Tribunals Ontario is guided by the open court principle and is committed to transparency, accountability and accessibility in its decision-making and operations.
In general, most hearings and case files are publicly accessible, consistent with the Statutory Powers Procedure Act (SPPA) and the open court principle. The open court principle assumes that openness and transparency enhance the public's understanding of and confidence in the administrative justice system. In limited circumstances, public access may be restricted by a statutory provision, common law rule, or a tribunal or court order that restricts access. Most decisions and orders of Tribunals Ontario tribunals are available online for free on CanLII and in some cases on boards' or tribunals' websites.
Access procedures may vary depending on the nature and function of the particular tribunal and may be subject to specific Rules of Procedure, Practice Directions, and any other requirements imposed by law.
The records in most Tribunals Ontario's case files are available to the public on request. Some tribunals make case files available over the counter for viewing and/or photocopying during office hours, unless they are being used by staff or adjudicators, or have been archived.
Tribunals Ontario's case files are records that relate to a specific proceeding. Case files may include:
Personal notes, draft decisions, draft orders and communications related to draft decisions/orders are not part of a case file.
Specific statutory, regulatory or rules-based restrictions on access may apply to some boards and tribunals, including, for example, the Ontario Parole Board, the Social Benefits Tribunal, and the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board. Portions of any board or tribunal proceeding may also be closed to the public and any reports or documents related to closed portions of proceedings are not part of the publicly available case file.
Mediation and settlement discussions are held to facilitate the resolution or narrowing of issues in dispute and are therefore closed to the public. Materials filed solely for the purposes of mediation or settlement discussions are confidential and are not contained in the case file.
Records that are not related to a specific proceeding or case file may be subject to access under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA). FIPPA sets out procedures for making requests, establishes timelines for responses, and outlines limited exemptions to the right of access.
If a FIPPA request is required, Tribunals Ontario staff will inform the requester and assist with processing the request.
Timeliness is essential to ensure access to tribunal files and documents. Tribunals Ontario staff work to provide access to tribunal files and documents as quickly and efficiently as possible. However, the time it takes to provide access can be affected by various factors, including whether records are stored on-site and other staff responsibilities and priorities.
Fees may be charged to search for, collect, or copy records in response to a request for access to information. There is a fee waiver mechanism for individuals who might otherwise be denied access to justice because of their financial circumstances. Information about the fee waiver process is available on the Tribunals Ontario website or from tribunal staff.*
Tribunals Ontario recognizes that sensitive personal or financial information may be included in documents provided as part of a proceeding. Personal information, including names, contact information, medical, financial, employment, and education information, submitted as part of a proceeding may become public in an open hearing, and may be contained in decisions, orders, and case files, unless an order to restrict access is made.
Tribunals Ontario may make limited exceptions to the openness of hearings and case file information for important privacy interests. The tribunal will decide on a case-by-case basis if any measures are necessary to restrict access to sensitive information, and may make an order to:
Individuals with a concern about privacy can request a confidentiality order.* Requests for confidentiality orders should be made at the earliest opportunity. In deciding whether to make a confidentiality order, an adjudicator considers a number of factors including the nature of the information at issue, the interests of affected individuals, and the public interest in the openness of proceedings.
Additional information on confidentiality orders, including the types of orders available and the process for making a request can be found on the Tribunals Ontario website and in the tribunals' Rules of Procedure and Practice Directions.
For questions or concerns about accessing records:
Access to Information
655 Bay Street, 14th Floor
Toronto, Ontario M7A 2A3
* May 1, 2019: The processes for requesting a fee waiver and for requesting a confidentiality order are under development. This policy will be updated with links to information on how to make these requests, as soon as it is available.
Environment and Land Division
Social Justice Division
Safety, Licensing Appeals and Standards Division