The Mediation and Investigation Branch, of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, is the largest branch within the Commission with approximately 85 full-time employees located across the province, the majority are based in the Commission’s Toronto office.
The Mediation and Investigation Branch has primary responsibility for the Commission’s mandate to ensure compliance with the Ontario Human Rights Code. It is composed of four offices: the Office of the Director, the Inquiry and Intake Office, the Mediation Office and the Investigation Office.
The Office of the Director
The Office of the Director is responsible for the management of the Mediation and Investigation Branch. The Director’s Office also provides supervision for a number of special projects including Fee-For-Service (FFS) investigations, compliance procedures, monitoring compliance, customer service issues and overall caseload management.
Inquiry and Intake Office
The Commission’s Inquiry and Intake Office is the first point of contact for members of the public calling for information on filing, or preventing, a human rights complaint. This Office also handles correspondence about the Commission’s complaint process and receives visitors to the Commission’s Toronto Office who wish to file complaints.
The Office has two units that provide service to the public by telephone through the Call Centre located in Toronto, personal visits to the office, and by written and electronic correspondence.
Through the Inquiry unit, callers, visitors and correspondents receive general information on the complaint process, how to file a complaint and other information about the human rights process. The Intake unit is responsible for assessing returned intake questionnaires and drafting and serving human rights complaints.
In an effort to provide more effective service to the public, in the fiscal year 2002-2003, the Inquiry office undertook to be more proactive in educating complainants and respondents about their rights and responsibilities under the Code on their first contact with the Commission.
This improved approach to serving the public resulted in the following achievements:
- Complainants were empowered to address their human rights concerns and employers/respondents were provided with tools to become proactive in addressing and preventing complaints of discrimination.
- Inquirers whose issues were not human rights in nature were immediately referred to more appropriate organizations to deal with their issues.
- The Commission’s resources focused on dealing with issues of discrimination under the Code.
In the fiscal year, 2002-2003, the office received 2,324 written inquiries, attended to 902 visitors to the office and answered 46,127 of the 69,817 calls it received. On average, calls were responded to within 3 minutes. The office issued 4,385 intake questionnaires to the public and received 2,863 completed intake questionnaires (including approximately 800 self-drafted complaints) in return.
A total of 1,776 complaints were filed.
The Commission’s Mediation Office offers both formal and informal mediation services to parties and is responsible for assessing and processing section 34 requests.
Formal mediation is a voluntary opportunity for parties involved in a complaint to meet and resolve their issues early in the complaint process, with the assistance of a professionally trained mediator employed by the Commission. Informal mediation occurs where the parties seek to resolve their issues early in the complaints process without a formal mediation meeting. Skilled, professionally trained mediators also facilitate informal mediation.
Section 34 requests are requests made under section 34 of the Code where the Commission is asked to “not deal with” a complaint because it could or should be more appropriately dealt with by a statute other than the Code, or because the complaint is trivial, frivolous, vexatious or made in bad faith, where the Commission lacks jurisdiction, or because the complaint was filed more than six months after the events which form the subject of the complaint.
The mediation settlement rate for this fiscal year is 72.9% compared with a 73.6% settlement rate in 2001-2002. In this fiscal year, 1,262 cases were closed in the Mediation Office.
The Commission’s Investigation Office conducts investigation and conciliation of complaints that are not settled or otherwise resolved through the Mediation Office.
In this fiscal year, the Investigation Office closed 676 complaints. The average age of the Commission’s active caseload was 11.5 months, as of March 31, 2003, indicating that the Commission continues to maintain a current caseload (one that is 12 months or less).
The Commission opened 1,776 cases and closed 1,954 cases in fiscal year 2002-2003. The active caseload, as at March 31, 2003 was 2,137 cases.
More cases would have been opened and closed in this fiscal year but for the Ontario Public Service Employees Union strike, which started on March 13, 2002, and was not resolved until May 6, 2002.
The Commission referred 58 human rights complaints to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.
The names of parties and the details of cases assigned to the Mediation and Investigation Branch are confidential and protected under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. However, once the Commission has referred a case to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (formerly known as the Board of Inquiry), the matter becomes part of the public record. For this reason, no case summaries are provided of cases assigned to the Mediation and Investigation Branch.