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Queen’s Park Accused of Complicating Human Rights Complaints

Published Mar 2, 2012
Richard J. Brennan
National Affairs Writer

Lawyer David Lepofsky told a one-man review of Ontario’s system for enforcing human rights Friday the provincial Liberal

government has broken its promise to protect Ontarians.

“The government has broken several important promises it made on what things would be like under the new system for enforcing

human rights in Ontario after Bill 107 went into effect,” Lepofsky, a spokesperson for the Accessibility for Ontarians with

Disabilities Act Alliance, said before presenting his brief to human rights lawyer Andrew Pinto in a closed-door meeting.

In 2008, the Liberals changed how the Ontario Human Rights Commission handles complaints. At the time, it agreed to review

changes to Ontario Human Rights Code, which were designed to speed up the process.

“It has not ensured free publicly-funded lawyers for all human rights applicants throughout the Human Rights Tribunal

process,” Lepofsky told the Star. “Many are unrepresented at the tribunal. The reformed human rights system has not assured

to applicants a hearing on the merits within one year of filing their human rights application with the Human Rights

Tribunal.”

The OADA Alliance’s brief argues that the changes did the opposite of streamlining the complaints system and also put the

burden on the applicant.

“Under Bill 107, if a person has been discriminated against, they must themselves file a human rights application with the

Human Rights Tribunal, not the Human Rights Commission. The discrimination victim must investigate and prosecute his or her

own case at the Tribunal, without the Human Rights Commission publicly investigating their case, or publicly prosecuting it.

The Human Rights Commission lost its investigation duties in individual human rights cases,” says the brief.

“Under Bill 107, discrimination victims can ask for legal help from a new Human Rights Legal Support Centre. That centre has

sweeping discretion to turn a case away or to give as much or as little legal advice and representation to a discrimination

victim as it wishes. A human rights applicant can choose to hire their own lawyer to represent them at the Human Rights

Tribunal. Many cannot afford to do this.”

Lepofsky said this new system has resulted in fewer discrimination cases based on disabilities filed because applicants

simply find it too onerous.

He also noted that 885 human rights complainants in the old system have not even been referred to the Human Rights Tribunal.

“We calculate that fully 885 complainants … chose to let their case die rather than proceed unaided on their own to

investigate and prosecute their case at the Human Rights Tribunal, without further involvement of the Human Rights

Commission. The Human Rights Legal Support Centre also refused to help this group of complainants,” he said.

The one-man review has come under sharp criticism from Lepofsky, who called it a sham. He says it was designed to have a low

profile and thus not attract the input necessary to make changes to the act.

Under the revamped system introduced by the Liberals, there are three human rights agencies: the Human Rights Commission, the

Human Rights Tribunal and the Human Rights Legal Support Centre, where complainants go to get legal representation. The

centre has been plagued with delays.

Reproduced from http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/politics/article/1139824–queen-s-park-accused-of-complicating-human-rights-complaints