The Alberta Human Rights Commission has put in place the Case Inventory Resolution Program in an effort to reduce a massive backlog of cases. For the past seven years the number of complaints received by the Commission has exceeded the Commission’s capacity to process them. Those unresolved complaints are carried forward into the next year resulting in a growing backlog of complaints. As a result, it can take up to 2 years for a complaint to reach the conciliation stage and approximately 4 years for a complaint to reach the investigation stage.
The Chief of the Commission, Michael Gottheil spoke on March 11, 2019 to the Canadian Bar Association Labour & Employment south section about the new program for addressing the backlog of cases at the Alberta Human Rights Commission.
The Case Inventory Resolution Program
As part of the change all complaints filed before January 1, 2019 will be placed in the Case Inventory Resolution Program, which will consist of an investigation team and a conciliation team.
- Investigation Team
There are currently 300 complaints in the investigation queue that have been through conciliation but were not successful in reaching a resolution and are now waiting for a Human Rights Officer to investigate.
The investigation team has been assigned to address the cases in the investigation queue. The team will consist of 4 Human Rights Officers, the Director and a Project Lead. The Human Rights Officers will be assigned 5 cases per week and the entire team will meet weekly to review the files.
The Human Rights Officers will review each case, gather additional information from the parties and may request specific information and submissions on whether the case should be dismissed or not. The parties will have 30 days to respond to the request.
Once all the material has been gathered, the Human Rights Officer will review the file and the parties submissions and discuss with the team. The Director will make a decision on whether the case should be dismissed or not.
The Chief of the Commission anticipates the 300 cases will be assessed within 4-6 months.
- Conciliation Team
There are currently 1200 to 1300 complaints waiting to be assigned to a conciliator to conduct conciliation.
The conciliation team has been assigned to address the cases in the conciliation queue. The team will consist of 6 Human Rights Officers, the Director and a Project Lead. The Human Rights Officers will be assigned 4 cases per week.
Initially, the Human Rights Officers will contact parties who have cases in this queue to inform them of the process, gather background information and schedule an in-person conciliation meeting 6-8 weeks down the road. Prior to the meeting the Human Rights Officer may contact the parties by phone and gather any additional evidence.
At the meeting, the conciliator will assist the parties in coming up with a resolution. If a resolution is reached, parties will sign a Memorandum of Agreement and Release. If no resolution is reached at the meeting, the conciliator will write a case summary with a recommendation to the Director. If the recommendation is to proceed to Tribunal, the conciliator will be encouraged to make a non-binding settlement recommendation.
The Director will then decide whether the case is dismissed or sent to Tribunal.
The Respondent will also be encouraged to make a settlement offer at this stage. The Respondent can request that the Director exercise their discretion under section 22 of the Alberta Human Rights Act to discontinue if the Complainant does not accept the offer.
The Chief of the Commission anticipates the 1200 - 1300 cases will be dealt with in 12-18 months and the conciliation team will likely start in May.
More information on the Alberta Human Rights Commission’s Case Inventory Resolution Program can be found here.