Frequently Asked Questions
1. Who should I contact if I have a human rights complaint?
You should contact the Canadian Human Rights Commission. The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal can only deal with cases which have been referred to it by the Commission. Most complaints filed with the Commission are resolved without being referred to the Tribunal. If the complaint warrants further inquiry and an agreement cannot be reached between the parties, the Commission will send the case to the Tribunal.
2. Why can't I take my case directly to the Tribunal?
Parliament has determined that because the Tribunal acts like a court it must remain impartial. Its role would be compromised if it acted as an advocate or if it investigated complaints that it might eventually have to rule on.
3. What is the difference between the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (CHRT) and the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC)?
It helps to think of the CHRT's role as similar to that of a court and the CHRC's role as similar to that of the police, receiving and investigating complaints. If the Commission believes that further inquiry is warranted, and a resolution between the parties cannot be reached, it refers the case to the Tribunal for formal hearing. At this stage, the Commission will take one of three positions:
- It may act like a crown attorney and fully participate at the hearing in the public interest by leading evidence to prove a case of discrimination;
- It may participate as above, but in a limited capacity by addressing specific issues or legal questions, but will not by present during the whole hearing; or
- It may choose not to participate in the hearing process at all.
In the last two scenarios, the complainant, through a lawyer or on their own, will be required to lead the evidence necessary to prove their case to the Tribunal. The Tribunal's role in all situations is comparable to that of a judge, deciding the case fairly and impartially by weighing all the evidence introduced by all parties and deciding if discrimination under the Act has occurred. If yes, the Tribunal will determine an appropriate remedy.
4. Does the Canadian Human Rights Act (CHRA) cover all human rights complaints in Canada?
No. The Tribunal's jurisdiction covers matters within the legislative authority of the Parliament of Canada which includes federal government departments and agencies, Crown corporations, banks, airlines, and other federally regulated employers and service providers. Provincial and territorial human rights commissions also operate under provincial/territorial human rights codes and jurisdictions. If you're not sure whether your complaint is against a "federally regulated" organization, contact your provincial or territorial human rights commission or the Canadian Human Rights Commission.
5. Where does the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal get its authority?
The Tribunal was created by an Act of Parliament in 1977. The Canadian Human Rights Act states that all Canadians have the right to equality, equal opportunity, fair treatment, and an environment free of discrimination.
6. What are the grounds for discrimination prohibited by the Canadian Human Rights Act?
The Act prohibits discrimination on the following grounds:
- national or ethnic origin
- sex (includes pay equity, harassment (which applies to all grounds, not just sex), pregnancy and childbirth)
- sexual orientation
- gender identity or expression
- marital status
- family status
- genetic characteristics
- disability (can be mental/physical, includes disfigurement, past or present, alcohol or drug dependence)
- conviction for which a pardon has been granted
7. How does the Tribunal make its decisions?
The Tribunal holds public hearings to render a decision on cases referred by the Canadian Human Rights Commission. Based on evidence and the law, it decides if discrimination has occurred. If the answer is yes, the Tribunal decides how to compensate the victim and how to prevent similar cases of discrimination in the future.
8. What is the difference between an interim ruling and a final decision?
Before or during the hearing, one of the parties may request the Tribunal to issue an interim ruling on a preliminary or procedural matter not related to the merits of the complaint. Several months after the hearing, the Tribunal will issue its final decision as to whether the alleged discrimination on grounds prohibited by the Canadian Human Rights Act occurred. If the Tribunal decides that discrimination did occur, it will also decide what the remedy should be.
9. What happens if I disagree with a Tribunal ruling or final decision?
If one of the parties involved in the case wants a review of the Tribunal's decision, under appropriate circumstances the party may be able to file an application for review with the Federal Court of Canada.
10. Who sits on the Tribunal?
The Tribunal is comprised of a full-time Chairperson and Vice-Chairperson, as well as up to 13 full- or part-time members, who are appointed for terms up to five years. When a case is referred to the Tribunal, the Chairperson assigns either one or three members to hear the case.
11. Who is responsible for the day-to-day running of the Tribunal?
The Registrar and his staff are responsible for planning, organizing and directing Tribunal operations. Its activities are entirely separate from the decision-making process. It plans and arranges hearings and gives members the administrative support they need to carry out their duties, acting as liaison between the parties and the members.
12. How can I find out about job opportunities at the Tribunal?
Please contact the Public Service Commission of Canada for job opportunities in the Public Service.
13. Where can I find more information about human rights advocacy and policy issues, the grounds for discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act and the process of filing and resolving human rights complaints?
Please consult the Canadian Human Rights Commission Web site.