An Ontario father recently filed an application with the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal (HRTO) alleging discrimination in contracts contrary to the Ontario Human Rights Code (the Code). The father specifically alleged that he was unable to enforce a child support contract against his former spouse. This was an unusual request as it was made to the HRTO rather than the family court.

The HRTO’s Decision

The HRTO exercised its power to dismiss a complaint at a preliminary stage and issued a Case Assessment Direction advising the father of the Tribunal’s intent to dismiss his application because:

  • was both out of time (i.e. filed too late); and
  • it had been brought against the man’s former spouse (a personal relationship over which the Tribunal has no jurisdiction).

The HRTO noted that applications will only be dismissed at the preliminary stage (i.e. without further investigation or a hearing) where it is “plain and obvious” on the basis of the application alone that the issue claimed does not fall under the Tribunal’s jurisdiction.

The HRTO noted that:

The Tribunal does not have a general power to inquire into all relationships and all difficulties that may occur in those relationships. The Tribunal’s jurisdiction is based on the Code, which prohibits discrimination in the social areas of “employment”, “goods, services and facilities”, “accommodation” (housing), “contracts” and “membership in vocational associations”.

It went on to say that while the father made allegations of unfairness in the enforceability of child support payments, the materials he provided failed to make any connection between his alleged mistreatment and any area covered by the Code (i.e. housing; contracts; employment; etc.).

The Tribunal found that:

The personal relationship between the applicant and his former spouse is not covered by the Code. I therefore find that it is plain and obvious that the Tribunal does not have the power to decide the allegations against her.

The father’s application was ultimately dismissed.

Lessons Learned

This  is not the first time that an individual involved in a family law dispute has made a complaint to the HRTO claiming some sort of alleged harm or unfairness. As the HRTO noted in this case, its function is not to “inquire into all relationships and all difficulties that occur in those relationships”. Unless a family law issue can be found to relate to one of the social areas over which the HRTO has oversight and jurisdiction, any such complaints will be dismissed at an early stage.

If you have questions about a dispute you are involved in with your former spouse, including disputes over child support or spousal support, contact the highly experienced Windsor family law lawyers at Jason P. Howie, Professional Corporation. When you reach out to us,  you won’t be dealing with a large, faceless organization.  What you will find instead is a small firm dedicated to working with you directly, answering all of your questions and helping you evaluate all of your options. Jason will put your needs ahead of all others, give your case the attention it deserves, and will work hard to ensure every care is taken to protect your interests. Contact us at 519-800-1039 or online.