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Legal

The OHRC uses targeted legal action, including Public Interest Inquiries, to advance an expansive interpretation of the Code, establish important precedents that adopt OHRC policies, promote broader public change, and pursue public interest remedies. Some of our most recent case work can be found below. Each Annual Report also reviews the past year’s legal work.

The OHRC's Litigation and inquiry strategy sets out when and how the OHRC decides to conduct an inquiry or take an application to the Human Rights Tribunal or when to intervene in a legal proceeding. 

To request a Commission initiated-application, inquiry or intervention, contact legal@ohrc.on.ca

See our Litigation and Inquiry Strategy for more information about OHRC legal action.

  1. MacConnell v. Ontario (Community and Social Services) Special Diets case – judicial review allowed

    September 2014 - The Divisional Court has allowed an application for judicial review, heard on September 16, brought by the applicants and the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC), of a decision of the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO) denying special diet benefits to Joanne MacConnell.

  2. Human rights obligations related to pregnancy and breastfeeding: Case law review

    October 2014 - This case law review looks at important developments in the law dealing with discrimination based on pregnancy and breastfeeding between 2008 and January 2014.[1] The discussion of the law in Ontario is intended as a resource, to be read along with the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s Policy on Preventing Discrimination because of Pregnancy and Breastfeeding (the Policy)[2], about the rights of women[3] who are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, who have had a baby or who are breastfeeding. However, it is not legal advice.

  3. The shadow of the law: Surveying the case law dealing with competing rights claims

    This document explains the legal backdrop for the Commission’s Policy Framework. It is divided into two main sections. The first provides an overview and summary of key legal principles from some significant legal decisions. This section aims to help readers understand the relevant legal background when seeking to conciliate or otherwise reconcile competing rights claims. The second part of the document surveys the leading cases that deal with competing rights. It also provides examples of situations where the leading cases, and the key principles from them, have been applied by courts and tribunals. It is divided by the types of rights conflicts that most commonly arise. The cases are discussed in some detail as the specific factual context of each case is so important to the rights reconciliation process.

  4. Ontario Human Rights Commission v. Christian Horizons

    On May 14, 2010, Ontario’s Divisional Court issued a decision on a case called Ontario Human Rights Commission v. Christian Horizons. The Divisional Court’s ruling was on the appeal of a 2008 decision made by the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. In that decision, the Tribunal found that Christian Horizons infringed the rights of an employee who was in a same sex relationship.
  5. Case summaries

    From: Discussion paper: Human rights issues in insurance

    (Extracts from CHRR)

    Discriminatory auto insurance rates allowed for bona fide reasons

    Zurich Insurance Co. v. Ontario (Human Rights Comm.)

    The majority of the Supreme Court of Canada finds that Zurich Insurance did not discriminate against Michael Bates contrary to the Ontario Human Rights Code by charging him higher premiums for automobile insurance because of his age, sex, and marital status.

  6. Creed case law review

    May 2012 - What follows is a discussion of significant legal decisions dealing with religious and creed rights in Canada. The focus is on decisions made since the Commission issued its 1996 Policy on Creed and the Accommodation of religious observances. It does not review every decision, but those that may be important from a human rights perspective. In addition to a description of the case law, trends and areas where it is anticipated the case law will continue to evolve or be clarified are identified. The review will form the basis for further research and dialogue concerning the law in Canada as it relates to this significant area of human rights.

  7. Appendix F: Table of cases

    From: Policy on competing human rights

    Adler v. Ontario, [1996] 3 S.C.R. 609

    Alberta v. Hutterian Brethren of Wilson Colony, 2009 SCC 37

    Assn. of Justices of the Peace of Ontario v. Ontario (Attorney General) (2008), 92 O.R. (3d) 16

    B. (R.) v. Children’s Aid Society of Metropolitan Toronto, [1995] 1 S.C.R. 315

    Bothwell v. Ontario (Minister of Transportation), 2005 CanLII 1066 (ON S.C.D.C.)

    Bou Malhab v. Diffusion Métromédia CMR Inc., [2011] 1 S.C.R. 214

  8. In the courts: family status and sex discrimination case

    From: Annual Report 2011-2012 - Human rights: the next generation

    The OHRC intervened at the Federal Court in Seeley v. CN, a judicial review of a decision of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. The Tribunal had found that CN discriminated against Ms. Seeley by requiring her to relocate without considering her obligations as a parent. The Court has not yet released its decision.

  9. Ontario Human Rights Commission Submission regarding Interim Reports of the Commission for the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario

    March 2012 - The OHRC will focus its comments on the issues and barriers identified in the CRSAO’s reports that connect to the OHRC’s current priority initiatives dealing with racism experienced by Aboriginal people and other groups as well as disability, especially mental health discrimination.

  10. The move towards an intersectional approach

    From: An intersectional approach to discrimination: Addressing multiple grounds in human rights claims

    Multiple grounds in equality and human rights jurisprudence

    Some courts and tribunals have started to acknowledge the need to make special provision for discrimination based on multiple grounds and to recognize the social, economic and historical context in which it takes place. However, despite these advancements, the courts’ understanding of a proper intersectional approach is still in its infancy. What follows is a discussion of recent cases in which a move towards a multiple grounds or intersectional analysis is evidenced in either a majority or dissenting opinion.

  11. Section III: The balancing tools

    From: Balancing conflicting rights: Towards an analytical framework

    This section of the paper surveys the balancing tools found in the Code and relevant case law. Documents such as Commission briefing notes and Policy Papers provide invaluable commentary on these tools and their insights are woven into the following discussion. The goal of this section is to identify the resources for balancing conflicting rights that will be utilized in the scenarios discussed in Section IV.

  12. Housing

    From: Human rights and the family in Ontario

    The ground of family status was added to the Code in 1982. Until 1986, the Code contained an exception permitting residential buildings or parts of residential buildings to be designated as adult only. Unlike in the areas of employment and services, there has been significant litigation regarding family status issues in the area of housing, particularly in the Ontario context.

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