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Recent Changes to The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario in 2020

The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (“HRTO”) is an important administrative body in our legal system, as it is responsible for resolving and adjudicating human rights disputes within Ontario. These disputes can cover discrimination in the employment context, equal access to services, and issues related to accommodation.

The HRTO derives its power from the Human Rights Code, legislation which lays out the HRTO’s powers, processes, and provides it with a level of independence needed to handle human rights disputes. Recently, the HRTO has undergone certain changes which could compromise its independence.

The HRTO employs of a mixture of part-time and full-time staff, ranging from administrative support to adjudicators, who are responsible for mediating and adjudicating hearings. Because adjudicators specifically must be appointed, political considerations can exist, some of which can undermine the HRTO’s independence.

Previously, adjudicators who were appointed could expect to return and be re-appointed in order to continue their terms. This not only promoted consistency in the HRTO’s adjudication and process, but also ensured that staff were available to handle any and all human rights disputes. The HRTO provides an open and accessible service to all of Ontario, so it is not uncommon for there to be a flood of cases and requests.

Recently, the Ontario government has decided there would be no automatic re-appointment of existing staff members, and that in fact, the HRTO could face an overhaul. This has led to a replacement of certain key members of the HRTO, which has undermined the HRTO’s independence and level of experience.

As with any job, it can be difficult to maintain consistency and competence when there is a revolving door in the selection of employees. Adjudicators must be carefully selected and given the time necessary to resolve human rights disputes and ensure the Human Rights Code is upheld properly and consistently. This could be especially true for adjudicators who are appointed despite having no experience in human rights litigation.

Consequences of this overhaul could include delays, staff shortage, lack of consistent Human Rights Code interpretation and application, and a lack of proper remedy for the many applicants who might rely on the HRTO for help. It is uncertain how the government might respond should any of these issues exist, but at the moment the future of the HRTO does not look entirely positive.

Contact Us

If you are an employer or an employee and have questions pertaining to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario or human rights violations, our team of experienced legal professionals at Achkar Law can help. Contact us by phone toll-free at 1 (800) 771-7882 or email us at [email protected] and we would be happy to assist.

If you are a small or medium-sized company looking for full-service support, visit our CLO program page for our strategic solutions.


Disclaimer: This blog is not intended to serve as, or should be construed as legal advice, and is only to provide general information. It is in no way particular to your case and should not be relied on in any way. No portion or use of this blog will establish a lawyer-client relationship with the author or any related party. Should you require legal advice for your particular situation, fill out the contact form, call 1-(800)771-7882, or email [email protected].