If your organization has been named in a discrimination complaint, you begin the Commission’s dispute resolution process, designed to resolve human rights complaints at the earliest opportunity.
The Commission’s dispute resolution process involves three main stages. The complaint may go through only one stage or all three before it is resolved. Although the descriptions are linear, a complaint does not always go through the process in the same way. Sometimes, it might skip steps or stages.
Stage 1: Before a formal complaint is filed
Inquiry and Screening
Every potential discrimination complaint starts with a call or a letter to the Commission. The potential complainant explains why they want to file a complaint.
Stage 2: After a formal complaint is filed
You will be notified in writing once the Commission receives a discrimination complaint. This is your opportunity to say whether you think the Commission should deal with the complaint, or not, and why.
A report, along with any submissions from your organization and the complainant, is provided to the Commission members who will decide whether or not to move forward with the complaint. At this stage, mediation could be offered.
The mediation process is voluntary and confidential. It gives both sides the opportunity to explain their understanding of the issue, and attempts to resolve the concerns that led to the complaint.
If the mediation works then both sides must sign a settlement agreement. This agreement would outline what each side has decided to do, to resolve the dispute.
If mediation does not work, the discrimination complaint is investigated.
During the investigation process, the investigator may:
- Speak with you (or your representative) and the complainant.
- Interview any witnesses.
- Review any supporting documents.
- Decide whether there is evidence to support the allegations in the complaint.
After the investigation, the investigator prepares a report to dismiss the complaint, send it to conciliation or refer it to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. The investigation report will be shared with you and the complainant. You will both have the opportunity to make written comments on the report.
The Commission’s Decision
After analyzing the investigation report, the Commission members make a decision either to dismiss a complaint, send it to conciliation or refer it to the Tribunal. Commission decisions are final.
Stage 3: After the Commission’s decision
If the Commission decides your matter should go to conciliation, the process is similar to mediation, but is mandatory. You will normally be given a window of 3 to 4 months to settle the discrimination complaint. If you cannot reach a settlement, the case could be sent back to the Commission, and possibly to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.
If the Commission decides to refer a complaint to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, the Commission no longer controls the complaint. The Tribunal will hold a hearing. It will ask both you and the complainant to provide any documents and call witnesses for support.
After the hearing, the Tribunal will either dismiss the complaint or find that there has been discrimination. If the Tribunal finds there has been discrimination it can order corrective measures, such as a change in policies or practices, paying the complainant lost wages or giving them their job back, awareness training or other compensation.
If you or the complainant disagrees with a decision made by the Commission or by the Tribunal, you can ask the Federal Court to review the decision.