HRTO Delays Compromise Access to Justice
- September 1, 2020
Most of bakerlaw’s work occurs at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO). Since the Ford government came to power, the Tribunal has been struggling to address cases in a timely manner. At first, there was the consolidation of the Social Justice Tribunals into Tribunals Ontario (link). Then several members saw their terms end without renewal or replacement (link). These vacancies and a slow and troubled appointment process have created an access to justice issue (link). Add COVID-19 on top of these systemic challenges and the delays have only compounded further.
Imagine being fired, sexually harassed or having accommodation issues at school and having to wait 2-3 years for your case to be resolved by the Tribunal. We’ve all heard the saying, “justice delayed is justice denied”. In the case of the HRTO, that is likely to be the impression left on would-be, and existing Applicants.
Bakerlaw’s clients have suffered through these delays including having hearings cancelled with no plan for moving the matter forward. Applications filed over a year ago still no hearing dates set and bakerlaw recently learned that decisions may take a year to be issued after a hearing has concluded.
Delays are one thing but the CBC article (link) describes how the current appointments process also jeopardizes the Tribunal’s independence. Citing Ron Ellis (link), co-founder of Tribunal Watch (link), the article describes how the government’s refusal to renew the terms of appointees with good performance has created a precarious employment situation.
Tribunal independence is absolutely essential. It is imperative that the Tribunal both be and appear to be independent. The public must have faith in the Tribunal’s independence if it is going to a useful avenue to resolve disputes.
In light of this, Democracy Watch has brought a legal challenge (link) aimed at trying to address the current appointment process. You can read more about the challenge in these articles (link) & (link).
Bakerlaw continues to guide clients through these issues including requesting an expedited proceeding at the HRTO and pursuing judicial reviews at the Divisional Court when Tribunal independence is at issue.
If you need some assistance with your on-going case or are considering starting a new one, contact us (link).