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Mediation and investigation branch

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Inquiry and Intake Services

The Inquiry and Intake Office is the first point of contact for members of the public calling for information on filing a human rights complaint.  Through the Inquiry and Intake Office, callers receive basic information on the complaint process, how to file a complaint and other information about the human rights process.

During the fiscal year 2001/2002, the Commission’s call centre received a total of 170,145 telephone calls, of  which 64,154  opted to speak to an Inquiry Service Representative.  Of the 64,154 calls, the inquiry staff spoke to 48,732 callers.  On average, calls were responded to within 2.3 minutes (during the first 11 months of the fiscal year 2001/2002[1]).  Staff sent out 4,618 intake questionnaires, and received 2,978 completed intake packages in return.

In the fiscal year 2001/2002, 2,438 formal complaints were filed which represents an increase of 663 complaints (or 37%) from 2000/2001.

Mediation Services

Mediation is a formal and voluntary opportunity for parties involved in a complaint to meet and resolve their issues early in the complaint process.  The settlement rate at mediation for this fiscal year is 73.6% compared with a 73.2% settlement rate in 2000/2001.  In this fiscal year, 1,328 cases were closed in the Mediation Office.  This is an increase of 7% over last year.

Investigation Services

The average age of a complaint from opening until a decision was made was reduced from 15.4 months last year to 12.2 months this fiscal year.  The median age of a complaint from opening until a decision was made increased slightly from 7 months last year to 8 months this year.

The increase in the number of complaints filed, and the number of complaints referred to investigation has not, however, significantly affected the age of the Commission’s caseload.  The average age of the Commission’s caseload on March 31, 2002 was 11 months, a minor increase from the average age of 10.4 months in 2000/2001 given the 37 % increase in the number of complaints filed.  The median age of the caseload was 8 months compared with 7 months in 2000/2001.

These figures indicate that the Commission is still maintaining a current caseload (one that is 12 months or less), despite a 37% increase in the number of complaints filed with the Commission in fiscal year 2001/2002.

Given the increase in the number of complaints filed, the Commission did not close more cases than were opened for the first time in five years.  Nevertheless, the Commission resolved 1,932 cases – close to the same number as last year (1,941).  More cases would have been closed this year but for the Ontario Public Service Employees Union strike, which occurred on March 13, 2002, two weeks before the end of the fiscal year – March is, historically, the month in which the Commission closes the largest number of files.

The Commission opened 2,438 cases and closed 1,932 cases in fiscal year 2001/2002.  The active caseload, as of March 31, 2002 was 2,300 cases. 

The Commission referred 60 human rights complaints to the Board of Inquiry (Human Rights).

Increase in Complaints Filed

Under Ontario’s Human Rights Code, the Commission is required to receive all complaints that fall within its jurisdiction.  In the fiscal year 2001-2002, 2,438 new complaints were filed at the Commission representing a general rise in complaints across most grounds of discrimination.  This amounts to an increase of 663 cases (or 37.6%) over the total of 1,775 complaints filed in the previous fiscal year 2000-2001.  Until this fiscal year, new complaints filed remained below 2000 cases per year and averaged at 1,754 cases for the previous five fiscal years.

Because cases can cite more than one ground, a breakdown of total grounds cited across all new cases will provide a better understanding of the increase in complaints filed in 2001-2002. The  chart  below shows that of the total grounds cited across all complaints filed, the ground of disability increased disproportionately to other grounds from 19.6% of a total of 3,728 grounds cited in 2000-2001 to 26.2% of a total of 4,509 grounds cited in 2001-2002.  Looking only at the difference in total grounds cited between these last two fiscal years, by far, the ground of disability accounted for the largest proportion of the increase in grounds cited at 57.7%.

This same upward trend is also reflected in the number of new complaints filed citing the ground of disability rising from 41.2% in 2000-2001 to 48.5% in 2001-2002. 

And, this trend does not appear to be unique to Ontario.  An informal poll of other human rights commissions in Canada conducted by the Commission in January 2002 revealed that five of the six commissions who had comparable data reported an increase in new cases citing disability.

There has also been a disproportional increase in new complaints filed at the Commission citing the ground of sexual orientation with the number of cases doubling from 50 in 2000-2001 to 100 in 2001-2002.

Although no decisive conclusions can be drawn as to the cause of the overall increase in new complaints filed, or the greater and disproportional increase in complaints citing the grounds disability or sexual orientation, there are a number of factors that may have played a role.  Significant events during the fiscal year 2001-2002, such as the Commission’s implementation of its new Policy and Guidelines on Disability and the Duty to Accommodate, its consultations on transit accessibility and age discrimination, as well as the Ontario Government’s enactment of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act, all have had an effect in promoting awareness of human rights issues facing persons with disabilities and might account for some of the increase in complaints filed. 

Other factors include information dissemination and the Commission’s involvement in public education events such as the Human Resources Professionals Association of Ontario’s annual and regional conferences. 

As well, high profile cases litigated before the Human Rights Board of Inquiry or on appeal to the courts, such as Turnbull et al v. Famous Players Inc and Brillinger and the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives v. Imaging Excellence Inc. et al, have drawn extensive media and general public attention to important issues such as the duty to accommodate persons with disabilities and the rights of individuals to services free of discrimination because of sexual orientation. 

The increase in disability-related complaints may also relate to a broadening of understanding of what constitutes disability. Recent decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada[2] have confirmed that  "social handicapping", i.e., society's response to a real or perceived disability, should be the focus of the discrimination analysis.  Disability must be interpreted to include its subjective component, since discrimination may be based as much on perceptions, myths and stereotypes, as on the existence of actual functional limitations. This approach takes into account evolving biomedical, social and technological developments and includes a dimension that emphasizes human dignity, respect and the right to equality. This broad and liberal interpretation is consistent with the Code, which includes past, present and perceived conditions, and is reflected in the Commission’s Policy and Guidelines on Disability and the Duty to Accommodate.

Public perception and confidence in the Commission’s ability and effectiveness in undertaking its mandated functions are also factors that impact on the public’s use of the Commission’s intake, mediation and investigation services.  In addition to these compliance functions, the Commission views the promotion function of its dual mandate, carried out through its inquiry service, research, consultation, policy development, communication and public education activities, to be equally important to the advancement of human rights.

Finally, other institutions have responsibility and play important roles in the protection and promotion of human rights including government, large public service sectors such as health and education, the judiciary, the media, and other civil society and community organizations as well as individuals themselves.  Their activity and any particular human rights matters that are at the forefront of public debate will also have bearing on the activity of the Commission.

Proportion of Grounds by Total Grounds Cited

This data is provided at the time of publication.

[1] The Commission experienced a service disruption when the Ontario Public Service Employees Union went on strike on March 13, 2002.  Normal Inquiry and Intake Services were not provided during this period and this statistic is based on the 11 month period from April 1, 2001 to February 28, 2002.
[2] Quebec (Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse) v. Montréal (City); Quebec (Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse) v. Boisbriand (City), 2000 SCC 27 (3 May 2000), online: Supreme Court of Canada  Granovsky v. Canada (Minister of Employment and Immigration), 2000 SCC 28 (18 May 2000), online: Supreme Court of Canada


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