The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO) has confirmed that concurrent jurisdiction will continue in Ontario, following a months-long review that began in March 2022. As a result, unionized employees will retain the right to make complaints at the Tribunal about workplace-based violations of the Ontario Human Rights Code.
Concurrent jurisdiction, the right of unionized employees in Ontario to choose whether to raise complaints at the HRTO or to rely on their collective agreements to deal with Code-based violations at work, has been in place for more than two decades. This decision removes any shred of ambiguity about workers’ ability to exercise this right.
The Ontario Federation of Labour was the first organization to raise the alarm about the possibility that unionized employees in Ontario could lose access to the Tribunal, following the Horrocks decision at the Supreme Court of Canada in October 2021. In a statement released earlier this year, OFL President Patty Coates demanded that unions be part of the HRTO review: “The labour movement must be included in any discussion of our members’ human rights.”
A number of Ontario unions successfully sought intervenor status in the review and defended the right of unionized employees to access the Tribunal.
“We congratulate those affiliates for their strong stand for human rights in Ontario,” added Coates. “Without a doubt, their interventions, including bringing forward the urgent concerns of groups such as the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, played a critical role in this important decision.”
In the wake of the HRTO’s ruling, the OFL is calling on the Ford government to reverse its chronic under-funding and under-resourcing of the Tribunal.
“As long as Ontario workers face a backlog of thousands of cases at the Tribunal, they won’t have meaningful access to justice,” said Ahmad Gaied, OFL Secretary-Treasurer. “Ford created this crisis, but he could end it by ensuring that the Tribunal has the funding, expertise, and leadership it needs to serve Ontario’s public.”
The Ontario Federation of Labour represents 54 unions and one million workers in Ontario. For information, visit www.OFL.ca and follow @OFLabour on Facebook and Twitter.
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Ontario Federation of Labour
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