Briggs v. Durham Regional Police Services, 2021 ONSC 414

In a recent review of a Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO) decision, the Ontario Divisional Court restored $10,000 that was previously awarded and then taken away from Mr. Briggs by the HRTO. In a complex case spanning over several years, the Divisional Court reviewed the HRTO’s initial ruling which awarded the applicant, Mr. Briggs, with financial compensation as well as its later ruling that subsequently removed that compensation.

In an earlier decision, Briggs v. Durham Regional Police Services, 2015 HRTO 1712 (CanLII), the HRTO concluded Mr. Briggs was the target of racial profiling by Durham Regional Police Services (Durham) when they ran his license plate in the parking lot of a restaurant and then followed him afterwards. The HRTO awarded Mr. Briggs $10,000 in 2015. The case ended up back at HRTO with Durham alleging that Mr. Briggs settled before this 2015 decision. At the time Briggs had concluded a second and unrelated application against Durham outside of the HRTO.

In November 2017, Briggs v. Durham Regional Police Services, 2017 HRTO 1457 (CanLII) was heard by the HRTO, which held that this settlement with Durham covered both the first and second applications filed by Briggs. In January 2019, the HRTO cancelled its earlier 2015 decision, which removed the award of $10,000 ordered to be paid by Durham.

Mr. Briggs filed an application for judicial review of the 2017 November decision and argued that the HRTO erred in its interpretation and subsequent application of the settlement and release in the second application. The Divisional Court allowed the application for judicial review. The Court found that the HRTO’s conclusion in 2017 that Briggs had agreed to a lump settlement of both unrelated applications was unreasonable and must be set aside.

The Divisional Court also ruled that it would not be appropriate to send the matter back to the HRTO. The Court reasoned this case involved the application of the legal principles of interpretation. In their view, interpreting the settlement release between Briggs and Durham did not engage the HRTO’s expertise in human rights matters and could be resolved by the Court on the evidentiary record. The Court went on to consider the post-settlement evidence in the record to determine if Mr. Briggs did or did not settle his April 2012 application as part of the settlement in March 2015.

The Divisional Court found:

  • that the HRTO erred in its analysis of the factual matrix and excluded relevant pre-settlement evidence, particularly the HRTO Form 25;
  • that the HRTO erred in finding that the settlement and release were unambiguous by failing to properly consider the factual matrix and interpret the whole text of the settlement; and
  • that, after considering and weighing the post-settlement evidence in the record, the only available conclusion was that the parties never intended to settle Mr. Briggs’ April 2012 application in March 2015 and that the release in paragraph 7 of the settlement did not cover that April 2012 application.

The Divisional Court ordered:

  • that Mr. Briggs’ judicial review application of both the November 2017 Decision and the January 2019 decision, were allowed and both decisions were set aside; and
  • that costs fixed at $7,500 were payable by Durham.

Read the full decision here