FAQs, Videos, Guides

FAQs | Videos | Guides

Frequently Asked Questions

Are there situations where the Human Rights Code allows unequal treatment?

Yes, the Code provides certain defences and exemptions to discrimination. For example, although the Code states that a person cannot be treated differently because of their age, it allows different insurance rates based on age.

Another example of an exemption occurs in housing. The Code allows an owner to refuse to rent to someone based on their gender or race if:

  • the owner or his or her family also lives on the premises; and,
  • the owner or his or her family would be sharing a kitchen or bathroom with the tenant.

Should I make my claim to the Canadian Human Rights Commission?

The Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) is responsible for investigating discrimination and harassment against organizations in the federal sector. If you are claiming against a federal organization, you must go to the CHRC. Some examples of federal organizations are:

  • Bus and railway companies that travel between provinces
  • Airlines
  • Chartered banks
  • Television and radio stations
  • Telephone companies
  • Federal government departments or agencies

What happens if a submitted application or response is not complete?

When minor information is missing, such as a postal code or telephone number, the HRTO will contact you to ask for additional information.

For applicants: When too little information is provided on an important issue or when a required section of the form is blank, the HRTO may return the application to you. You will have 20 days to fill in the missing information. The HRTO cannot provide any legal advice, but will give information about possible places to get help.

If you do not provide the missing information, the HRTO will review the form and either:

  1. decide there is enough information to deal with the application
  2. close the application as incomplete.

For respondents: If you do not provide the missing information, the HRTO will accept your response and you may be bound by the information provided in the incomplete form.

If a respondent does not file a response at all, the HRTO will consider the application without their participation. The respondent may be responsible for complying with orders (to pay compensation to the applicant, for example) without having an opportunity to participate further in the process.

How does the respondent find out about the application?

The HRTO will send each respondent a copy of the application as soon as it is accepted for processing. The HRTO will remove information about the applicant’s witnesses from the form before sending it out.

Will the applicant have a chance to reply to the respondent’s information?

Yes. The HRTO will send the applicant a copy of the response form and ask the applicant to reply to any new matters raised. If there are new facts presented in the response that the applicant disagrees with, he or she should file a reply that explains why.  For more information, see Rule 9 of the Rules of Procedure.

Does the Ontario Human Rights Commission get a copy of applications? Can the Commission participate in the HRTO's process?

The Ontario Human Rights Commission has the right to be informed of applications before the HRTO, and receives copies of all applications and responses. The HRTO may also provide the Commission with any other documents in an application file. The Commission can intervene in any application with the consent of the applicant. As well, the Commission can ask to intervene without the applicant’s consent, subject to any directions or terms that the HRTO sets after hearing from the parties.

The Commission also has the right to bring its own application to the HRTO if the Commission is of the opinion that the application is in the public interest.

Can I file an application if the same issues have been dealt with through another proceeding?

The HRTO can dismiss all or part of an application where the HRTO finds that another proceeding (e.g. a union grievance or an application to another agency, like  the Workplace Safety and Insurance Appeals Tribunal or the Landlord and Tenant Board) has appropriately dealt with the application. This avoids duplication of proceedings or re-opening issues that have already been dealt with.

If the applicant has completed another process, a respondent can ask the HRTO to dismiss the application. The HRTO will not decide to dismiss the application without giving the applicant and respondent a chance to say whether they believe the other process appropriately dealt with the issues raised in the application.

What if the other proceeding is ongoing?

The HRTO may decide to defer (put on hold) an application if the same issues are being considered in another proceeding and the result of that proceeding would apply to the parties.

Before the HRTO decides to defer an application, both the applicant and the respondent will have a chance to state their positions on whether they believe the application should be deferred.

Will other people know that I have filed a human rights application?

Like the courts, the hearings and decisions of the HRTO are public except in very special circumstances.  HRTO hearings are almost always open to the public and the tribunal’s decisions, which include the applicants’ names and relevant evidence, are made publicly available through legal reporting services such as the Canadian Legal Information Institute (CanLII). In cases where a name would identify a child or young person under the age of 18, the HRTO’s decisions replace the applicant's and the minor’s name with initials. This is called anonymization. The HRTO may be asked to anonymize a name in other situations. For more information about anonymization, read the Practice Direction on Anonymization of HRTO Decisions.

Where can applicants get legal assistance?

If you need assistance with filing your application, you can contact the Human Rights Legal Support Centre (HRLSC). The HRLSC provides legal advice and assistance to people across Ontario who have experienced discrimination contrary to the Human Rights Code. The HRLSC can assist applicants at any stage of the HRTO process, including providing free representation at hearings or mediations. They also offer culturally sensitive Indigenous legal support and accommodations for persons with disabilities.

For more resources, read the How to Guides.

How do I know if the discrimination or harassment I experienced falls under the Human Rights Code?

The Human Rights Code is a law that protects people in Ontario from discrimination and harassment. You can file an application with HRTO if the discrimination or harassment experienced, in whole or in part, is a protected ground set in the Code (e.g. race, disability, sex, etc.).

For more details about the Social Areas and Grounds covered by the Code, read our What We Do webpage or the HRTO’s Practice Directions on Jurisdiction.

If you need assistance with your application, contact the Human Rights Legal Support Centre.


These videos are narrated and captioned.

Watch the video: Mediation at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.
Screen shot from: "Mediation at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario"
Read the video transcript (HTML).

Watch the video: Hearings at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.
Screen shot from: "Hearings at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario"
Read the video transcript (HTML).


For more information, read the Application and Hearing Process.