My case is going to a hearing at the HRTO. How do I prepare?

3. Write questions for witnesses

Write a separate list of questions for each of your witnesses and for the Respondent’s witnesses.

Questions for your witnesses

Write questions that help your witnesses feel comfortable and speak honestly. Try not to confuse them. Make it easy for them to say what they know.

Think about writing questions in chronological order, or the order in which the events happened. This can help your witness testify like they’re telling a story. This can be more comfortable than answering questions in a random order. It may also make it easier for your witness to remember things if you ask them in order.

You cannot ask your witness questions in a way that suggests the answer. These are called leading questions. For example, you cannot ask your witness, “Was the dress red?” Instead, you must ask open questions. For example, ask, “What colour was the dress?”

It may be helpful, but it’s not necessary, to start each question for your witness with one of these words:

  • Who
  • What
  • Where
  • Why
  • When
  • How

Questions for the Respondent’s witnesses

Write questions for the Respondent’s witnesses that show why the Tribunal member should believe your story instead of the Respondent’s story. Try to show that the Respondent’s witnesses don’t remember accurately, they’re not trustworthy, they’re biased, or that they’re lying. Think about these things:

  • What facts might they leave out on purpose?
  • What important details might they forget?
  • What is their relationship to the Respondent?
  • What reason might they have to not tell the truth?

Also ask questions that help to confirm your side of the story.

You can ask the Respondent’s witnesses leading questions. This means you can suggest the answer in the question.

A technique some people use is to only ask the other side’s witnesses “yes” or “no” questions. By limiting their answers to “yes” or “no”, you can better control the story.

For example, instead of asking the Respondent’s witness, “What did he do?”, you might ask, “He pointed his finger in your face?” 

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