My case is going to a hearing at the HRTO. How do I prepare?
Because of COVID-19, of Ontario (HRTO) hearings and mediations are not in person. They are held by telephone, Zoom video conference, or in writing. For Zoom hearings and mediations, you have to connect to the Zoom link 10 minutes before your hearing starts. You may be able to use a smartphone, but the HRTO recommends a computer.
There are 4 main things you need to work on when preparing for your hearing at the Human Rights of Ontario (HRTO). You have to prepare your:
- testimony, or your side of the story
- witnesses, including questions to ask each witness
- evidence, such as documents, videos, and photos
- opening and closing statements to clearly explain your case at the start and end of your hearing
As you prepare, remember your goal is to prove 2 things:
- The Respondent discriminated against you, and
- The caused you some kind of loss.
Types of losses
There are various types of losses. For example, you may have experienced a:
- loss to your dignity or self-worth
- loss of money, for example, your landlord's discrimination forced you to move and your new apartment is more expensive
- lost opportunity, for example, your employer's discrimination meant you didn't get a job promotion
- unique or specific loss, for example, your employer's discrimination caused you to lose your health insurance coverage, or your landlord's discrimination caused you to lose your rent deposit
You must use evidence to prove your losses. For example, if you were fired for discriminatory reasons, you can show pay stubs or bank statements to show how much you lost in wages until you found a new job. Medical documents can also help to show your losses, for example, a diagnosis of depression.
As you prepare for your hearing, it can be difficult to know what facts are important and what facts are not. If you're not sure what facts to include, remember the goal is to prove the discrimination and your loss. Ask yourself questions like:
- Does this help to show that I was discriminated against?
- Does this help to show how the discrimination affected me?
- Is this fact connected to the discrimination I experienced?
- Is this fact important to help me explain my story?
Hearings at the HRTO follow a particular process. Understanding the process will help you better prepare for your hearing and make you more confident.
To learn more about the hearing process, see What happens at a hearing at the HRTO?
Ask for an interpreter or accommodation
If you need an interpreter or a special arrangement because of a , contact the HRTO’s Registrar’s Office before your hearing to let them know. For example, if you can't hear very well, the HRTO can arrange for a sign language interpreter. The legal word for this special arrangement is “”.
Get legal help
You can talk to a lawyer for help preparing your case, or to represent you at your hearing. If you can't afford to hire a lawyer for your whole case, some lawyers provide “unbundled services” or “limited scope retainer” services. This means you pay them to help you with part of your case.
If you can't afford a lawyer, you can call the Human Rights Legal Support Centre at 1-866-625-5179 for free legal advice and support. They offer a range of support services from giving advice over the phone to sending a lawyer to represent you. The level of support depends on your case and your personal circumstances.
Some community legal clinics may offer legal advice regarding discrimination in certain areas such as housing and employment, to people with low incomes. To find the legal clinic in your area, enter your postal code on the Legal Aid Ontario website.