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HRTO confirms jurisdiction to resolve unionized employees’ claims

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October 21, 2022

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The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) is pleased that a recent Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO) ruling confirmed it has jurisdiction to resolve Human Rights Code-related claims of discrimination by unionized employees.

The decision comes after the Supreme Court of Canada’s (SCC) October 2021 Horrocks decision, which determined that unionized employees in Manitoba do not have the right to bring discrimination complaints to that province’s human rights commission. Rather, the SCC held that labour arbitrators in Manitoba have exclusive jurisdiction to resolve such complaints.

Following that decision, the respondents in two HRTO cases involving claims of employment discrimination in unionized workplaces (Weilgosh v London Catholic District School Board and McNulty v Regional Municipality of Peel Police Services) alleged that the HRTO similarly lacked jurisdiction to consider human rights claims arising in unionized environments.

The HRTO determined that the jurisdictional issue in these two cases would be heard together, at a preliminary hearing. The OHRC intervened in that hearing. It argued that the legislative history of the Ontario Human Rights Code and institutional practices reflected a clear intent for the HRTO to have concurrent jurisdiction to consider such matters. The HRTO’s decision is consistent with the OHRC’s submissions.

The HRTO plays an important role in ensuring that all workers in Ontario – including unionized workers – have access to justice related to their human right to safe, inclusive and non-discriminatory workplaces. The OHRC will continue to work to ensure that the human rights system is responsive to the needs of all Ontarians.