Commission activities 2006-2007: Promoting, protecting and advancing human rights

Public Contact with the Commission

As the first point of contact for members of the public, the Commission’s inquiry service delivers important public education about human rights and responsibilities under the Code, and provides information about the Commission’s policies and guidelines, as well as relevant external resources. The Commission is often able to assist individuals and organizations to prevent or resolve problems so that a complaint is not necessary.

In 2006-07:

  • The Commission dealt with 40,391 telephone inquiries[4]
  • 1,921 inquiries were received by letter
  • 625 persons attended the Commission’s office
  • Of these contacts, 2,337 resulted in formal complaints filed with the Commission (for more information, see “Human Rights Complaints from the Public”, below)

Research and Policy

Conducting research and developing policy positions, documents and guides, are central to the Commission’s work to eliminate discrimination and to protect, promote, and advance human rights. Commission policies and guidelines advance a broad and progressive understanding of Code rights, and set standards for how individuals and organizations should act to ensure compliance with the Code. These documents are often given great deference in tribunals and courts, applied to the facts of cases, and quoted in the decisions of these bodies.

The Commission undertook a number of policy initiatives in 2006-07.

Human Rights and the Family

In March 2007, the Commission approved both a consultation report and a ground-breaking new policy on human rights and the family, for release in Spring 2007.

The Cost of Caring: Report of the Consultation on Discrimination on the basis of Family Status outlines key human rights issues related to family status, such as the Code’s under-inclusive definition of family status, and the difficulties families with children experience in accessing adequate, affordable housing. It also addresses the barriers faced by people with significant care responsibilities for parents, children and other loved ones, in finding and maintaining employment.

The new Policy and Guidelines on Discrimination on the Basis of Family Status is the first of its kind in Canada. It provides guidance to employers, housing providers, service providers and the public on their rights and responsibilities under the Code related to family status. For example, it addresses the duty to accommodate the needs of employees, tenants, and service-users related to caregiving, limitations on adults-only housing, and common workplace practices that create barriers relating to care responsibilities.

Both documents were developed following extensive public consultation, initiated with the 2005 release of the discussion paper, Human Rights & the Family in Ontario.

Human Rights and Rental Housing in Ontario

In 2006-07, the Commission developed background and consultation papers entitled Human Rights and Rental Housing in Ontario. These will form the basis for public consultations beginning in spring 2007, leading to the development of a new policy.

The Background Paper is the product of extensive research into the legal, social and international context with regard to this important human rights issue. The paper discusses access and barriers to affordable rental housing, and highlights some of the ways in which people experience housing discrimination and harassment based on Code grounds. There is also a discussion of homelessness and economic and social rights. The Consultation Paper sets out the major issues and questions on which the Commission will be seeking public input in spring 2007.

Updated Policy on Discrimination Against Older Persons because of Age

The Commission updated its Policy on Discrimination Against Older Persons because of Age in February 2007 to reflect an important legislative change providing greater rights for older persons in employment. On December 12, 2006, Code amendments came into force so that all persons aged 18 and over are protected from discrimination in all social areas on the basis of age. These amendments removed previous exceptions that allowed for mandatory retirement and other age-based employment decisions about hiring, promotion, training, or termination affecting workers who are 65 or over. The changes reflect Commission recommendations to the Government, based on concerns identified through research and consultation set out in the Commission’s report Time for Action, and its Policy on Discrimination Against Older Persons because of Age.

Race-Based Data Collection

In 2006-07, the Commission began development of a new Guide to Collecting, Analyzing and Acting on Race-Based Data. The Guide is intended to support organizations, such as employers and service providers, in their efforts to comply with the Code obligation to prevent and address discrimination, using data collection as a tool. It will set out a model to help organizations: identify issues; decide whether, when and how to collect data; and analyze and act on the information gathered.

The Guide will build upon the Commission’s Policy and Guidelines on Racism and Racial Discrimination, which recommends forms of data collection and analysis, such as ongoing monitoring, surveys and evaluation, as key elements of solid anti-racism organizational change programs. It is anticipated that the Guide will be released in 2007-08.

Education and partnership

The Commission engages in a wide range of educational activities, including partnership initiatives, public awareness campaigns, presentations, workshops and conferences. It also receives delegations from around the world, and engages in national and international cooperation.

Public Education

In deciding whether it can accept a request for a public education presentation, the Commission focuses its resources on events and initiatives that have the potential to:

  • promote broad-scale prevention of Code violations and advancement of human rights
  • significantly enhance the Commission's relationship with a strategic or underserved sector
  • "train trainers" to have a sustainable "multiplier" effect in the organization
  • reduce discrimination across a sector and/or to decrease the incidence of formal human rights complaints

When it cannot accept an invitation, the Commission tries to work with the organization or individual to ensure that their needs are met in some other way, through Commission resources or referral to another organization.

During the 2006-07 fiscal year, the Commission:

  • received 157 invitations and requests
  • had the resources to accept more than 70% of invitations
  • again exceeded its goal of an 80% satisfaction rate among participants at evaluated public education events

The Commission focuses its public education activities on issues that are associated with current Commission initiatives or concerns. The Commission made presentations to various police services and school boards that are attempting to address issues of racial discrimination and racial profiling. Topics addressed also reflect continued interest in such issues as harassment, disability, mandatory retirement and concerns around the “safe schools” provisions of the Education Act.

During this past year the Chief Commissioner made approximately 47 presentations to members of the general public and visiting delegations. Some of her activities included:

  • facilitating discussions amongst international delegates at the XVI International AIDS Conference in Toronto on how HIV and AIDS is impacting women in various countries
  • speaking to several business and legal audiences about the impacts of Bill 107, An Act to Amend the Ontario Human Rights Code
  • several events introducing the Coalition of Municipalities Against Racism and Discrimination to a wide variety of government and community stakeholders, encouraging them to learn more about the Coalition and become involved
  • meetings and ongoing work with representatives of various municipal police services
  • speaking publicly through editorial letters on issues causing tension in the community, such as Islamophobia and a Windsor public lecture series (Windsor Star), gender identity rights (Toronto Star), and the hijab and religious accommodation in soccer (Ottawa Citizen)
  • delivering a paper at the Ontario Bar Association’s 5th Annual Charter Conference on the role of human rights commissions in advancing social and economic rights
  • speaking on a number of occasions with students and working youth about human rights issues they face in employment, housing and in the community
  • involvement in the majority of the 7 presentations that the Commission made to visiting international delegations during this fiscal year

Outreach to Aboriginal Communities

Although much more work needs to be done, the Commission continues to reach out to a number of individuals and groups in Aboriginal communities, in order to build awareness of the Code, enhance access to Commission services, and involvement in its initiatives.

This past year, the Commission continued its positive and productive relationship with the Union of Ontario Indians (UOI), raising awareness about the Code rights of Aboriginal persons living in urban settings and on reserve. In February, the Chief Commissioner met with Grand Chief John Beaucage of the Anishinabek Nation to discuss how the Commission could work with that body to further the rights of Aboriginal people in the province. UOI has cooperated with the Commission in a number of community-based initiatives, most recently the Windsor Forum for the Coalition of Municipalities Against Racism and Discrimination.

In November, the Commission again participated at the Canadian Aboriginal Festival and pow-wow in Toronto and greeted hundreds of attendees who stopped by the booth to chat and exchange information.

Canadian Coalition of Municipalities Against Racism and Discrimination

In 2006-07, the Commission continued to lend its expertise and support to the Canadian Commission for UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Social and Cultural Organization) in promoting a Canadian Coalition of Municipalities Against Racism and Discrimination. The purpose of the Coalition is to establish a network of municipalities interested in sharing experiences and expertise about addressing racism and discrimination, and committed to adopting a Plan of Action for their jurisdictions.

The Commission was involved in a number of activities to promote the Coalition this past year:

  • Created a planning group to promote the Coalition in Ontario. Members include the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, the Centre of Excellence for Research on Immigration and Settlement, the cities of Hamilton, Toronto and Windsor, the Department of Canadian Heritage and the Ontario Federation of Labour
  • In June 2006, the Chief Commissioner facilitated a session at the World Urban Forum in Vancouver where Canadian and international participants exchanged best practices for addressing racism, and discussed how to improve the democratic governance of municipalities determined to respect diversity
  • Provided briefing sessions in January for representatives of approximately 13 community organizations with province-wide mandates, and in February for community representatives from across Ontario at a symposium in North Bay
  • Hosted a one-day Forum in March with the City of Windsor, applying the Commission’s participatory-based program manual. The forum, was attended by representatives of approximately 16 different municipalities
  • The Commission also gave an update on the Coalition to the Canadian Association of Statutory Human Rights Agencies (CASHRA) which had endorsed the Coalition the previous year

To date, four Ontario cities have joined the Coalition – Windsor, Toronto, Thunder Bay and Oshawa – totalling 13 municipalities across Canada. A similar coalition has been established in Europe under the leadership of UNESCO with new coalitions underway in South Asia and Africa.

Seneca College Partnership

The Commission continued its working relationship with students and faculty from Seneca College’s graphic design program at York University to develop human rights awareness campaigns.

This innovative venture began in support of a Toronto Police Service initiative with Seneca to address elder abuse, in partnership with the Ontario Seniors’ Secretariat and CARP (Canadian Association for the 50+). This culminated in joint sponsorship of a poster launched by the Ontario Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse at a Queens Park ceremony in October 2006.

Subsequently, this time as the client, the Commission worked with Seneca College to develop creative designs for campaigns addressing racial profiling and racism, and, in spring 2007, on human rights and the family, in support of its new consultation report and policy. The Commission is currently working on securing partners for marketing the designs.

National and International Cooperation

The Commission cooperates at both the national and international levels in the promotion and advancement of human rights. The Commission is a member of the Canadian Association of Statutory Human Rights Agencies (CASHRA), and contributes through CASHRA’s policy, education and legal sub-committees as well as its annual conference, which took place in Fredericton in June 2006, and will take place in Yellowknife this coming June.

The Commission is also a member of the International Association of Official Human Rights Agencies (IAOHRA) and makes contributions to provincial or federal reports with regard to Canada’s obligations under international human rights conventions. The Commission works to support its national and international partners in human rights advancement, hosting delegations and visitors from across Canada and abroad, and by participating in international conferences and symposia.

In 2006-07 the Commission:

  • Hosted seven international delegations, including educators from Shanghai as well as the Human Rights Commission of Korea regarding sexual harassment
  • Made a submission toward Canada’s 6th and 7th Reports to the United Nations on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women
  • Provided information and advice to the New Zealand Human Rights Commission in support of their Transgender Inquiry
  • Participated in Ontario Justice International’s consultation marking the UN’s March 21st anti-racism day with a delegation of Muslim organizations from Britain on the topic: identity, extremism and modernisation; challenging stereotypes and building networks with civil society partners
  • Hosted a joint CASHRA meeting with Rights and Democracy, Equitas International Centre for Human Rights Education, and the Canadian International Development Agency to explore opportunities for international cooperation in capacity building.

www.ohrc.on.ca

The Commission’s Web site provides the public with a wealth of accessible information about human rights issues as well as changes to Ontario’s human rights system.

In March of 2007, the Commission launched a new Web site sporting a cleaner interface with clearly defined publication categories. Theme-based pages, on issues such as racism and sexual harassment, now connect interrelated resources by topic across the site including Commission policies, guides, reports, public education resources, news releases, fact sheets, case summaries, and annual reports.

Web sites play an integral and growing role in the way information is conveyed. As the Commission moves forward under its new mandate, we plan to continue to develop our Web site to serve as an accessible and content-rich resource for the discourse around human rights in Ontario.

Monitoring, inquiry and advice

The Commission uses its broad mandate under section 29 of the Code to provide advice to organizations, review legislation for compliance, and inquire into situations that may be discriminatory. In 2006-07, the Commission engaged in a number of these activities:

Supporting Police Services to be Exemplary Institutions in Combatting Racism and Discrimination

This past year, the Commission continued its efforts to reach out to policing services across the province.

In July 2006, the Commission met with the Ipperwash inquiry into the Ontario Provincial Police shooting of protestor Dudley George to discuss the Commission’s Policy and Guidelines on Racism and Racial Discrimination. The Commission provided clarification of concepts of racism, systemic racism, and anti-racist organizational change.

As a next step in its partnership with the Ontario Police College, the Commission gave a workshop at the December 2006 conference of the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police Diversity Network on dealing with human rights complaints against police, and moving forward with human rights organizational change. The College and police services from Toronto and Windsor also participated in the Commission’s program at the March forum promoting the Coalition of Municipalities against Racism and Discrimination, where policing was a key component addressed.

Also in March, the Commission reached an agreement with Toronto Police Service (TPS) and Toronto Police Service Board (TPSB) on a framework to support TPS initiatives to eliminate racism and other forms of discrimination in its activities. The agreement, set out in a detailed Project Charter, establishes a joint Working Group with representatives from each organization, who will identify human rights issues, design response plans and direct initiatives, and measure and report publicly on progress. To address concerns relating to both employment and service-provision, the Commission will be providing comment and support in various police-led initiatives in areas such as community outreach, hiring and retention of staff, staff education, policies and accountability. Nothing in the agreement prevents the Commission from continuing to enforce Ontario’s Human Rights Code and seek public interest remedies in resolving complaints filed against the TPS or TPSB. The agreement came out of discussions among the three organizations relating to human rights complaints filed against the TPS and TPSB. (For more information on how this project addresses individual complaints, see “Police Complaints Initiative”, under “Human Rights Complaints from the Public”, below.)

Police Records Checks and Mental Health

The Commission contacted the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police (OACP), and chiefs and boards of police services across Ontario, regarding the need to ensure police disclosure of non-criminal information does not have a discriminatory impact on persons with disabilities. Specifically, persons who have had non-criminal contact with police relating to mental illness have found that police services may disclose this information through employment and volunteer-related police records searches, limiting their ability to find work. The Commission provided advice about more appropriate assessment and disclosure practices.

Amendments to Ontario’s Human Rights Code

In April 2006, the Minister of the Attorney General introduced Bill 107 (An Act to amend the Human Rights Code), as had been announced in 2005-06. In its initial response to the Bill later that month, the Commission welcomed the vision of a strengthened Commission more focused on prevention and systemic issues, inside a re-balanced system for enforcing and promoting human rights.

However, the Commission also raised a number of questions and concerns about key provisions in the Bill. In the following months, the Commission met with stakeholders and recommended improvements and amendments to Bill 107 to the Ministry of the Attorney General. In its November 2006 submission to the Standing Committee on Justice Policy regarding Bill 107, and its subsequent letter regarding the premature closing of the hearings, the Commission recognized the importance of seeking consensus and common ground in moving towards a stronger, more effective human rights system for Ontarians.

The final version of the Bill, passed by the Ontario Legislature on December 5, 2006, reflected a number of recommendations made by the Commission and community groups.

Restaurant Accessibility

In July 2006, the Commission released Moving Toward Barrier-Free Services, the final report on the outcomes of its 5-year restaurant accessibility initiative. The 26 participating restaurant chains had previously committed to:

  • Develop an accessibility policy and customer complaints procedure;
  • Review and identify accessibility barriers across corporate-owned and franchised premises;
  • Develop a standardized accessibility plan for future locations;
  • Develop a plan for existing facilities and begin removing barriers; and
  • Monitor progress towards achieving accessibility and report back to the Commission in one year’s time.

The Commission’s first report on the subject, Dining Out Accessibly (2004) contained the results of accessibility surveys carried out at the initial 7 participant restaurant chains. A further 19 restaurant chains subsequently joined the initiative. The 2006 report details the advancements of all the participant chains toward meeting their accessibility commitments, and makes recommendations for moving forward.

The Commission also reached a resolution of the complaint that it initiated against one restaurant chain.

Discriminatory Effect of the Change of Name Act

The Commission, together with the Information and Privacy Commissioner/Ontario (IPCO), took further steps to advise the Ministry of Government Services regarding the discriminatory impact on transgendered persons of public disclosure requirements of the name change process. In December 2006, the Commission made a submission to the Standing Committee on Social Policy regarding Bill 152, the Ministry of Government Services Consumer Protections and Service Modernization Act, which amended the Change of Name Act. In its submission, the Commission commended the government for addressing the concerns relating to publication of name changes, while noting outstanding concerns relating to public records searches. The Bill received Royal Assent, and the Commission continues to work with the Ministry regarding development of the associated regulations.

Equal Treatment in Education for Students with Disabilities During a Strike

Based on media reports and human rights complaints, the Commission became concerned that students with disabilities may be denied access to education and accommodation during strikes involving educational assistants. In November 2006, the Commission met with representatives of three key organizations involved in providing educational services, emphasizing the importance of contingency planning so that students with disabilities receive the same services as other students in such situations. The Commission subsequently provided advice to a school board pending a strike, and posted information on its Web site about the shared responsibilities of government, school boards and unions in such situations. The Commission will continue to monitor and address this issue in 2007-08.

Return to Work Policies of the WSIB

The Workplace Safety and Insurance Board has prepared, and is consulting on, draft policies on the Early and Safe Return to Work. The Commission met with the WSIB to discuss these policies, and in December 2006 prepared submissions to the WSIB outlining the Commission’s concerns regarding provisions of the draft policies that contradict the Code and the Commission’s Policy and Guidelines on Disability and the Duty to Accommodate.

Accessibility of Driving Schools

The Commission continued to work closely with the Ministry of Transportation and industry partners toward a system-wide solution to the barriers faced by persons who are deaf, deafened and hard-of-hearing in accessing driving school programs, and will be seeking resolution of this matter in 2007-08.

Other Matters

In 2006-07 the Commission also:

  • Inquired into allegations of systemic discrimination affecting promotion opportunities for African Canadian nurses working in Toronto nursing homes. The City responded with information that indicated some progress in the hiring of racialized and African Canadian nursing staff into senior positions in City nursing homes
  • Made a submission in December 2006 to the Ministry of Community and Social Services’ Customer Service Standards Development Committee on harmonizing the Initial Proposed Customer Service Standard under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act with the Human Rights Code
  • Provided input to the College of Nurses of Ontario in development of its draft document "Becoming a Nurse in Ontario -- Information for Students"
  • Met with General Motors to discuss ongoing human rights concerns raised by the company’s use of a medical surveillance questionnaire
  • Wrote to the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services regarding draft regulations under the Private Security and Investigative Services Act (not yet proclaimed) reiterating advice that the draft code of conduct be strengthened with a statement of principle referring to the Code

Commission-initiated complaints

The Commission favours a voluntary and cooperative approach to protecting and promoting human rights, and where it has raised concerns with a company or organization, it attempts to resolve them in this manner. However, where these efforts have proven ineffective, the Commission may choose to initiate a complaint and use its broad powers to investigate, resolve or decide whether to refer the matter to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.

Discriminatory Effect of School Discipline Legislation and Policies

This past year, the Commission continued its efforts to resolve its complaint against the Ministry of Education, which alleges that the “safe schools” provisions of the Education Act have a disproportionate impact on racialized students and students with disabilities. The complaint was initiated July 2005, following considerable research and the release of a public submission raising these concerns. While it is essential to ensure schools are safe, disciplinary measures must be fair, effective and non-discriminatory. Although the complaint remained unresolved at fiscal year-end, a comprehensive settlement was reached in April 2007, which led the Ministry of Education to introduce amendments to the Education Act.

Restaurant Accessibility

In May 2006, the Commission reached a settlement with Select Sandwich, resolving the complaint initiated by the Commission in 2004 in association with its restaurant accessibility initiative. The Commission is pleased to report that the significant commitments made by Select Sandwich will greatly enhance the accessibility of its locations.

Notably, the chain committed to amend its Offer to Lease Agreement and Franchisee Agreement, develop and post an accessibility policy and complaints resolution procedure, train all existing and new franchisees, develop a barrier removal plan, contact landlords regarding accessibility barriers under the landlords’ sole control (and report to the Commission in regards to those who do not respond) and conduct accessibility reviews annually. The Commission will continue to receive barrier removal reports from this chain annually until 2016.

Drug and Alcohol Testing

In April 2006, the Commission initiated a complaint against Goldcorp Inc. alleging that sections of the company’s Drug and Alcohol Testing Policy violate the Code. The Commission’s Policy on Drug and Alcohol Testing recognizes that the law identifies dependence on drugs or alcohol as a form of disability. In a 2004 settlement of an individual complaint, Goldcorp had agreed to work with the Commission to update its policies.

The Commission worked for more than a year to encourage Goldcorp’s compliance with the Code, the Policy, and current case law, which recognize that pre-employment and random drug tests do not indicate an employee’s current level of impairment or ability to perform their duties, but show only past use. However, the complaint was initiated because, despite considerable Commission advice, Goldcorp’s policy continued to permit random and pre-employment drug testing of all employees, as well as pre-transfer drug testing for select employees.

Human rights complaints from the public

Each year, a number of individuals turn to the Commission for help by filing a formal complaint. Under the Code, the Commission is required to receive all complaints filed by individuals.

All complaints are received and assessed individually. However, where the Commission is aware of a pattern of complaints within an organization or sector, or if similar complaints recur after decisions or settlements that were meant to resolve an issue, the Commission may undertake additional measures.

Police Complaints Initiative

In 2006-07, the Commission finalized a working agreement with the Toronto Police Services on a project charter to address both individual complaints and the underlying issues that lead to complaints. Responding to concerns about the existing police complaint mechanism and patterns in complaints to the Commission, the initiative tracks and monitors incoming complaints against police services to determine the most effective course of action in handling them. It allows the personal remedies associated with complaints to be more quickly resolved, while broader public interest concerns are addressed through the ongoing cooperative work between the agencies. The agreement is the first of its kind in Canada and will serve as a model for systemic change throughout the sector.

Case Management

In 2006-07, the Commission undertook two Special Case Inventory Projects to improve caseload management.

In May 2006, the Strategic Case Management Project was implemented to reduce the backlog of complaints awaiting investigation. The project provided early investigation expertise by assessing each case and encouraging conciliation. In addition, the Project prepared files for a full investigation by obtaining legal assessments, amending complaints where necessary, and obtaining documents and other information from the parties. In all, 598 cases were reviewed and assessed, reducing the backlog by at least 101 files, and preparing a further 310 for investigation.

In February 2007, the Commission introduced a pilot project to improve its efficiency and timeliness in handling all incoming complaints. The Enhanced Complaints Process sets more stringent timelines for meeting dates and production of documents, provides early assessment of complaints, and incorporates fact-finding meetings as an investigative tool.

The benefits to parties will be important. Because there will be fixed mediation dates, it is anticipated that more cases may be resolved before an investigation takes place, helping the Commission address older cases and reduce its caseload. Shorter timeframes will facilitate collection of evidence, as documents and the memories of witnesses should still be fresh. In addition, there will be greater emphasis on cooperation from parties to produce requested documents more quickly. It is anticipated that this process will reduce the average time for a complaint to make its way through the Commission’s process.

Intake of Complaints

In 2006-07:

  • Of almost 43,000 contacts with Inquiry services, 2,337 resulted in formal complaints filed with the Commission. This compares with 2,399 complaints filed in the 2005-2006 fiscal period

Cases Dismissed on Preliminary Objections (s. 34)

The Commission may decide not to proceed with a complaint for reasons set out in section 34 of the Human Rights Code. In 2006-07, of all cases completed at the Commission or referred to a Tribunal, 7.1 % were dismissed based on such preliminary objections, on average at 10.5 months. Using the parties’ written submissions, the Commission determined that:

  • 2.4 % of cases could have been dealt with by another legislated body, such as through a union grievance procedure under labour legislation or at the Workplace Safety and Insurance Appeals Tribunal
  • In 1.6 % of cases there was evidence the complaint was frivolous, vexatious, or made in bad faith
  • In less than 0.5% of cases the matter was outside the Commission’s jurisdiction
  • In 2.1 % of cases the events occurred outside the Code’s six month filing requirement
  • 1% of cases contained some combination of the above objections

Mediation and Settlement

The Code requires the Commission to endeavour to settle complaints, and parties may agree to settle at any stage in the Commission’s process or at the Tribunal. Year after year, the Commission is able to settle or resolve at least 69% of cases where parties agree to early mediation, more than half of all the cases it completes, and over 80% of cases at the Tribunal.

In 2006-07, of all cases completed at the Commission or referred to a Tribunal, 58.9% were settled by the Commission or resolved between the parties, on average at 13.7 months:

  • 30.9% of cases (655) were settled through early mediation without investigation, on average at 8.3 months (69.2% of the 946 cases in which parties agreed to mediation).
  • 11.5% were settled at the investigation stage, on average at 25.3 months
  • 16.5% were resolved between the parties, on average at 15.7 months

Withdrawn Complaints

In 2006-07, of all cases completed at the Commission or referred to a Tribunal, 18.5 % were withdrawn by the complainant, some due to settlements between parties outside the Commission’s process, on average at 6.1 months.

Investigation and Referral of Complaints

If cases are not resolved through early mediation, the Commission conducts a neutral investigation, and determines whether there is sufficient evidence to warrant referral to the Tribunal for a hearing.

In 2006-07, of all cases completed at the Commission or referred to a Tribunal, 15.5% received a Commission decision based on the merits (s.36 of the Code), on average at 29.4 months. Of this 15.5%:

  • 8.9% of cases were dismissed because of insufficient evidence to warrant a Tribunal hearing, on average at 26.5 months
  • Less than 0.5% of cases were dismissed because of lack of cooperation by the complainant, on average at 26.0 months
  • 6.6% or 140 cases were referred to the Tribunal for a hearing, on average at 33.4 months (143 cases were referred in 2005-06)
  • 3 additional cases were referred to the Tribunal after reconsideration by the Commission of a previous decision

Caseload Overview 2006-07

  • The Commission began the fiscal year with an active caseload of 2,880 cases
  • 2,337 new complaints were received and added to the caseload
  • 1,978 complaints from the caseload were completed at the Commission, on average at 14.6 months
  • Over the last few years, the Commission has received more cases than it has the resources to complete, resulting in a backlog of 762 cases at year-end
  • The Commission ended the fiscal year with an active caseload of 3,099 cases, 219 or 7.6% more cases than the beginning of the year
  • 169 cases (5.5% of its active caseload) were over three years old at year-end
  • The average age of the active caseload was 16.4 months. This is up from 12.9 in 2005-06, and exceeds the target of less than 14 months. The rising case age relates to the significant increase in voluntary staff turnover and secondments because of uncertainty around the upcoming changes to the human rights system. There was also an increase in staff leaves during the year.

Litigation

The Commission’s litigation of cases before the Tribunal and at higher courts has been instrumental in representing the public interest in enforcing the Code, promoting the Commission’s policies, and advancing human rights jurisprudence. The Commission has been involved in a number of high profile cases that have added to this important body of case law (see Appendix: Case Summary Highlights). The resulting settlements and decisions may create precedents and directions for advancing human rights law in Ontario, across Canada, and internationally.

In 2006-07, of the 88 complaints resolved at the Tribunal, 77 or 87.5% were settled with the active involvement of Commission counsel. The Commission obtained strong public interest remedies in almost all of these settlements. In the future under the new human rights system, the Commission may seek to intervene as a party in appropriate cases so as to negotiate public interest remedies when cases are settled.

In 2006-07, the Commission was involved in many cases at the Tribunal and in higher courts that resulted in:

  • 77 settlements at the Tribunal
  • 11 final decisions, 6 further decisions and 30 interim decisions from the Tribunal
  • 1 decision from the Superior Court of Justice
  • 2 decisions on appeal from the Divisional Court
  • 6 judicial review decisions from the Divisional Court
  • 4 decisions (including 3 on leave to appeal) from the Court of Appeal
  • 4 decisions (including 2 on leave to appeal) from the Supreme Court of Canada

As of March 31, 2007 the Commission is currently litigating:

  • 469 complaints before the Tribunal
  • 14 cases before the Divisional Court (9 judicial reviews and 5 appeals)
  • 2 cases at the Court of Appeal
  • 2 cases at the Supreme Court of Canada

Organizational development

The Commission plans and implements ongoing organizational improvement and staff training initiatives in order to better serve the people of Ontario. In 2006-07, Ontario Human Rights Commission staff and Commissioners participated in a two-day Race Policy Training Program in December. A number of experts and community representatives were invited to present their work and perspectives and to lead participatory workshops.

The program, designed by an internal committee, was to enhance the understanding of current issues and best practices in human rights work addressing racism and racial discrimination. The program built on introductory training provided in July 2005 upon the public release of the Commission's Policy and Guidelines on Racism and Racial Discrimination.

The Commission continues to provide staff with training to increase their skills and knowledge of human rights.


[4] The Commission responded to 40,391 (or 80 %) of the 50,831 telephone calls received. The rate of “abandoned” calls does not account for individuals who call back again successfully and are able to speak with an inquiries representative.

Administrative: