Human Rights Overview

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Types of Issue the HRTO Hears
Other Areas Covered by the Code
Areas Not Addressed by the HRTO
 


The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO) is set up to resolve claims of discrimination and harassment brought under the Ontario Human Rights Code (the code) in a way that is fair, just and timely.  

This site offers general information only, and not legal advice. If you want to make an application to the HRTO, you can contact the Human Rights Legal Support Centre for help. The centre can offer legal advice and also legal representation at mediations and hearings. The centre is separate from the tribunal. Call the Legal Support Centre at 1-800-387-9080.

This resource aims to take you through the online application form AND guide you through the steps after you apply. The HRTO also has an Application Guide you can download from the Internet. 

Is the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario for You?

The HRTO can hold hearings, make decisions and order remedies. All HRTO decision-makers are experienced in human rights law and issues. They are impartial, and have no stake in the outcome. In some ways the HRTO is like a court, but the setting is not as formal, its rules are not as strict, and the interaction between parties is not as adversarial. 

The HRTO's core values are:  

  • Accessibility, both physically and functionally
  • Fairness
  • Transparency (openness)
  • Timeliness
  • The opportunity to be heard

Types of Issues the HRTO Hears

The HRTO deals with violations of a person’s rights under the Ontario Human Rights Code

The code gives each person the right to equal treatment in these five areas:

  • Employment
  • Accommodation (housing)
  • Goods, services and facilities
  • Contracts
  • Membership in vocational associations and trade unions

The code gives each person the right to be free from discrimination or harassment on any of the grounds listed below. The Code defines harassment as a course of vexatious comment or conduct that is known, or ought reasonably to be known, to be unwelcome beecause of: 

  • Race
  • Colour
  • Ancestry
  • Place of origin
  • Citizenship
  • Ethnic origin
  • Disability
  • Creed (religion)
  • Sex, including pregnancy
  • Gender identity
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Family status
  • Marital status (including same sex partners)
  • Age
  • Receipt of public assistance (Note: This ground applies only to claims about housing.)
  • Record of offences (Note: This ground applies only to claims about employment.)
  • Gender expression

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Other Areas Covered by the Code:

The code also protects people who:

  • Are discriminated against because they have a relationship, association or other dealing with a person or persons who are identified by one of the grounds listed above (e.g., you are married to a person with a disability).
  • Face reprisal or threats of reprisal because they have claimed rights or taken part in a proceeding under the code.
  • Face reprisal or threats of reprisal because they have refused to infringe on another person’s rights.
  • Have experienced sexual solicitation or advances by a person who is in a position to give or deny a benefit.
  • Face reprisal or threats of reprisal for rejecting a sexual solicitation or sexual advance.

Simply put, you likely have a valid application for the HRTO if you have been discriminated against and/or harassed:

  • in one of the five areas (e.g., housing or employment)
  • on the basis of a listed grounds (e.g., disability or age)

Common Exceptions to the Ontario Human Rights Code

There are a number of situations that may appear to be discriminatory but which do not, in fact, violate the code. Six of the more common exceptions are listed below. 

 Defences and exemptions to discrimination under the code

Age: The code allows certain exemptions based on age. For example, although the code states that a person cannot be treated differently because of his or her age, it allows different insurance rates based on age.

Shared Housing: There can be an exemption in housing. For example, the code allows an owner of a house to refuse to rent to someone based on their gender or race if: 

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

Personal Care: Another type of exemption can be in employment. For example, when a person hires someone for intimate and personal care such as bathing or washroom assistance, she or he can insist on caregivers of a certain gender.  

Undue Hardship: The code states that employers, landlords and service providers must make arrangements for human-rights related needs to the point of undue hardship. An exemption can be made for an organization or person to NOT accommodate a person’s code-protected needs if it can be shown that doing so would be too expensive or too unsafe.

For example, it may be considered undue hardship for a small restaurant to re-design their kitchen in order to assist a dishwasher who uses a wheelchair. Among other things, the tribunal would have to look at the cost, the finances of the restaurant, the importance of the accommodation (for the complainant and the public as a whole), the industry practice and the other circumstances of the particular case.

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Areas that are not addressed by the HRTO 

The HRTO may not hear applicatons about federal respondents.

The HRTO cannot hear applications about organizations that fall under federal jurisdiction, like banks and airlines. If you think your complaint may be against a federal respondent, contact the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal at 1-888-214-1090.

The HRTO may not deal with claims made in another proceeding.

The HRTO avoids dealing with issues it feels have been properly addressed through another proceeding.  The HRTO listens to the positions of both sides before dismissing an appeal. The HRTO may decide to defer an appeal until the results of the other proceeding are known. If you are also dealing with this issue through another process or tribunal, you should contact the Human Rights Legal Support Centre to talk about it. 

The HRTO may not accept applications about discrimination that happened outside Ontario.

In most cases you cannot apply to the HRTO for discrimination that happened outside Ontario. To find out about exceptions, you should contact the Human Rights Legal Support Centre.

You may not apply through the HRTO about a previous human rights settlement that is not being followed.

If you settled a previous human rights complaint, and the respondent didn't follow the settlement agreement, you should contact the Human Rights Legal Support Centre for help. There is a special application for that, called Application for Contravention of Settlement, Form 18.

There are different requirements if you are filing on behalf of another person. Links to the forms are listed below and will open in a new window.

To file an application on behalf of another person you must submit Form 1 as well as one other form. Form 4A should be used by those who are applying on behalf of a person under the age of eighteen. Form 4B should be used by those who are applying on behalf of a person who does not have the mental capacity to file on their own. Form 27 should be used by those who are filing on behalf of another perons who would be permitted to bring an application on their own, and who consents to the application.

PDF Links 

Form 4A

Form 4B

Form 27 

 

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