(Available in English)
The HRTO hearing process can take on many forms. This video shows a typical hearing. Your hearing could be different.
The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, called the HRTO for short, holds hearings in 13 towns and cities across Ontario. You will find the date, time and location of your hearing on your notice of hearing.
Your hearing could be at our hearing centre on Bay St. in Toronto, at a Landlord and Tenant Board office or other venue in London, Hamilton, St. Catharines or Ottawa, or a hotel or government building in other parts of the province.
When you arrive, check the room number on your notice of hearing. If your hearing location has a receptionist or security guard they can help direct you to your room.
Before the hearing begins, or at any time during the hearing, the adjudicator may ask if you want to mediate. Mediation is voluntary. If both sides agree, the adjudicator will conduct the mediation.
If you decide to mediate but don't manage to reach an agreement, the hearing will go ahead with the same adjudicator. If you don't want to mediate, the hearing will go ahead as planned.
At the beginning of the hearing, the adjudicator will describe the process, the main issues in the dispute, and might ask both sides if there are any facts or issues they can agree on.
Now, let's take a look at who is in the hearing room.
The adjudicator controls the hearing. Because the adjudicator has to stay neutral, they can't provide legal advice or tell you the best way to present your case. The adjudicator is sometimes also called a member. The adjudicator will sit at the front of the room. If the hearing is in a boardroom, they will sit at the head of the table.
The applicant is the person who claims they have experienced discrimination or harassment under the Human Rights Code. If the applicant has a lawyer, paralegal or other representative, they will sit next to them.
The respondent is the person or organization answering the applicant's claim. The respondent and their representative, if they have one, sit together as well.
The applicant and the respondent are called parties.
A witness is somebody who can provide evidence about an issue or fact that is relevant to the case. For example, a witness may tell the tribunal what they saw or heard, or explain a document. When a witness is giving testimony, they sit at the front of the room, near the adjudicator.
If anyone needs an interpreter, the interpreter usually sits next to the person they're interpreting for.
Hearings at the HRTO are open to the public and the media, so there could be observers sitting at the back of the room during your hearing.
Now let's discuss how the hearing unfolds.
During the hearing, you can question witnesses and go over documents you provided in advance as evidence. You can make arguments about the facts and the law.
Everyone at the hearing is expected to be polite and respectful of the adjudicator and each another.
The adjudicator will usually begin the hearing by stating their name and asking everyone to introduce themselves.
Most of the time, someone will ask for the adjudicator to make an order excluding witnesses. This means that no witnesses will be allowed into the hearing room until they give their evidence. After they give their evidence they can stay in the hearing room if they want.
If you are the applicant, you will usually testify first. Before you begin, the adjudicator will ask you to promise to tell the truth.
You will tell your story, and talk about documents and explain how they support your case.
The adjudicator might also ask you questions.
After you have finished, the respondent will ask you questions. This is called cross-examination.
Now you can ask your first witness to testify. Start by asking your witness to state their name and how they know you. Then, ask the questions that you have prepared. These questions should help your witness explain what they know about the facts and events that support your case. Give your witness time to answer in their own words, without interrupting.
The adjudicator might question your witness and the respondent will have the chance to cross-examine them.
After the cross-examination, you can ask your witness follow-up questions about issues the adjudicator or respondent brought up. This is called re-examination.
Next is the respondent's turn.
If you are the respondent, you will present your case and question your witnesses. The adjudicator will often ask your witnesses questions. The applicant will also have a chance to cross-examine your witnesses, and you will have a chance to ask follow up questions.
Remember, when it's your turn to cross-examine, be sure to focus your questions on the facts you disagree with the witness about.
After both parties have presented their evidence and witnesses, they each have the opportunity to give a closing statement. A closing statement can include:
When the hearing is over, the adjudicator will usually "reserve" their decision, which means they will take time to consider your evidence and submissions. Later, you will receive the written decision in the mail.
For more information visit our website at tribunalsontario.ca/hrto, or call:
Toll free at: 1-866-598-0322
or for TTY Bell Relay: 1-800-855-0511