Uncertain about the Canadian Human Rights complaint process? Search through our FAQs for more information.
Who can file a complaint
Anyone that is legally present in Canada can file a complaint, such as a Canadian citizen, a permanent resident or someone on a visa. If you are not currently in Canada, you can still file your complaint as long as you are legally entitled to return to Canada.
If you are not present in Canada, some exceptions may apply: we may accept complaints from Canadian citizens who are not in the country, but are filing a complaint about something that happened to them when they were in Canada.
You can also get help from someone close to you, such as a friend or family member. You can also be represented by a lawyer, but you do not need a lawyer to file a complaint.
Can I still file a complaint if I am outside the country?
Yes, you must meet the criteria (Canadian citizen, permanent resident, lawfully present or are legally allowed to return to Canada).
Can I file a complaint for another person?
Yes, you can file a complaint on behalf of another person with their written consent or power of attorney. This means that you will be asked to provide the victim’s written agreement, or the power of attorney document, in order for the complaint to be accepted. In the event that the person cannot provide their written consent, you may speak with someone at the Commission to discuss the situation.
Can I file a complaint for my child who is under 18?
Yes, you may file on behalf of your child.
Can a person under 18 file a complaint without their parent’s consent?
You have to be of legal age in order to submit a complaint on your own behalf.
Can I file a complaint for someone who has died?
No. However, if the person had already begun the complaint process, and dies after we have accepted the complaint, an individual who is representing the estate may contact the Commission for further discussion about the existing complaint.
Can I file a complaint for someone who is in prison?
Yes, you can file on behalf of a person in prison with their written authorization. As noted above, when filing for someone else, you must be able to provide the person’s written agreement.
Can I file a complaint for a group?
Yes. As above, you will need to provide written authorization of the named persons in the complaint. If you are the group’s formal representative, you will need to complete a form to show on what basis you obtained authority to act as the group’s representative and what authority you have been given (e.g., authority to request information, to resolve the dispute, to file a complaint, etc).
If you are not the group’s formal representative, you will need to obtain consent from everyone in the group that you can represent them.
Whom can I file a complaint against?
The Canadian Human Rights Act applies to federally regulated institutions such as federal departments, Crown corporations and agencies, First Nations governments, and private companies that are regulated by the federal government such as banks, airlines, trucking companies, broadcasters and telecommunications companies. If you are not sure if the organization you want to complaint about is under federal jurisdiction, please contact us or use the online form to get more information.
Note: If you are an employee of Canada Post, Air Canada or the federal government, you may not need to complete a complaint form. Please call the Commission to discuss your situation.
In what kinds of situations can I file a complaint?
Not every unfair situation can be considered discrimination under the law. Here are some examples of discriminatory acts that could be accepted as a discrimination complaint, once they are linked to one or more of the grounds of discrimination:
- If you go to a federally regulated organization and you are denied goods, services, facilities or accommodation.
- If you are provided with goods, services, facilities or accommodation in a way that treats you differently and adversely.
- If you are refused employment or you are fired from your job, or are being treated unfairly in the workplace.
- If the company or organization is following policies or practices that deprive people of employment opportunities.
- If you are a woman and are being paid differently when you are doing work of the same value.
- If you have been the victim of retaliation because you have filed a complaint with the Commission or because you have helped someone else file a complaint.
- If you have been the victim of harassment.
What should I do if I do not see what I am looking for in the examples of discriminatory acts?
Write what happened to you and provide an example. For example, “I was not given training and other people were.”
What do you mean by ground of discrimination?
In order for the Commission to move forward with your complaint, it must be based on one of the grounds of discrimination included in the Canadian Human Rights Act. The grounds are the reasons why you think you’re being discriminated against or that people are treating you differently. They are personal characteristics about you. The grounds are:
- your race
- your national or ethnic origin
- your colour
- your religion
- your age
- your sex
- your sexual orientation
- your gender identity or expression
- your marital status
- your family status
- your genetic characteristics
- your disability; or
- a conviction for which a pardon has been granted or a record suspended.
What do you mean when you ask if I have any special needs or accommodation requests?
We are asking if there is any reason or condition that might inhibit your ability to participate in the complaint process. For example, if you have a disability and cannot speak on the phone, if you have a visual impairment or need interpreters.
How do I file a complaint?
You can file a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission by :
- using the online complaint form
- emailing the online .pdf form
- faxing the completed form to us at: 613-996-9661
- calling us toll free 1-888-214-1090 (TTY 1-888-643-3304)
- completing the form and sending it through regular mail to the following address:
Canadian Human Rights Commission
344 Slater Street, 8th Floor
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 1E1
Please contact us as soon as possible with clear, detailed and specific information about the situation. You will need to provide us with the following:
- your first name and last name
- your telephone number
- your mailing address and email if you have one
- a summary of the incident or situation, including the date, time and location, the ground(s) of discrimination, the negative effect on you, as well as the person or organization you are complaining about.
What happens if the incident occurred in many places? Which location should I indicate on the complaint form?
You’ll have to indicate a main location at the top of the form. But then later, in your written narrative, you can list the various places where this happened.
What should I do if I don’t remember the exact date of the incident?
Usually we ask for month and year, and an approximate date. You can then discuss it further when you have a conversation with the Commission analyst.
What date should I use if the incident(s) are ongoing?
Please use the date of the most recent incident. You can then discuss it further in your conversation with the Commission analyst.
How long do I have to submit a complaint?
In most cases, you should file your complaint within 12 months of the incident. If you have experienced a prolonged situation of discrimination, the date of the latest incident will be used to base this timeline. In some cases, there may be exceptions: Some cases are accepted after the 12 month delay, in extenuating circumstances such as prolonged illness for example.
I have moved recently. Do I use the address of when it happened or my new address?
In the section of the form called “Your contact information,” you should use your most up-to-date mailing address. The location address refers to where the incident occurred.
Can I attach documents to prove my story?
No. The complaint form is simply your initial narrative. Any other supporting documents can be provided later in the process.
What is an alternate contact?
The alternate contact is someone who we will contact only if we can’t reach you. For example, your mother, spouse or friend. We will not discuss your complaint with the alternate contact.
What is a representative?
A representative is someone that you are giving us permission to speak to directly about your complaint. This person may be processing the complaint for you: for example, a union representative, a lawyer or a friend or family member.
Will you contact my lawyer?
We only contact your lawyer if that is what you have indicated as your preference in the complaint form, and if you have given us authorization to do so. However, a lawyer is not required for the Commission’s complaint process. If you choose to hire a lawyer, the fees are your responsibility.
Will you contact my Union?
We only contact your union representative if that is what you have indicated as your preference in the complaint form, and if we have your authorization to do so.
I have a union, but they aren’t aware of the complaint. Do you still need my union information?
Yes, it would be helpful to have this information in order to contact the union representative to understand the status of any grievances or other alternate redress processes.
If my complaint is against my union, does that impact the information I give you?
If your complaint is about the union, the union will be named in the complaint. Therefore, we do not require your local union information as the president will eventually be notified of the complaint when it is accepted.
The Commission says it wants to use my information for research. What kind of research do you do?
This information is optional and only used for statistical analysis to help us know the number of complaints we receive on various issues. Nothing that identifies you will be used.
What if I don’t agree for you to use my information in research? Can I still file a complaint?
Yes, we will still process your complaint as the consent for research is optional.
Once I have sent my complaint in, can I make changes to it?
You need to speak to an analyst about this. It will be looked at on a case by case basis.
When will someone call me?
We aim to call within 20 days to discuss your case.
How long will the entire process take?
The length of the complaint process varies with every case. Some cases are resolved fairly quickly with mediation; others may take longer depending on the response time by the parties involved.
When will you contact the person or company I am complaining about?
After you have submitted your complaint, a Commission staff member will contact you to discuss your case in greater detail. The Commission will only contact the organization you are complaining about (the respondent) after this discussion.
Will I know ahead of time when you are contacting the respondent?
Once the complaint is accepted, both parties will be notified at the same time.
How will any follow-up on my complaint be handled?
Most of the entire complaint process is handled through written correspondence and telephone conversations.
Are you keeping my information in a database?
Yes. The Commission will store this personal complaint information in a Personal Information Bank until it sends it to the Library and Archives Canada or destroys it. If you wish to access your personal information, you may ask to see it under the Privacy Act.
Will I have to travel to Ottawa at any point during my complaint process?
No, most of the process it is done through written correspondence. Normally the complainant does not have to travel. Different stages can be done through correspondence and telephone conversations. If mediation is offered, it often takes place close to the complainant’s residence or by telephone
Will I have to face the person I am complaining about? I don’t want to be in the same room as them.
You do not have to be in the same room as the respondent (the person you’re complaining about.) But it is important that you mention any concerns that you may have about this to your Commission representative.
Are complaints confidential?
Yes—all complaints are confidential. However, during the process, we will need to provide the person or organization that you are complaining against your name and complaint in order to get their side of the story.
The person I am complaining about can afford a lawyer, but I cannot. Will this affect how my complaint is handled?
No, it will not. The Commission is a neutral party that tries to resolve issues related to human rights. We do not require that you hire a lawyer to file a human rights complaint. There is no cost to you to file a complaint.
Why can’t I save my complaint and complete it another time?
We cannot save any of your private information until we have your consent.
What is the difference between the Wizard and the online complaint form?
The Wizard is strictly a tool to help you determine if you are in the right place to file your complaint.
The initial questions in the Wizard may look the same as the online form, and your responses will be automatically uploaded to the online form to make things faster for you. However, if your complaint needs to be handled by another Commission (provincial or territorial) or by another agency, the Wizard will let you know so that you don’t waste time filling out the entire complaint form.
f your case does appear to be something that the Commission would accept as a complaint, you will be prompted to continue to the complaint form, and asked to give us consent to proceed. If at any time before giving your consent and sending your complaint you change your mind, you can leave complaint form, and none of the information you have entered will be kept. This is to protect your security and privacy.
Why should I use the online form?
Using our e-Filing system will save you time.
How do I get to the online form?
You will find the complaint button throughout the Commission’s website. If you have already completed the Wizard questions, you can move directly to the online form without having to complete the Wizard questions again.
What happens once I have filed my complaint using the online form?
You will get a confirmation email, telling you that we have received your form. However, that doesn’t mean your complaint has been “accepted” yet. A Commission staff member will contact you. At that time, you will have the opportunity to discuss your complaint in greater detail. Your complaint will only be accepted after that contact and once your complaint is considered to be in an acceptable form.
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