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 resolve human rights issues.
The human rights system in the Northwest Territories is committed to using a restorative approach and is guided by the principles of flexibility, inclusion, remediation and participatory solutions to issues. This means we work with people to help them create solutions that work for them.
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. We can be reached by phone, email, fax, or in person. We are here to offer information and resources to help resolve 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 Commission is responsible for the early complaint process up to the point when complaints are either dismissed or referred for hearings by the Adjudication Panel.
Dispute resolution is an important part of the human rights complaint process. We encourage people to work together to resolve the complaint themselves. Our dispute resolution process gives both parties a chance to work out issues, come to a shared understanding of what happened, and find mutually agreeable solutions.
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Filing a Complaint
If a person decides to file a human rights complaint, the first step is to meet with a Human Rights Officer and tell their story. The Human Rights Officer will help them fill out a complaint form if they decide to file a complaint. For the complaint to go forward, it must be reviewed and accepted by the Executive Director. The person filing the complaint, called the complainant, will be given a chance to provide more information to support their complaint before the Executive Director makes her decision to accept or refuse the complaint.
A decision of the Executive Director to refuse a complaint may be appealed to the Commission.
If the Executive Director accepts a complaint, the respondent is told about the complaint and sent a copy of the complaint form. The respondent then meets with a Human Rights Officer who explains the process and answers any questions the respondent may have. The respondent is the person or organization who receives the complaint alleging discrimination.
Once the respondent has received the complaint, a Human Rights Officer is assigned to help the parties talk about the complaint. Human Rights Officers do not make decisions about complaints. They provide information about the human rights aspects of complaints and help parties discuss and resolve issues. Dispute resolution 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 investigation 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 investigation.
During the investigation process, a Human Rights Officer (who has not been part of the dispute resolution) is appointed by the Executive Director gathers information about the complaint. The investigator may talk to anyone who may have information about a complaint. The investigator may also request and examine documents and records that might be relevant to the complaint. This information is used to create an investigation report.
An investigation report 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 investigation report analyzes the complaint information in relation to the NWT Human Rights Act and any relevant case law.
The Investigator will meet with the complainant and respondent separately to go over a draft of the investigation report. Each of the parties will have an opportunity to suggest changes and provide further information for the report. The final investigation report will be submitted to the Executive Director, who will provide a copy to each of the parties, along with the Executive Director’s recommendation to the Commission whether to dismiss the complaint or refer it for a hearing of the Adjudication Panel. The complainant and the respondent will then have an opportunity to respond to the investigation report.
After reviewing the investigation report, the Executive Director’s recommendation, and the responses of the parties to the investigation report, the Commission decides whether to dismiss the complaint or refer the complaint to the Adjudication Panel for a hearing.
The complainant and respondent are notified of the Commission’s decision in writing. The Commission’s decision 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 decide whether the complaint has merit and, if so, what the remedy will be.
The Adjudication Panel is separate from the Commission. Information about the Panel and the hearing process can be found on the Panel’s website.