Filing a complaint

If you think you have been discriminated against and are considering filing a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission, there are three things you need to know:

  1. The Commission will expect that you first try to resolve the issue where it took place.

    The Commission's human rights officer will encourage you to try to solve the problem by using an internal dispute resolution process in your workplace if there is one. If your complaint is with a service provider, the human rights officer will encourage you to speak to a manager or contact the customer service department, if the organization has one.

  2. Your complaint may be a provincial or territorial matter.

    Provinces and territories are responsible for the majority of employers and service providers in Canada. Places like restaurants, grocery stores and gas stations fall under the responsibility of your province or territory. So be prepared to go to one of the provincial and territorial human rights agencies instead.

  3. Your complaint needs to meet certain criteria to be valid.

    Not all unfair situations are valid discrimination complaints. A valid complaint requires:

    1. one of the 11 grounds of discrimination protected under the Canadian Human Rights Act
    2. a discriminatory practice

      There are several ways that a person could be discriminated against. The Canadian Human Rights Act calls these discriminatory practices. The following seven discriminatory practices are prohibited by the Canadian Human Rights Act when they are based on one or more of the 11 grounds of discrimination:

      • denying someone goods, services, facilities or accommodation;
      • providing someone goods, services, facilities or accommodation in a way that treats them with prejudice and differently;
      • refusing to employ or continue to employ someone, or treating them unfairly in the workplace;
      • following policies or practices that deprive people of employment opportunities;
      • paying men and women differently when they are doing work of the same value;
      • retaliating against a person who has filed a complaint with the Commission or against someone who has filed a complaint for them; and
      • harassing someone.
    3. a negative effect on you

To find out if you have a valid complaint, contact the Commission.

It is also important to note that only people who are in Canada can legally file a complaint. Your complaint must be filed with the Commission within 12 months of the incident occurrence; otherwise, your complaint may be refused.

Read more about the different stages of the Commission's dispute resolution process.

Official language complaints

The language rights of individuals are protected in Canada by the Official Languages Act.

Learn more about official languages rights or get a detailed explanation on the complaint process by downloading the document Filing a Complaint with the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages (PDF format).

International human rights complaints

If an individual within Canada tries unsuccessfully to resolve a human rights complaint using domestic procedures, they may be eligible to file an international human rights complaint. The UN and the Organization of American States are the two international bodies that deal with international human rights complaints.

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