Quick facts about Commission complaint resolution processes
The Commission has a duty to resolve human rights complaints
The Alberta Human Rights Act establishes the Alberta Human Rights Commission as an independent commission of the Government of Alberta.
The Act gives the Commission the statutory duty and authority to resolve complaints of discrimination that fall within the protected areas and grounds listed in the Act.
The Act protects Albertans from discrimination on grounds such as race, colour, gender, disability, and religious belief, and in areas such as employment, tenancy, services, and publications and notices.
The "complainant" is the person making the complaint. The "respondent" is the person or organization against whom the complaint is being made.
The Commission's acceptance of a complaint does not mean that the Commission agrees with the complainant that the respondent has contravened the Act. It means that the complaint falls within the jurisdiction of the Act, and the Commission therefore has a duty to resolve the complaint.
The Commission follows a standard process for resolving complaints, in keeping with Act as well as the Alberta Human Rights Commission Bylaws.
Some of the steps in the standard complaint resolution process are the responsibility of the Commission Director and staff. Others are the responsibility of Members of the Commission.
The Director and staff provide conciliation and investigation services
Conciliation and investigation are the two major complaint resolution services provided by the Commission Director and staff as part of the standard process.
Conciliation is a non-adversarial way of resolving disputes, in which a neutral Commission conciliator assists the parties to identify the issues and generate possible solutions. More than 50 percent of the complaints closed each year are resolved by the parties at this step in the process.
If the complainant and respondent are unable to reach a resolution through conciliation, or if they do not wish to participate in the conciliation process, a Commission investigator is assigned. The investigator gathers the facts of the complaint, reviews them thoroughly and impartially, and considers how the Act and legal precedents apply. Based on this review, the investigator makes a recommendation about whether or not there is a reasonable basis to proceed with the complaint.
If there is no reasonable basis to proceed, the Director dismisses the complaint. The complainant has the right to appeal a dismissal to the Chief of the Commission and Tribunals.
If there is a reasonable basis to proceed, the parties are typically invited to discuss settlement. If the parties cannot settle the complaint, the Director reports to the Chief of the Commission and Tribunals that the parties are unable to settle, and the Chief of the Commission and Tribunals appoints a human rights tribunal to hear the matter.
Instead of reporting to the Chief of the Commission and Tribunals, the Director can discontinue a complaint if the respondent makes a fair and reasonable offer to settle the complaint and the complainant refuses to accept it. Complainants have the right to appeal a discontinuance to the Chief of the Commission and Tribunals.
Typically, about 95 percent of the human rights complaints closed by the Commission each year are resolved through the conciliation and investigation services provided by the Director and staff. The remaining five percent move on to the human rights tribunal process.
Human rights tribunals hold public hearings and make decisions
The human rights tribunals process is separate and distinct from the services provided by the Commission Director and staff.
Human rights tribunals are quasi-judicial tribunals that hold public hearings (adjudications) into human rights complaints that have not been resolved by the Commission Director and staff.
When the Director reports to the Chief of the Commission and Tribunals that the parties to a complaint are unable to settle, the Chief of the Commission and Tribunals appoints a human rights tribunal to hold a public hearing about the complaint. The Chief of the Commission and Tribunals can also appoint a human rights tribunal when a complainant asks for a review of a dismissal or discontinuance and the Chief of the Commission and Tribunals decides that the Director should not have dismissed or discontinued the complaint. The Chief of the Commission and Tribunals selects members of the Commission to serve on human rights tribunals from a standing list of members of the Commission. The standing list is composed of members who have been appointed by Order in Council through public competition. Members of the Commission are appointed based on their knowledge of human rights and their ability to run fair hearings.
The Act gives tribunals the duty and authority to make legally enforceable decisions about whether or not there has been a contravention of the Act. The tribunal dismisses the complaint if it decides there has been no contravention of the Act. Section 32(1) of the Act empowers the tribunal to order a remedy if the tribunal decides that there has been a contravention of the Act.
The purpose of remedies ordered by human rights tribunals is to restore the person who has been discriminated against to the position he or she would have been in had the discrimination not occurred. It is not the purpose of the remedy to punish the person who contravened the Act.
Section 36 of the Act states that once a human rights tribunal order is filed at the Court of Queen's Bench, it is enforceable in the same manner as an order from that Court.
Members of the Commission who sit on human rights tribunals are guided by a Code of Conduct and follow a Procedure Manual for Tribunal Hearings.
Decisons of the tribunals are posted on the the Canadian Legal Information Institute (CanLII) website.
The Commission reports each year
The Commission's Annual Report provides information on how many complaints were opened and closed and at what stage of the process they were closed.
In addition, the Annual Report contains information about the Commission's extensive education program.
More information about the Commission's complaint resolution processes is available through these links
. Complaint process
. The human rights complaint process: A guide for complainants
. The human rights complaint process: A guide for respondents
. The human rights tribunal process
. Alberta Human Rights Commission Annual Report
. Alberta Human Rights Act
. Alberta Human Rights Commission Bylaws
Revised: November 23, 2012