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Finding the right human rights consultant (fact sheet)

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Finding the right consultant to help you develop human rights policies, get training or investigate or resolve disputes is a good investment. A good consultant can help you build a diverse and inclusive workplace, avoid legal expenses and reach diverse markets with your products or services.

This fact sheet can help you use search tools on the Internet to find and choose the right consultant for your immediate need. There is no one “best” way to conduct on-line searching. The points offered here are just suggestions.

What services are available?

Human rights consulting services are delivered by diverse categories of vendors. For instance, many employment law firms offer regular training on basic and emerging human rights principles and practices. Many organizations and private consultants offer services ranging from training to policy development and human rights investigations to conflict resolution (mediation) services. Remember that some competent private consultants do not have a website, so consult with your colleagues through human resources or legal networks to find someone who may have the skills that you need.

Also, keep in mind that websites can be promoted higher in search lists either by paying fees to the sponsor of the tool or by the smart use of key words and meta tags in the site’s design. So don’t assume that a higher listing assures a better match to your search criteria.

Selecting the consultant

Once you’ve identified a number of potential consultants, it is time to decide who to work with.

  • If you are carrying out this search because of an order of the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, make sure you truly understand the intent of the order.
  • Human rights consultants vary in expertise, so it’s best that you carefully determine a vendor’s background and knowledge base. For instance, some have practical experience in housing, education, employment, government, law enforcement or other service areas. Specialized knowledge in gender or race issues, anti-racism, accommodation, disability, religion, gender identity or sexual orientation may more closely match your needs.
  • Plan specifically what you want done and when you want it done. The more detail you include, the less chance for misunderstanding, wasted efforts and conflict later on. Involve prospective participants when developing your plans.
  • Include all this information in a Request for Proposals and send it to the candidates.
  • Ask for client lists, work samples (training agendas, if appropriate).
  • Be sure to ask for and check references as you would in any selection process. Talk to previous clients and look for depth of knowledge, ability to conduct workshops, meet deadlines, write clearly and communicate regularly and well.
  • If the consultant you are considering is either a lawyer or a paralegal, you can contact the Law Society of Upper Canada to see if they are a member in good standing. Consultants who represent clients before administrative tribunals must be registered with the Law Society.

For more information about choosing a consultant, click here.

Using search tools on the Internet

A search tool helps you look for information on the Internet. There are many search tools available. Most allow you to search Canadian content only. Three examples are:

Different search tools will return slightly different information. So, it’s a good idea to use more than one tool in your search. For a more complete listing of internet search tools click here.

Search terms

Start your search with appropriate terms. What issues do you need to address or remedy? What skills and resources do you need that don’t already exist within your organization?

When entering terms into the search box, you may improve your results by placing more important words closer to the beginning of the search box. Some example key words that could be used alone or in combination are:

  • consultant
  • human rights
  • diversity
  • harassment
  • racial profiling
  • anti-racism
  • anti-oppression
  • education
  • investigation
  • training
  • mediation
  • discrimination
  • accommodation
  • duty to accommodate
  • employment
  • disability
  • sexual orientation
  • policy development

Limiting your search: using special operators or search variables

Once you have generated a list of “hits” in your search, you will notice that many websites will appear that you are not interested in. Now you want to pare this list down so that desirable ones will show up in the first pages of your search list. For instance, you might want to only search for services available in Ontario or Ottawa or the Niagara Region. Adding these key words will result in the search tool eliminating hits that do not contain these geographical references.

There are also some common operators that you can use to refine your search. These include:

Phrase search (“”)
Place double quotes around a set of words to tell the search tool to look for only the exact words and in that order. Words that commonly come together (such as “duty to accommodate” or “human rights”) will be searched for in that order without any change.

Terms to exclude (-)
If you want to exclude certain words from your search, place a minus sign directly in front of the word (space in front of the minus sign and no space between it and the word you want ignored). For example, [-ohrc] would eliminate hits that contain “ohrc”. This also works for websites such as [] or [].

The OR operator (OR)
Normally, if you type two words together, the tool will prioritize websites that contain BOTH words. For instance, typing [consultant trainer] will only return hits containing both consultant and trainer references. Typing ‘OR’ in ALL CAPS between two words [consultant OR trainer] will return hits with either of the words “consultant” or “trainer” thus increasing your chances of a successful search.

The wildcard (*)
Placing an asterisk in a word will return all instances where the letters you have typed form a part of the word. For instance, typing [train*] will return sites containing train, trains, trainer, trainers, training, an obvious advantage. (Adding [-CN -CP -Amtrak], etc. will reduce the number of references to freight and passenger trains.)