Once a case is referred to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, the Commission litigates the case, representing the public interest in the protection, promotion and advancement of human rights. In most cases, Commission counsel assist the complainant through the process by preparing the witnesses, pleadings, motions, and calling the evidence. At the hearing, Commission counsel seek and obtain remedies which help to prevent future acts of discrimination, such as training programs, the creation of anti-discrimination and harassment policies, internal complaint mechanisms and monitors.
In 2005-2006, 74% of cases were settled at the Tribunal, with active involvement of Commission counsel. The Commission obtained strong public interest remedies in almost all of these settlements. The Commission’s litigation of cases before the Tribunal and at higher courts has been instrumental in enforcing the Code, advancing human rights jurisprudence, promoting the Commission’s policies, and protecting the public interest. When complaints are referred to the Tribunal or are appealed to higher courts, the resulting settlements and decisions may create precedents and directions for advancing human rights law in Ontario, across Canada, and internationally. The Commission has been involved in a number of high profile cases that have overturned decisions of the Tribunal or other courts, adding to this important body of case law. Seeking strong public interest remedies in decisions and settlements, and pursuing Commission initiated complaints, are fundamental to the Commission’s litigation strategy (see Appendix: Case Summary Highlights).
In 2005-06, the Commission was involved in many cases at the Tribunal and in higher courts that resulted in:
- 15 final decisions, 33 interim decisions, and 2 decisions on costs, from the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario
- 42 settlements at the Tribunal
- 8 judicial review decisions from the Divisional Court
- 1 decision on appeal from the Divisional Court
- 1 decision from the Court of Appeal, and
- 2 decisions from the Supreme Court of Canada.
As of March 31, 2006, the Commission is currently litigating:
- 462 complaints before the Tribunal (249 of these are autism cases and are being heard together)
- 8 cases before the Divisional Court (3 judicial reviews and 5 appeals)
- 3 cases at the Court of Appeal
- 2 case at the Supreme Court of Canada.