2018-19 Operating context and key risks

Key Risks

Risk Risk Response Strategy Link to Core Responsibilities Link to government wide and departmental priorities
Sustained increases in the complaint caseload may impact service delivery to Canadians
  • Monitor caseload volume trends closely 
  • Continue using the Lean approach to identify and optimize process efficiencies
  • Built-in flexibility in budget planning and allocations to appropriately re-allocate resources if and where required
Human Rights Complaints Diversity is Canada’s strength
Without a strong alliance with key stakeholders, the Commission may not be able to expand its reach to ensure people living in vulnerable circumstances can find the support they need
  • Nurture strong, collaborative, focused and integrated stakeholder partnerships
  • Work in concert with other human rights advocates to maximize efforts 
Engagement and Advocacy Diversity is Canada’s strength
Risk that investments in projects to modernize Information Technology infrastructure do not deliver significant benefits
  • Reinstate a strong IM/IT governance framework to ensure alignment with the Commission’s objectives
  • Strengthen project management capacity
Internal Services Diversity is Canada’s strength


1. Risk related to caseload increase

The human rights landscape is constantly evolving. Important developments are taking place in Canada and abroad that require the Commission to continually adapt in order to better serve Canadians and, in particular, vulnerable groups.  These developments have impacted all of our core roles and responsibilities. Human rights have become a focal point of debate and discussion in our society. More people are coming to the Commission for assistance to assert their rights. The complaints we receive are becoming increasingly complex and are often quite adversarial.

Our caseloads are increasing. From 2015–16 to 2016–17, the Commission’s caseload volume has increased by 24%. Since the beginning of the 2017–18, this volume has increased by 42%. 

The volume of human rights complaints the Commission receives depends on both external and internal factors. The Commission monitors social trends, government direction and changes in legislation to understand the potential impact they may have on the Commission. The introduction of two new grounds of discrimination to the Canadian Human Rights Act, gender identity or expression and genetic discrimination could have an impact. Budget 2018 – Equality and Growth will raise awareness on issues of equality and likely impact the number of complaints received. Following the introduction of the electronic complaint form on the Commission’s website, we expected to see an increase given the ease of use and accessibility. However, the surge in the intake caseload of 93% in the quarter after its introduction was unexpected. Measuring the impact of such external and internal factors helps the Commission improve its forecasting ability.

The risk that sustained increases in the complaint caseload will impact service delivery to Canadians is significant.  To mitigate the risk the Commission will continue to monitor caseload trends closely; action process efficiencies identified by the Lean approach and through other means and build flexibility in budget planning and allocations to re-allocate resources if and where required.

2. Risks related to Stakeholder Participation

The development and implementation of the Commission’s advocacy strategy on access to justice that will focus on raising public awareness and understanding of the barriers to access to justice that individuals in vulnerable circumstances face is predicated on strong participation from stakeholders. While we will continue building alliances with key stakeholders to assist in implementing the strategy, there is a risk that other priorities may prevent stakeholders’ from fully engaging and participating. To mitigate this risk, the Commission will nurture strong, collaborative, and integrated relationships with a broad range of key stakeholders.

3. Risk related to Information Technology 

The Commission needs a modern, sustainable and adaptable system that allows Canadians to access human rights justice through multiple access points and that allows Commission employees’ to work more effectively. Investments are required in Information Technology to renew outdated infrastructure, and provide business solutions that are modern, mobile and support our employees’ efforts to work and solve problems in a more effective and efficient manner in collaborative and innovative ways. There is a risk that the investments do not deliver significant benefits. To address this risk, the Commission will strengthen its IT governance framework and project management discipline. Both actions will increase alignment with the Commission’s goals.

The Phoenix pay system continues to have significant impact on the Commission’s workload and staff. Despite all the work the Commission has done to address Phoenix issues, many remain unresolved. We anticipate that ongoing system challenges and resource pressures will likely affect our capacity to support some program initiatives. 

Operating context 

This section describes the context and Key risks in which the Commission operates. It identifies both external and internal influences and factors that may affect our core responsibilities. 

  • As the general awareness of human rights issues grows and as many human rights issues continue to evolve over time, many of the complaints being brought to the Commission continue to be more complex in nature.
  • Two new grounds have been added to the Canadian Human Rights Act: gender identity or expression and genetic discrimination. These two additions require the Commission to train its staff, and may increase the volume of complaints that we receive.
  • The Commission’s caseload keeps increasing and we anticipate it will continue to increase given the growing awareness of human rights issues and the introduction of the electronic complaint form.
  • Some complex and pressing human rights issues such as hate and intolerance, economic and social rights, and human rights of Indigenous peoples in Canada are in need of action at every level of government.
  • The potential impact of the introduction of new legislations in 2018 such as the new federal disability legislation and the proactive pay equity legislation might have an impact on the Commission’s work and resources.
  • Disability-related complaints will continue to be a big part of the Commission’s work. This is especially true with all the awareness work done around mental health and the strong commitment demonstrated by the Federal Government to introduce a federal disability legislation.
  • There has been increasing attention given to the prevalence of sexual harassment and assault in the workplace. This is especially true with the rise of the ‘‘Me Too’’ movement and with the strong action taken by the Government of Canada against harassment and sexual violence in the work and the proposed Bill C-65 on workplace harassment and violence in the workplace.   
  • Implementation issues with the Phoenix pay system will continue to create significant and ongoing resource pressures for the Commission.