Process for Resolving Complaints

The NWT Human Rights Act protects the equality human rights of everyone in the Northwest Territories. The Act also provides a resolution process which allows people to solve human rights issues.

The NWT Human Rights Commission accepts complaints of discrimination and harassment based on the areas and grounds listed in the NWT Human Rights Act. The complainant is the person who files a complaint. The respondent is the person or agency against whom the complaint is filed. Complaints submitted to the Commission are processed by the office of the Director of Human Rights to the point where a complaint is referred for a hearing. Complaints referred for hearings are processed by the Adjudication Panel.

Call us if you believe you have been discriminated against or if you are an employer, landlord or service provider and would like information about your responsibilities under the Act. We are here to help.

Some complaints may be clear cut, while others may be more complex, involve numerous parties, or have systemic elements. We encourage people to work together to solve problems. Dispute resolution is an important part of the process. It gives both parties a chance to work out an issue, come to an understanding of what happened, and find a mutually agreeable solution.

The stages of the complaint process are:

  • Inquiry
  • Filing a complaint
  • Responding to a complaint
  • Dispute Resolution
  • Assessment
  • Director’s decision
  • Hearing


Individuals and organizations may ask questions or request information regarding their rights and responsibilities under the NWT Human Rights Act. Inquiries to the Commission are confidential. You can reach us by phone, email, fax, or in person. We are here to offer information and resources to help resolve human rights issues. We may ask you to provide additional information to clarify the issues.

Filing a Complaint

If a person decides to file a human rights complaint, a Human Rights Officer will meet with them and they will have a chance to tell their story. If the person decides, after talking to the Human Rights Officer, to file a complaint, they will be asked to complete and sign a complaint form. If they need help, the Officer will assist them.

The person filing a human rights complaint is called the complainant.  The Officer will review the complaint form to make sure all the required information is collected. The Officer may ask the complainant to provide witness statements or documents to support their story. When the complaint form is completed and signed, the Officer will give it to the Director to review.

Sometimes complaints are dismissed at this stage. If there is a chance that the complaint could be dismissed at this stage, the complainant will be given the opportunity to provide information to support the complaint before the Director makes her decision.

If the Director does not dismiss the complaint at this stage, the person the complaint has been filed against, called the respondent, is told that a complaint has been filed against them.

Responding to a Complaint

The respondent is asked to meet with a Human Rights Officer so that the Officer can explain the process and answer any questions the respondent may have. The respondent will be given a copy of the complaint and will be given the opportunity to respond to the complaint details.

There is often a different understanding of events between the complainant and respondent.  The respondent has the opportunity to give their side of the story.  If the respondent thinks the complainant is wrong or there has been a misunderstanding and there was no discrimination, they can explain why. They can also provide relevant documents or other information.

Dispute Resolution

Dispute resolution is a voluntary way of resolving human rights complaints and can happen at any time in the process if both the complainant and respondent agree. There is no cost for dispute resolution. A human rights officer is assigned to help the parties talk about the complaint and get a better understanding of each other’s point of view. The human rights officer is neutral and does not make a decision about the complaint. Dispute resolution can improve communication and create solutions that result in better relationships. Entering dispute resolution as soon as possible can significantly shorten the complaint process and give both parties a say about how the complaint is resolved.

The discussions in dispute resolution are confidential and “without prejudice”. This means that anything said during dispute resolution cannot be used in any other legal process, including the assessment of the complaint and the hearing process. This lets both parties speak freely.

If the parties come to an agreement in dispute resolution, the complaint is resolved and the file is closed. If the parties do not come to an agreement, the complaint is moved forward for assessment.


During this stage of the process, a Human Rights Officer gathers information about the complaint. The Officer may talk to anyone who may have information about a complaint. The Officer may also request and examine documents and records that might be relevant to the complaint. This information is used to create an assessment letter.

An assessment letter summarizes the information submitted by the parties and gathered by the Officer. This information is not tested. This means that the information provided by the parties and the witnesses is taken at face value. The assessment letter analyzes the complaint information in relation to the NWT Human Rights Act and any relevant case law. An assessment letter provides a recommendation to the Director to either dismiss the complaint or to refer the case to a hearing. All parties have an opportunity to respond to the assessment letter before the complaint is given to the Director for a decision.

Director’s Decision

After reading the assessment letter, the responses to the assessment letter, and the relevant information on the complaint file, the Director makes a decision on whether to dismiss the complaint or refer the complaint to the Adjudication Panel for a hearing.

Parties are notified of the Director’s decision in writing. The Director’s decisions to dismiss a complaint may be appealed to the Adjudication Panel.


Hearings are conducted by the NWT Human Rights Adjudication Panel. A hearing allows all parties the opportunity to present their case to an Adjudicator in an open and fair manner.

The Adjudicator will hear both sides of the issue and will make a decision about whether the complaint has merit and what the remedy will be.

The Adjudication Panel is separate from the Director’s office. Information about the Panel and the hearing process can be found on the Panel’s website.


This post is also available in: French