What We Do


If you believe you have experienced discrimination or harassment, you can file an application with the HRTO. The HRTO resolves claims of discrimination and harassment brought under the Human Rights Code in a fair, just and timely way.

The HRTO first offers parties the opportunity to settle the dispute through mediation. If the parties do not agree to mediation, or mediation does not resolve the application, the HRTO holds a hearing.

Hearings and mediations are held in Toronto, Hamilton, Kingston, London, North Bay, Ottawa, Sarnia, Sault Ste. Marie, St. Catharines, Sudbury, Timmins, Thunder Bay and Windsor. See also: Practice Direction on Hearings in Regional Centres.

HRTO decisions are made by adjudicators called vice-chairs or members. HRTO adjudicators have experience, knowledge and training in human rights law and issues.

The HRTO’s Rules of Procedure, Practice Directions and Policies apply to its proceedings

The HRTO is one of seven tribunals which form Social Justice Tribunals Ontario (SJTO). HRTO does its work in keeping with the core values of SJTO:

  • Accessibility
  • Fairness and independence
  • Timeliness
  • Transparency
  • Professionalism and public service

What is the Human Rights Code?

The HRTO resolves claims of discrimination and harassment brought under the Human Rights Code, a law that protects people in Ontario from discrimination and harassment in five areas:

  • employment
  • accommodation (housing)
  • goods, services and facilities
  • contracts
  • membership in trade and vocational associations.

The Code prohibits discrimination and harassment on any of the following grounds:

  • Race
  • Colour
  • Ancestry
  • Place of origin
  • Citizenship
  • Ethnic origin
  • Disability
  • Creed
  • Sex, including sexual harassment and pregnancy
  • Sexual orientation
  • Gender identity
  • Gender expression
  • Family status
  • Marital status
  • Age
  • Receipt of public assistance (Applies only to claims about housing.)
  • Record of offences (Applies only to claims about employment and to criminal convictions for which you have received a pardon.)

Harassment is a form of discrimination. The Code defines harassment as “a course of vexatious comment or conduct that is known, or ought reasonably to be known, to be unwelcome”. It includes offensive comments or actions directed at you that are related to one or more of the Code grounds.

The Code also prohibits:

  • Discrimination against a person because he or she has a relationship, association or dealing with someone who is identified by one of the grounds listed above.
  • Reprisal (a legal term that means punishment or retaliation) or threats of reprisal, because a person has either claimed their rights, refused to discriminate against someone else or was a participant in a human rights proceeding.
  • Sexual solicitation or advances by a person who is in a position to give or deny a benefit.
  • Reprisal or threats of reprisal for rejecting a sexual solicitation or advance.

You can read more about the grounds and areas of discrimination in the Applicant’s Guide.

What is not discrimination?

Not all unfair conduct or unequal treatment is covered by the Code. For the Code to apply, unequal treatment must have occurred in one of the five areas in the Code and be based on one or more of the grounds in the Code.

The Code includes some defences and exemptions to discrimination. For example, although the Code prohibits different treatment based on age, different insurance rates based on age are allowed.

Another example of an exemption occurs in housing. The Code allows an owner to refuse to rent to someone based on gender or race if:

  • the owner or his or her family also lives on the premises; and,
  • the owner or his or her family would be sharing a kitchen or bathroom with the tenant.