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Practice Direction on Scheduling of Hearings and Mediations, Rescheduling Requests, and Requests for Adjournments

(Note: The information in this document relating to scheduling of hearings and mediations, rescheduling requests and requests for adjournments also applies to s.53(5) hearings and s.53(3) Case Resolution Conferences in the Transitional Applications stream. All references to “hearings” in this document also apply to Case Resolution Conferences.)

The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (the HRTO) has developed the following approach to scheduling, requests for rescheduling and requests for adjournments. The procedure outlined in this document provides general information only. It is not a rule within the meaning of the HRTO’s Rules of Procedure. The HRTO may vary the approach to scheduling where appropriate.

This document is available on the internet at http://www.hrto.ca and in various accessible formats. For an alternative format or a paper copy, please contact the HRTO at: 416-326-1312, toll-free: 1-866-607-1240, TTY: 416-326-2027, TTY toll-free: 1-866-607-1240.

Introduction

The HRTO is committed to a process that is:

  • fair, just and expeditious;
  • appropriate to the nature of the particular case, and the facts and issues in dispute; and
  • responsive to the realities and needs of its stakeholders and the parties that appear before the HRTO.

The HRTO recognizes that these values may sometimes conflict and the HRTO is required to balance various competing interests.

Scheduling Mediation and Hearings

Scheduling Mediation

Once the HRTO receives a completed response it will review the application and response. Where both parties have indicated a willingness to participate in mediation, the HRTO will generally issue a Notice of Mediation, setting a mediation date.

If the applicant or a respondent does not indicate a willingness to participate in mediation, the HRTO will determine whether, nonetheless, mediation appears to offer an opportunity for a fair, just and expeditious resolution. If so, the HRTO may contact the parties and discuss the possibility of engaging in mediation. The decision to participate in mediation remains voluntary.

The Notice of Mediation will indicate the date, location and time of the mediation. The Notice of Mediation also advises parties on the procedure for rescheduling a mediation if they are unavailable on the date set by the HRTO.

Rescheduling Mediation

Because the HRTO is selecting the date, it is recognized that rescheduling may be necessary.

If a party is not available on the scheduled date, they must act quickly to arrange for rescheduling. They are strongly encouraged to contact the other parties and agree on alternative dates that are within eight weeks of the originally scheduled date. If the parties are able to agree on alternative dates for the mediation, one party must advise the HRTO Registrar in writing within 14 days of the date of the Notice of Mediation. The HRTO will make every effort to schedule the mediation on one of the dates provided by the parties.  
If the parties are unable to agree on alternative dates, the party asking that the mediation be rescheduled must contact the HRTO Registrar in writing, copied to the other parties, and provide five alternative dates that are within eight weeks of the originally scheduled date. This must be done within 14 days of the date of the Notice of Mediation. The HRTO will reschedule the mediation for one of these dates, if available, unless one of the other parties advises the HRTO Registrar in writing, copied to the other parties, that they are not available on some or all of the suggested alternative dates. The letter must include five alternative available dates.   
If the parties are unable to provide mutually agreeable dates, the HRTO will set the date for mediation without agreement of the parties.

Scheduling and Rescheduling Hearings

The HRTO’s approach to scheduling and rescheduling hearings is designed to give the parties a fair opportunity to obtain suitable dates.

When a hearing is scheduled, the HRTO will issue a Confirmation of Hearing setting the date(s) for the hearing, as well as the location and start time.

If rescheduling is required, the parties are encouraged to agree on mutually available dates that are within 12 weeks of the original hearing date(s). If the parties are able to agree on alternative dates, one party must advise the HRTO Registrar in writing within 14 days of the Notice of Confirmation of Hearing. The HRTO will make every effort to schedule the hearing for dates provided by the parties.

If the parties are unable to agree on alternative dates, the party asking that the hearing be rescheduled must contact the HRTO Registrar in writing, copied to the other parties, and provide five alternative dates (or blocks of dates if the hearing is scheduled for multiple days) that are within 12 weeks of the originally scheduled hearing date(s). This must be done within 14 days of the date of the Notice of Confirmation of Hearing. The HRTO will contact the other parties to try to find mutually agreeable dates. If, after a reasonable number of attempts, the parties are unable to agree on dates, the HRTO will set the dates for the hearing without agreement of the parties.

Requests for Adjournments

The HRTO discourages requests for adjournments outside the 14-day period to request rescheduling of a mediation or hearing, described above. Requests for adjournments, particularly at the last minute, are a significant impediment to fair and timely access to justice. Therefore, the HRTO will only grant adjournments in extraordinary circumstances such as illness of a party, witness or representative. Absent exceptional circumstances, the HRTO will not grant adjournments, even when all parties consent.

Where a party seeks to adjourn a previously scheduled mediation or hearing, they must contact the Registrar as soon as the need arises. They must contact the other parties to seek their consent, and to discuss alternative dates for the rescheduling of the mediation or hearing.

The party making the request should contact the Registrar and provide the exceptional circumstances supporting the request and any alternative agreed upon dates. Where the request is on short notice, the party must contact the Registrar by email or fax.

The HRTO typically will not adjourn a hearing date because the parties wish to “engage in settlement discussions” or are “close to a deal.” The HRTO encourages mediation and settlements, and will assist the parties in this regard. Where parties believe they may be able to resolve a matter shortly before the scheduled hearing, they may request mediation/adjudication in accordance with Rule 15A (and Rule 8A and 17A for s. 53(3) and s. 53(5) applications). However, the HRTO discourages the cancellation or adjournment of hearing dates so that the parties can explore settlement.

To contact the HRTO:

Richard Hennessy
Registrar
Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario
655 Bay Street, 14th floor
Toronto, ON M7A 2A3
Tel (Toronto): (416) 326-1519
Tel (toll-free): 1-866-598-0322
TTY: (416) 326-2027
TTY (toll-free): 1-866-607-1240
Fax: (416) 326-2199
Fax (toll-free): 1-866-355-6099
E-mail: HRTO.Registrar@ontario.ca
Website: www.hrto.ca
 

July 2008, last amended January 2011