Inquiries and Intake
The Inquiry and Intake Service Unit is the first point of contact for members of the public who need information on filing a human rights complaint. Callers receive basic information on how to contact the Commission, how to file a complaint and other information about the human rights process. During 1999-2000, the Unit received a total of 153,306 telephone calls. Staff responded to 52,030 calls or 85% of the 60,977 callers who opted to speak to an inquiry service representative. On average, calls were responded to in 2 minutes. Staff sent out 4,246 intake questionnaires, and received 2,409 completed intake packages in return. Of these, 1,861 or 77% became human rights complaints.
Mediation is a formal and voluntary opportunity for parties involved in a complaint to meet and resolve their issues at the outset of the complaint process. In 1999-2000, more than half of the total number of cases, 1,270 were resolved at the mediation stage. The settlement rate at mediation is 74%. During the past year, the Commission also published a survey of participants who used its mediation process. Findings show that some 75% of complainants and respondents who are eligible for mediation services choose this method of dealing with their situations. The survey also reflected a high degree of success, with 70% of the complainants mentioning that they felt their issue was properly addressed, and 78% of the respondents indicating that they felt that the process was fair. Over 87% of those participating in the survey indicated that they would use mediation again if they had another human rights complaint.
The success of the voluntary mediation program has in turn meant that the number of complaints under investigation has been steadily dropping from 1,780 in March 1998 to 1,140 in March 1999 to 718 in March 2000. It has also enabled the Commission to focus its investigation resources on older cases, particularly those that are two years of age or older. Last year, the Commission committed to resolve 1100 cases through the investigative process and achieved 94% of this target. It also committed to resolve 80% of cases that were two years of age or older as of March 31, 1999. This year, it resolved 555 cases which represents 106% of last year’s target of 520 cases. This reduction in the older cases has had a remarkable impact in the reduction of the average age of the caseload, which is about 13 months.
The Commission has also made significant strides in improving the timeliness in handling complaints. The average time required to process a complaint from opening to decision is currently 18 months down from 22 months last year, and the median age of complaints in the system is now 9 months.
The Commission also met its public performance measures set out in the Ministry’s 1999-2000 business plan. Last year, it committed to achieve a 65% settlement rate at the mediation stage. This year, it accomplished a rate of 74%.
During the 1999-2000 fiscal year, the Commission made significant strides in a number of areas including caseload management, timeliness of handling complaints and public education. Expectations for this year have been either met or exceeded in all areas.
For a fourth year in a row, the Commission has resolved more cases than it opened. In 1999-2000, it opened 1,861 and resolved 2,305 cases, making 1999-2000 one of the most productive years in the Commission’s history. As at March 31, 2000, the Commission’s active caseload was 1,952 compared to 2,386 on March 31, 1999 and 2,745 on March 31, 1998. Three years ago, the Commission made a commitment to the Ontario public to achieve a current caseload. Given this year’s statistics, which show that the caseload roughly matches the number of complaints it receives each year, and the average age of a complaint in the system is 13 months, the Commission is very close to achieving this goal. The Commission also sent 92 complaints to the Board of Inquiry (Human Rights).