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Canadian Human Rights Commission

The Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) can investigate sexual harassment complaints involving incidents that have taken place within the last twelve months.

In some cases, for example if you have been ill for a long period, complaints can be dealt with even if it has been more than 12 months. The incident must have occurred in a federally regulated workplace. Examples of federally regulated workplaces include banks, railways, airlines and radio broadcasters.

Filing a Complaint with the CHRC

You start the complaint process by telling the Commission what happened, how it was discriminatory, and where it happened. You can use the online form, a printed form that can be mailed in, or you can call the CHRC toll-free at 1-888-214-1090.

You will need to provide your contact information and other basic information about yourself, as well as information about what happened including...

  • where and when the discrimination happened
  • the grounds on which you think you were discriminated against on
  • how and when you were treated differently based on those grounds
  • the effect the discrimination has had on you
  • any steps you have taken to try to resolve the situation

Your complaint will be reviewed by the Commission. They may contact you for more information. Once they have all the information they need they will let you know within 2 weeks if they can accept your complaint. If they cannot deal with your complaint they will give you information about other organizations that may be able to help you.

CHRC Mediation

The Commission informs the other party in writing about the complaint. The Commission recommends that you try mediation but you do not need to. If both parties want to try mediation the Commission will provide these services free-of-charge. The Commission allows 4 months for this process. If you and the other party agree to settle the matter you will enter into a written settlement agreement that sets out what each of you will do to resolve the situation.

CHRC Assessment

If mediation does not work, or both parties do not agree to use mediation, the complaint is assessed. A human rights officer considers whether there is evidence to support the complaint. The human rights officer may look for more information about the complaint. Once the assessment is complete the human rights officer will prepare an assessment report. Both parties will get a copy of the report. The report will be used to decide what will happen with the complaint next. The report is sent to the Commissioners within 5 days. Commissioners are people appointed by the Government of Canada to deal with human rights complaints under the CHRC.

CHRC Decision

The Commissioners have 2 weeks to make a decision. The Commissioners can:

  • dismiss the complaint
  • send the complaint to conciliation
  • decide that they need more information or more time to make a decision
  • refer the complaint to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal

The parties will be notified of the decision within 10 days of the decision being made.

Canadian Human Rights Tribunal

The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (CHRT) is similar to a court but less formal. The tribunal only hears complaints about discrimination sent to them by the Canadian Human Rights Commission. Tribunal Members are legally trained, impartial decision makers with expertise in human rights.

One to three members are assigned to the case. A Registry Officer is also assigned to the case. This is the person you contact with any questions about the process.

The Canadian Human Rights Commission can choose to participate in a hearing.

CHRT Mediation

Anything that was said during mediation is confidential. It cannot be used at the hearing, if there is one.

The parties can try mediation to settle the issue. They can do this before the Tribunal starts to hear the case or anytime during the case.

If the parties choose mediation, a Tribunal member is appointed to assist them. This will be a different member than the member or members who will hear the case, unless the parties agree to use the same member. The Tribunal member is there to help the parties reach an agreement. They cannot make any decisions about the case.

Before mediation starts each party must submit a mediation brief. Each party's brief outlines the facts as they see them. The party that made the complaint also includes information about what remedies they are asking for. The other party can then comment on these in their brief.

Generally both parties and the mediator will meet together. Other individuals such as lawyers for the parties may attend as well. Sometimes the mediator will meet with parties separately in addition to having joint meetings. There may be several meetings to discuss possible solutions the parties can agree on. The mediator may give their opinion about the strengths and weaknesses of each party’s case.

If the parties come to an agreement it must be put in writing and signed by the parties or their lawyers. If a party does not have a lawyer they will have 7 days to think over the agreement or get legal advice on it. The Canadian Human Rights Commission must also approve the agreement.

If the parties do not come to an agreement the case will continue to a hearing. Even when the parties do not reach an agreement they can decide to agree on some facts or resolve some of their issues through mediation. This can simplify the hearing process.

CHRT Case Management

The purpose of case management is to help the parties organize their evidence and to shorten the length of the hearing. Case management is done by conference call. The parties need to prepare for the call by completing certain documents, filing them with the Tribunal and serving them on the other party.

Both parties need to prepare a Statement of Particulars. The party that made the complaint outlines the facts that led to the complaint. They explain why this treatment was discrimination on a prohibited ground and how the treatment has affected them. This could include things like loss of dignity, emotional or physical issues and lost wages. The party also outlines what orders they think the Tribunal should make.

The other party’s Statement of Particulars outlines what facts, if any, set out by the other party they agree or disagree with and why. They can also include any additional relevant facts. They can make the case for why what they did was not discrimination on a prohibited ground. They can also suggest different remedies than those set out by the other party in the event that the Tribunal does find that there was discrimination.

Both parties must also submit a list of any documents they will use to support their case. Both parties submit a list of any witnesses they plan on calling and include a summary of what the witness will testify about. Both lists and any documents listed need to be served on the other party.

Once the party making the complaint receives the other party’s Statement of Particulars, they can file and serve a Reply - but only if the other party raised issues or stated facts that they disagree with and had not addressed in their own Statement of Particulars.

The CHRT Hearing

At the hearing both parties have a chance to make their case. The parties present their evidence, witnesses and arguments. At the start of the case the Tribunal asks the parties to introduce themselves. After this the parties are given the opportunity to make opening statements. During the opening statements the parties summarize their case.

After this the parties present their case through calling witnesses and submitting documents. The person making the complaint goes first followed by the other party. The parties call witnesses to testify about what they saw or heard that will support their case. They can also call witnesses to introduce documents that they want the Tribunal to consider.

When all of the evidence has been presented, each party is given an opportunity to present a final argument. This is a chance for each party to explain what facts they believe have been proven by the evidence, and why. This is also a chance for each party to explain why the facts show that there was or was not discrimination within the meaning of the Canadian Human Rights Code. New evidence cannot be introduced during final arguments.

CHRT Decision & Remedies

After the hearing the Tribunal will make a decision. The decision will explain why the Tribunal decided there had been or had not been discrimination.

The Tribunal tries to release a decision within 4 months of the hearing. More complex cases may take longer.

If the Tribunal finds in favour of the complainant they can order the other party to...

  • stop the discrimination and take action to prevent this type of discrimination in the future
  • make available to the victim, on the first reasonable occasion, the rights, opportunities or privileges that were denied because of discrimination
  • compensate the victim for any or all of the wages that the victim was deprived of and for any expenses incurred by the victim as a result of discrimination
  • compensate the victim in an amount up to $20,000 for any pain and suffering that the victim experienced as a result of the discrimination
  • pay up to $20,000 as compensation to the victim if they find that the person discriminated wilfully or recklessly

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The Shift Project is funded by the Department of Justice and delivered by the Public Legal Education Association of Saskatchewan (PLEA).