What happens at an HRTO hearing?

3. Make your opening statement

Your opening statement at your Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO) hearing is a brief description of your case to get the Tribunal member ready for the first witness. It helps the member to understand the main issues and evidence. It’s like giving a road map of where you think the hearing will go.

You’re not allowed to try to convince the member of anything during your opening. If you try to do this, the member may stop you or the Respondent may ask the member to stop you. You try to convince them at the end of the hearing during your closing statement

An opening should only be a few minutes long. You can write your statement in advance and read it out loud at the hearing. You should practice reading it before the hearing so the Tribunal member can see that you’re prepared.

Once you finish your opening statement, the Respondent gets a chance to make their opening statement. But the Respondent can also wait until all of your witnesses have finished before they make their opening statement.

Prepare in advance

Your statement should:

1. Briefly explain the case

Briefly explain the and how it affected you. This should be a short summary. Your witnesses or evidence will provide the details. You can mention the part of the Human Rights Code that you say the Respondent didn’t follow.

For example: “This case is about whether the Respondent discriminated against me by not giving me a promotion at work because I am Black.”

2. Explain your plan for witnesses and evidence

Tell the Tribunal member which witnesses and evidence will support your case. Tell them what order you plan to do things in. If there’s really important evidence, mention it briefly. Mentioning these things tell the member what they should pay special attention to.

For example: “I plan to call 2 witnesses. The first witness is Jane Doe, an employee at the company. I expect Jane will testify about how the Respondent treated me when I applied for a promotion. The second witness is John Smith, a hiring manager at the company. I expect John will describe an email he got where the Respondent talked about the colour of my skin. This is a very important piece of evidence.”

At the end of your opening statement you can briefly mention the outcome you want. For example, “I am asking for $5,000 for the impact this discrimination had on me. I am also asking for $3,500 for lost wages.”

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