A person diagnosed with epilepsy may suddenly find that they are treated differently and sometimes unfairly. Canada is a country that strives for equality and independence for all people. However, there are still cases when people are discriminated against based on gender, race, religion, and disability.
Unfortunately, people with epilepsy still face discrimination on a day-to-day basis in Canada and around the world. The Human Rights Code was created to guard the rights of all citizens in Canada. Under the Human Rights Code, a person with epilepsy is defined as having a disability and is protected in full under the law against discrimination. The Human Rights Code specifies that "Every person has a right to equal treatment with respect to services, goods, and facilities, without discrimination because of race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, age, marital status, family status, or handicap."
Filing a Complaint
If you believe you have been discriminated against or harassed on any grounds covered by the Human Rights Code, you may make a formal complaint to the Ontario Human Rights Commission.
Human Rights Officers are available to discuss the problem. They are required to accept the complaint of any person who believes that their rights (under the Code) have been infringed. Once the complainant completes, signs, and registers a complaint, it becomes official and Officers will investigate.
A Fact Finding Conference may be held after the complaint has been served, and the respondent has had an opportunity to reply. Following this conference, there may be an opportunity for a settlement discussion if the complainant, respondent, and OHRC representative feel it is appropriate. In many instances, they can agree on a settlement.
A case that cannot be settled may be referred to a Human Rights Tribunal. The Tribunal reviews the complaint, makes a decision, and orders a settlement. Both parties may either accept that decision or appeal it.
If they choose to appeal, the Federal Court hears the appeal and makes a decision. If both parties do not accept this decision, they may choose to appeal to the Supreme Court, which makes the final decision.
Do you feel that someone has violated your rights? Follow these steps to file a human rights complaint. Every person with epilepsy must understand the laws upholding fair treatment in the workplace. You have rights. Fight for them!
Call the Ontario Human Rights Commission's centralized Inquiry Services Unit. You will reach an automated phone answering system that will connect you to an Inquiry Service Representative. This representative will tell you if your concerns or inquiries are within the mandate of the Code, or whether a referral to another organization or agency of the government may be more appropriate.
If the representative believes you have the right to file a complaint, you will be sent an Intake Questionnaire and package within 48 hours. You must complete the questionnaire and return it within 21 days. The questionnaire asks questions about the discrimination you faced.
When a Commission officer receives your questionnaire, they will assess whether the particular issues are within the mandate of the OHRC. If necessary, they will interview you and draft legally sound complaints.
You must sign the document before it can hold the parties responsible for the alleged discrimination. These parties, referred to as the respondents, are asked to formally respond to the allegations within 21 days.
The Commission offers mediation services on a voluntary basis, meaning both parties must agree to the service. This allows both parties to discuss the issues at hand, thereby empowering them to come to their own agreement as quickly as possible.
Mediation is usually available within 90 days from the date the complaint was received and signed. The Commission's mediation process has a settlement success rate of 75 to 85 per cent.
The OHRC has the power and authority to investigate complaints when necessary. The Commission often initiates an investigation if:
- the parties do not agree to participate in mediation services;
- mediation does not result in settlement; or
- mediation is not appropriate due to considerable public interest issues evident in the case.
Usually, an investigation includes a review of all documentation relevant to the complaint, interviews of witnesses who have relevant information, and any other evidence.
Following a thorough investigation, a Commission officer may attempt to resolve the issue through conciliation, proceeding with disclosure of the investigative findings with the parties involved.
If the complaint between both parties is still not resolved, officers will make a case analysis. They will produce a summary of evidence including an interpretation of the case based on human rights legislation in Ontario, and a recommendation of whether to refer the case to a Board of Inquiry.
5. Important Issues to Consider when Filing a Complaint
The Commission, under careful discretion, does not deal with complaints if:
- another legislative act can deal with the issues raised in the complaint more appropriately;
- the complaint is trivial, frivolous, vexatious or made in bad faith;
- the complaint is not in the jurisdiction of the Commission; or
- the complaint is filed more than six months from the last alleged incident of discrimination, and it appears that the delay was not incurred in good faith.
Although the process seems lengthy, it is usually executed efficiently and effectively to help both parties to reach an agreement in its early stages.
For more information:
Ontario Human Rights Commission
180 Dundas Street West, 8th Floor
Toronto, Ontario M7A 2R9
800-387-9080 (toll free)
800-309-1129 (416 and 905 exchanges)
Unfortunately, Epilepsy Support Centre is not equipped financially or with the personnel (lawyers) to help people appeal violations. What we can do is help assist in advocating for you and help you understand the laws and when to approach the OHC. We can also connect you with people who have had similar experiences and have gone through the process.
Reprinted in part from Epilepsy Ontario.