions, email the HRTO Registrar immediately and ask for an extension: HRTO.Registrar@ontario.ca
After responding to Notice of Intent to Dismiss
- If HRTO is convinced by an Applicant’s submissions, Applicant will receive a HRTO letter stating that the application will continue to be processed and then served on the Respondent
- If the HRTO is not convinced by an Applicant’s submissions, there is a chance the application may be dismissed
HRTO will not dismiss an application at a preliminary stage unless it is plain and obvious it is outside the HRTO’s jurisdiction to decide. HRTO will ask for further submissions if issue is still unclear
The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO) may grant an interim remedy before a full hearing of the application (Form 1) has taken place. An interim remedy is a type of immediate, short-term help until the HRTO can make a final decision about whether there is a violation of the Human Rights Code (Code).
An applicant may request, under Rule 21 of the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario’s (HRTO) Rules of Procedure (HRTO Rules) that the HRTO deal with an application (Form 1) by way of an expedited proceeding. If an application is expedited, it will be processed by the HRTO more quickly than would normally be the case.
The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario’s (HRTO) adjudication process begins when you file an Application (Form 1) at the HRTO. The HRTO then delivers the application to the respondent named in your application. The respondent is then required, in most cases, to complete and file a Response (Form 2) to the application.
After your Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO) Application (Form 1) is delivered to the respondent by the HRTO, the Respondent(s) are expected to deliver and file a Response (Form 2) which gives their version of facts and events. The HRTO delivers the Response (Form 2) to you. Once the Response (Form 2) is delivered to you, you may wish to complete a Reply (Form 3).
When an applicant files an Application (Form 1) at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO), this means a formal legal proceeding is started under the Human Rights Code (Code). The information provided by an applicant to the HRTO in their Application and any documents that are filed by the parties at the HRTO may contain sensitive or highly personal information about your circumstances. This information can be requested and provided by the HRTO to a third party such as a member of the public or media organizations.
After an Application (Form 1) has been filed at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO), a party to the proceeding may make a Request for an Order During Proceedings (RODP) under Rule 19 of the HRTO Rules of Procedure (HRTO Rules) by using the HRTO Form 10.
It is common for there to be multiple legal proceedings taking place at the same time that are related to the same human rights issues and facts that may underlie an Application (Form 1) filed under the Human Rights Code (Code) at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO).
These other legal proceedings are often ongoing and have not yet concluded. In these circumstances, the question arises as to whether the HRTO application should continue to proceed at the HRTO, or whether it should be deferred (i.e., postponed) until the conclusion of the other ongoing legal proceeding.
It is common for there to be requests by a respondent or from the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO) itself to seek an early dismissal of a HRTO Application (Form 1). This means that the HRTO considers whether there is a good legal reason to stop the HRTO application before there is a full merit hearing to decide whether there is a violation of the Human Rights Code (Code).
A summary hearing is a type of a preliminary hearing at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO). These preliminary hearings often arise when there is a request by a respondent to dismiss an application under the Human Rights Code (Code), in whole or in part, early in the HRTO process.
When you make an application at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (the Tribunal) the individual or corporation responding to your application (the Respondent) has a right to know what your case is about. As an Applicant, you must give information to the Respondent about the evidence that you will be relying on to prove your application. The Respondent is under the same obligation to provide you with information about the evidence that will be used to defend against your application.
The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (the Tribunal) asks every person who files a human rights application (“Applicant”) and every person or organization responding to a human rights application (“Respondent”) to participate in mediation in order to resolve the issues raised in the application without going to a hearing.
This information sheet deals with what can be done if you are unable to attend a mediation or hearing on the date scheduled by the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (the Tribunal).
If you have a human rights claim and have filed an Application at the Tribunal, this guidebook will help you prepare the presentation of your case.
Making sure that your witnesses attend your hearing at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (Tribunal) is very important. Many of your witnesses will attend the hearing voluntarily if asked.
For more information about preparing your witnesses see Requiring a Witness to Attend a Hearing.
After the Hearing
There are different procedures that may be available for enforcement depending on whether you have a Tribunal order or minutes of settlement.
Decisions of the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (Tribunal) are generally considered to be final decisions and are not reviewable by a court except in accordance with two very specific types of proceedings – requests for reconsideration and applications for judicial review. This guide is only about applications for judicial review.
It is not easy to have a decision (or order) of the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (Tribunal) changed or overturned. In general, decisions of the Tribunal are considered final and are not subject to a right of appeal. However, if you want the Tribunal to reconsider its final decision in your application, you can request that it do so, following the reconsideration process under the Tribunal Rules of Procedure (Rule 26).