No client likes to have a human rights application brought
against it before the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal. And no client
is happy to hear that even if it is successful and fully
exonerated, there is no real scope for recovering legal costs
incurred in defending the application. What may just be an unhappy
cost of doing business for organizations is even more problematic
for individual Respondents however, as they may be saddled with
large legal bills and have no real recourse against the Applicant.
This can be particularly problematic under the current human rights
scheme in Ontario, where Applicants can bring forward complaints
without incurring the cost of retaining legal counsel or paying any
filing fees, and without any screening of the legitimacy of the
complaint by the Tribunal. In relation to the awarding of costs,
however, the situation may be about to change.
Bill 147, Human Rights Code Amendment Act (Awarding of
Costs), 2013 ("Bill 147″) is a Private Member's
bill brought forward by Randy Hillier, a Progressive Conservative
MPP. Bill 147 would amend the Ontario Human Rights Code to
permit the Tribunal to order costs in favour of a successful party,
either by way of fixing costs or assessing costs. Given that Bill
147 is a Private Member's bill brought by the a member of the
Official Opposition, ordinarily it would stand little chance of
being enacted into law. That said, Bill 147 passed First Reading in
the Ontario Legislature in December 2013, so there is clearly some
appetite by the Government to consider this issue.
Even if Bill 147 is ultimately passed, the Tribunal may be
hesitant to make adverse costs awards against individuals or those
with limited means. That said, there will at least be the prospect
that a Respondent falsely accused of discrimination or harassment
will have some degree of recourse. Of course, it also means that a
successful Applicant can seek to recover costs against a Respondent
found in violation of the Code.
Bill 147 has not yet progressed beyond First Reading. Bill 147
can be reviewed at the following link.
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