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Modernizing our complaints process

In 2021, the Commission changed its approach to how we screen and refer complaints. In the simplest terms, we have changed what questions we ask, and when we ask them. This is important because now, if it is clear early on that a complaint does require a hearing because of the facts and/or legal issues raised, the Commission is working to send those files to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal as soon as possible.

At its core, our new modernized complaint process allows complainants and respondents to move their case through the process quicker, and allows the Commission's limited number of analysts and human rights officers to focus their attention on those who need our assistance at every stage of the process.

We owe many of the improvements we have implemented this year to the invaluable feedback we received in 2020 from stakeholders representing racialized people in Canada. We heard from them about how the Commission could improve the way we screen complaints alleging racism. This past year, we incorporated their meaningful feedback, through the help of a consultant Mark Hart and his guiding report, into our complaints screening tools.

This has in turn helped inform a more modernized process overall. As a first step, we made sure that any changes to our processes and any training to our complaints staff were guided by a trauma-informed approach. We set out to prevent complainants from having to re-tell their difficult story multiple times. This training has been especially focussed on Commission employees who are responsible for screening, analyzing and addressing discrimination complaints related to race, or that cite any of the three grounds of race, colour, or national or ethnic origin. Ongoing training, mentoring and enhancements to our complaints tools, templates, and processes are having a positive impact on the way we handle complaints related to race.

We have also levelled the playing field for complainants by ensuring that both parties in a complaint disclose all their information at the beginning of the process. No surprises. Total transparency upfront. We are doing this using a series of new online forms that will be updated in response to user feedback. These forms ask participants key questions at the beginning of the process so they can get to the mediation table or to a Tribunal hearing faster. With this information, and with the understanding that only the Tribunal can make the determination if discrimination has or has not taken place, we are able to refer complaints more swiftly.

In addition, we are being harder on our decisions to dismiss a complaint, and are putting those decisions through the utmost scrutiny and judgment. In other words, when it appears a complainant does not have the basis of proof, we spend the energy making sure we aren't missing something.

Our modernized complaints process is still a work-in-progress. As the world in which the people we serve continues to evolve, so too will our processes. The ultimate goal is to deliver a process that meets the needs of people in Canada.