Following a three-year trial with a new system, Ontario Attorney General Chris Bentley announced earlier this month that the government of Ontario has appointed Andrew Pinto to conduct a review of the provinces’ Human Rights Code.
Pinto, a partner with Pinto Wray James LLP, currently practises human rights law and is a past chairman and executive member of the administrative law section of the Ontario Bar Association. In addition, he is an adjunct professor at the University of Toronto’s law school where he teaches administrative law.
In June 2008, Ontario made various changes to its human rights system, most notably switching to a ‘direct-access’ tribunal system. Under this system, individuals may file complaints directly to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, which then decides the best way to deal with a grievance.
Under the previous system, complaints were screened by members of the Ontario Human Rights Commission. Following the changes, the commission now has more of a policy and public interest focus.
Pinto’s review of the changes is mandated by s. 57 of the code, which calls for the attorney general to “appoint a person who shall undertake a review of the implementation and effectiveness of the changes resulting from the enactment of the Act.”
The current set of rules governing the tribunal and commission systems in Ontario were initially proposed by former Ontario attorney general Michael Bryant in 2006. The aim was to allow the commission to still be able to bring forth complaints before a tribunal while becoming a “new racial diversity secretariat,” according to a commission press release.
In addition to the changes to the commission and tribunal, the 2008 changes included the creation of the Human Rights Legal Support Centre to assist individuals with services ranging from advice to legal representation when filing an application with the tribunal.
Tribunal members are currently selected by the Lieutenant Governor in Council, and assessed based on their knowledge of human rights issues as well as their “aptitude for impartial adjudication.”
Ontario enacted its Human Rights Code in 1962, 15 years before the government of Canada created its Human Rights Act. Under the federal system, complaints re first screened by federal Human Rights Commission members before advancing to the tribunal stage.
Pinto has one year to hold public consultations before reporting his findings back to Bentley.