This is an overview of the BC Human Rights Tribunal's complaints process. See the complaints section on the Canadian Human Rights Commission website for information on their process.
Step One: Inquiry Stage
Step Two: Making and Responding to a Complaint
Step Three: Pre-hearing Stage
Step Four: Public Hearing Stage
Show me a Visual: A simplified PDF Chart
If you are a party to a provincial complaint, refer to the Tribunal’s Rules of Practice and Procedure, their user guides and their information sheets. See the information box on the side bar for a direct link.
- The BC Human Rights Tribunal has the statutory authority to address only complaints that fall under the BC Human Rights Code. If you experience a situation that you feel contravenes the Code, contact the BC Human Rights Tribunal for information and assistance with their formal complaints process. The Tribunal will ensure you have access to the appropriate forms, guides and information sheets in order to pursue a complaint.
- If you are unsure as to what rights are protected in the Code, refer to the law section of this website, or to the Ministry of Justice's website. Both sites provide legal information about Code protections and the prohibited grounds of discrimination. The Tribunal's user guide, "The BC Human Rights Code and Tribunal" also has helpful information.
- You may also call us directly for assistance.
Making a Complaint:
- All formal complaints must be filed with the BC Human Rights Tribunal. As a general rule, all complaints must be filed within six months of the incident, although you can ask to have this time limit extended.
- To file a complaint, get a copy of the Tribunal’s complaint form, fill it in, and file it with the Tribunal. The form will ask you to describe your version of what happened, who you are, who you are complaining about, and whether you are interested in trying to resolve your complaint early in the process.
- Once filed, your complaint will be assigned to a Case Manager whose role is to manage it through the process. The Case Manager will review your form to ensure all information is complete and that it is filed within the six-month time limit. They will also review your form to see if the issue you complained about is something the Tribunal has the power to address. If more information is required, or if the issue you complained about appears to fall outside the Tribunal’s jurisdiction, they will tell you, and give you a chance to respond.
- Once a completed complaint form is accpeted, the Case Manager will notify the other side (who is called the respondent) that a complaint has been filed against them and provide them with an opportunity to respond. The Tribunal sends a copy of your complaint and other materials to the respondent in order to assist them in their response.
Responding to a Complaint:
- A respondent has 35 days to formally respond to a complaint. They do this by filling in a response to complaint form, sending a copy to the person making the complaint, and filing the original with the Tribunal.
- Where the person making the complaint (who is called the complainant) indicates an interest in early settlement, the Tribunal will ask the respondent if they are also interested. When both parties agree to attend such a meeting, respondents are not required to complete the response form until after this meeting.
- A response form seeks the respondent's version of the story and asks whether there is a defence to the complaint. The Case Manager will review the form to ensure all information is complete and that it is filed within the 35 day time period. Where more information is required, the respondent will be notified and given a set time to reply.
- Respondents may also ask the Tribunal to dismiss all, or part, of the complaint for the following reasons:
- because they believe the Tribunal lacks jurisdiction to address the complaint
- the acts described in the complaint don’t conflict with the Code
- there is no reasonable prospect of success
- proceeding would not benefit the complainant or further the purposes of the Code
- the complaint was filed for improper purposes or in bad faith, or
- another proceeding has dealt with the substance of the complaint
- because they believe the Tribunal lacks jurisdiction to address the complaint
- Where an application seeking dismissal has been filed, the complainant will be given a chance to respond. Once the Tribunal has received the parties’ forms and responses regarding this matter, or when time limits have passed, a Tribunal Member will decide whether to accept all, or part, of the complaint and notify the parties of that decision.
- If a respondent does not file a response within the given time frames, the Tribunal has the power to set a hearing and will notify the parties that this has been done.
- Once the Tribunal has accepted a complaint and notified parties, a number of pre-hearing processes begin such as detailing the particulars of the remedy sought, evidence disclosure and alternate dispute resolution.
- Complainants must outline the particulars of the remedy they are seeking and provide respondents with that information. Respondents are given an opportunity to respond to this information. Disclosure means that documents and other evidence will be shared between parties before a hearing takes place. Where parties agree to an alternate settlement process, rules governing disclosure timelines may be suspended by the consent of both parties.
- Alternate dispute resolution is a voluntary process allowing parties an opportunity to settle their issue prior to attending a full public hearing. The process allows parties an opportunity to present their stories, to gain an understanding of the issues and concerns of the other side, and to present and negotiate their own resolution. Information exchanged and discussions held during these meetings are "without prejudice" and cannot be introduced in the hearing without consent of the parties. Alternate dispute resolution is often the best way for parties to restore relationships and to move forward in a timely and fair manner.
Alternate Dispute Resolution Options
- Where possible, the Tribunal will encourage people to reach mutually agreeable settlements and is flexible in the ways that it can help. Case Managers will explore options with the parties and will make all formal arrangements where agreement for a specific format has been reached. Some options you may request include:
- An early settlement meeting at the time of filing your complaint. This is the first opportunity to resolve your issue before it reaches a more formal stage.
- Ask to have a mediator assist in resolving your complaint. Mediators are neutral in the process and do not impose decisions. Rather, they are meant to help parties understand each other’s issues and to help them find ways of resolving their own differences.
- An early evaluation, where a mediator will assist both sides in understanding the strengths and weaknesses of their case, or
- Where no settlement is possible, and parties consent, a Tribunal Member may provide a final determination on the merits of a case.
- When a settlement is reached, both parties are asked to sign a settlement agreement and once filed with the Tribunal, the formal complaint will be closed. Where necessary, settlements may be enforced through the courts.
- In cases where the settlement process is not successful, there will be a public hearing before a Tribunal Member.
- Public hearings are usually conducted by one Member of the Tribunal. In more complex cases, a panel of three Tribunal Members may hear your complaint. In either case, parties have the opportunity to present their side of the story by providing oral and written evidence, calling witnesses, and if required, presenting expert evidence. Both parties are also provided the opportunity to respond to evidence and to cross examine witnesses.
- At any time during the proceeding the Tribunal Member may also ask questions of either party or any witness. After the Tribunal hears all evidence, both sides can make closing arguments and the Tribunal member will make a determination.
- Almost no decisions are made at the Tribunal hearing. You will almost always have to wait for a written decision where the Tribunal will explain how it reached its decision and what if any remedy has been ordered. A final order can be filed at any time at BC Supreme Court and enforced as a judgment of the Court.
- See our remedies section to get a sense of possible outcomes.
- If you disagree with a Tribunal decision, you may apply to have the decision reviewed by the BC Supreme Court. A judicial review does not ask the court to look at whether it agrees with a decision or not (an appeal), rather it asks the court to review the decision to see if an error was made in how the Tribunal made that decision. The Tribunal’s website explains how to go about seeking a Judicial Review.