For immediate publication
Toronto - This October, the Ontario Human Rights Commission will be implementing a new process for self-drafted human rights complaints. I am taking this opportunity to explain the background for this decision, why it is being implemented and what it entails.
Why is the Commission introducing this new process?
During the last fiscal year, the number of new complaints filed at the Commission totaled 2,450, an increase of 38%. This represents a general trend in the rise of complaints over the last few years. When the Commission released its Year-End Results this past July, I stated that the Commission is reaching a limit in its ability to effectively and efficiently manage a growing caseload unless it either further streamlines the complaint process or receives additional funding.
The Commission has a responsibility to respond effectively and efficiently to the increasing demand on its services within the boundaries of the Human Rights Code and its budget allocation. In this regard, I also indicated in July that we were already looking at possible steps we could take to address the growing number of new complaints being filed at the Commission.
What will change and what are the benefits?
Under the old process, once a potential complaint of discrimination is identified at the inquiry and intake stage, complainants are asked to first complete a questionnaire outlining details. Based on that information, staff then prepares a draft complaint, which is mailed back to the complainant for further comment or signature. The complaint is then returned to the Commission. At that point it may be revised further, or if signed by the complainant, it is then formally served upon the respondent party or parties. Currently, this stage may take up to three months to complete.
In the new "self-draft" process, individuals who wish to file a complaint will be asked to prepare and submit their own written complaint in a form approved by the Commission. Since there is no longer any requirement to fill out a questionnaire, or to have staff draft the complaint, it is anticipated that a "self-draft" process will speed up the filing of human rights complaints.
A self-drafted complaint also provides an individual more control over the particulars of his or her situation and the information that they wish to include in the complaint form.
Our review shows that currently, 15% of individuals who file complaints already elect to self-draft their own complaints. It also indicates that some 50% of questionnaires that are now drafted by Intake staff, are not returned. As a result, it makes more sense to redeploy staff resources to areas where there is a greater need, such as the mediation and investigation stages of the complaint process.
Will quality and assessment of merit be affected?
Our experience demonstrates that complainants already submit clear accounts of their allegations when either completing the Intake Questionnaire or elect to self-draft complaints under our current process. As well, when the Commission undertook its racial profiling inquiry in 2003, it invited participants to submit their stories either in writing or via a Web site form. That exercise was extremely successful and demonstrated that the public can provide full, proper and detailed information on their own. We do not expect anything less with the implementation of this new self-draft process.
The Commission will retain quality control over the process and the complainant document to ensure there is no difficulty with assessing the merits of a case. Before registering and serving a complaint, Commission staff will continue to review the complaint for compliance with drafting standards established by the Commission as well as advise the complainant or representative of any insufficiencies or additional information needed.
How will it work?
When the new system is introduced, complainants will be provided with written guidelines, a template form, and a sample complaint to help them prepare their written complaint. All materials will all be available in electronic text, large print, or audio format upon request.
In addition, the Commission will provide direct assistance to, or draft complaints for individuals who experience difficulty with drafting complaints, or are unable to draft complaints because of a language barrier or because of a disability. The Commission will also continue to make referrals to community agencies (e.g. legal clinics, cultural/ethnic community agencies) within the province that may be able to provide some assistance.
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