Copies of the NWT Human Rights Act are available to all parties free-of-charge by contacting the Panel’s Administrative Assistant or the Office of the Director of Human Rights.
Specific information about “hearing procedures” can be found in the Rules of Practice and Procedure before the Adjudication Panel. The Panel’s Policies, How to Guides and Mediation Information sections on our website give important information about how the Panel conducts proceedings.
Parties are encouraged to ask questions regarding procedure during pre-hearing conferences. The Panel’s Administrative Assistant can also answer procedural questions.
Yes. Adjudicators are trained in law and in “mediation” skills. When Adjudicators act as mediators, they help the parties to have a discussion about ways of settling their differences in a fair and mutually agreeable way. Both parties must be agreeable to the mediation process before an adjudicator will help. Usually, that agreement will be put into writing so that the rules of the mediation proceedings are understood. For further information, see our website under Mediation Information or contact the Panel’s Administrative Assistant.
No. A party who is dissatisfied with the decision of an adjudicator may file an Appeal of that decision in the Supreme Court of the Northwest Territories. The Clerk of the Supreme Court will direct parties to the necessary forms to be completed and filed to appeal the decision of an Adjudicator.
The Panel does not fund witness costs and expenses. Each party is responsible for funding (if necessary) the attendance of its own witnesses.
The NWT Human Rights Act allows Adjudicators to give directions and orders for costs after hearing the evidence and arguments of the parties. Such orders will only be made after hearing from all of the parties. If such directions and orders are made, they will be put into the Adjudicator’s written decision.
Parties may, of course, seek financial support from governmental and non-governmental organizations as they see fit.
Upon application by a party, the Panel will accommodate disabilities of all kinds to facilitate a fair hearing. In addition, translation services are available. Parties must advise the Panel’s Administrative Assistant of their needs as soon as possible, e.g. at the first pre-hearing conference.
The purpose is to allow all parties the equal opportunity to have a decision made in an open and procedurally fair manner guided by Human Rights laws and jurisprudence (judge-made-law) that apply in the Northwest Territories.
The Human Rights Act says that the parties to an Appeal are the person who complained (the “Complainant”), the person(s) or organization whose conduct is the subject of the complaint (the “Respondent”) and the Director of Human Rights.
The Act says that the parties to a Referral are the Complainant and Respondent. The Human Rights Commission may also choose to be a party to a Referred Hearing on notice to the other parties.
Finally, the adjudicator may decide, on the application of other persons or organizations who have an interest in the proceedings, that they can participate in the proceedings.
If desirable, contact a lawyer of your choice, advocate or support person to give advice and/or representation during the conference.
Review all of the writings and papers filed with the Director of Human Rights.
Consider what evidence will be necessary, including documentary and witness evidence, if the matter is set for a hearing.
Consider how much time will be needed to prepare for a hearing.
Consider the option of avoiding a hearing and engaging in mediation.
Arrive on time and be prepared to listen and participate in the discussion.
First, the Chair assigns the matter to an Adjudicator.
Next, the Panel’s Administrative Assistant will ask the parties when they can be available to have a telephone conference with the assigned Adjudicator. The purpose of the telephone conference is to give all of the parties the opportunity to discuss their human rights complaint with an Adjudicator as well as how and when a hearing will take place.
This very important first step is called a “Pre-hearing conference”.
How can I prepare for a “Pre-hearing Conference”?
The Panel becomes involved in human rights complaints only after a Notice of Appeal of a Director’s decision has been filed in the offices of the Panel or after the Director of Human Rights has referred a complaint to the Chair of the Panel for a hearing.
#14 – 4915 48 Street,
Yellowknife, NT X1A 3S4
Phone: 1-867-920-3188 or Toll free: 1-888-920-3188
Fax: 1-867-920-6278 or Toll free: 1-877-920-6278
Visit: Third Floor, YK Center East (Formerly Panda II Mall), 4915 – 50th Avenue
(Shared office space with Elections NWT)
Hearings before Adjudicators are intended to be less formal than in a courtroom. However to make sure that everyone is heard, Adjudicators usually employ the following hearing structure:
- The Complainant, who has to prove that discrimination has occurred, or the Appellant, who has to prove that the appeal has merit, begins her or his case first by producing witnesses to give sworn evidence.
- Witnesses will be asked to take an oath to tell the truth (by which they will swear to do so according to their religious convictions, by holding a non-denominational Bible) or to solemnly affirm that they will tell the truth (by which they acknowledge their responsibility to tell the truth without reference to any religious affiliation). If witnesses require special oaths, the Panel’s Administrative Assistant must be advised well before the hearing commences. The failure to tell the truth while under oath or affirmation is a criminal offence.
- The Complainant or Appellant may then ask her or his witnesses questions. Their responses to those questions will become evidence at the hearing. Witnesses may also introduce documents and other objects that may be marked by the Adjudicator as Exhibits in the hearing.
What witnesses say under oath/affirmation and the Exhibits entered during a hearing are the “evidence” that the Adjudicator will consider in giving his or her decision.
- The Respondent will then have the opportunity to ask questions of the Complainant’s/Appellant’s witnesses. This “cross-examination” is an important part of the hearing process. Cross-examination allows the other party to challenge what the witness had to say.
- The Adjudicator may also ask questions of the witnesses and both of the parties will be given an opportunity to re-question (“re-examine”) their witnesses after the Adjudicator is done.
- After hearing from the Complainant’s/Appellant’s witnesses, the Respondent will have the opportunity to call witnesses to give evidence, also. The same opportunity to cross-examine will be given to the Complainant and the Adjudicator may also ask further questions.
- During the proceedings the Adjudicator may be called upon by either party to make rulings about the evidence that is presented. A party may “object” to evidence for many reasons including irrelevancy, e.g. that the evidence does not have anything to do with the questions to be decided at the hearing. The Adjudicator will decide on such matters as they come up. Both parties will have the opportunity to speak to the Adjudicator about such objections.
- Exhibits that are to be considered as evidence at a hearing may be agreed upon in advance by the parties or parties may ask the Adjudicator to mark documents and things as Exhibit during the hearing. If a party objects to something being marked as an Exhibit, the Adjudicator will decide whether to do so or not after hearing from both parties.
- Once all of the evidence of both parties has been heard by the Adjudicator, each will have the opportunity to summarize that evidence for the Adjudicator and argue for the remedy that they are seeking.
- At the conclusion of the arguments of the parties, the Adjudicator will adjourn the hearing and retire to write his or her decision. The written decision will be forwarded to all of the parties.
When in doubt, ask the Adjudicator
Once the hearing process is underway, the presiding Adjudicator can answer procedural questions that are raised during the proceedings.
Adjudicators will let the parties know when to expect breaks during hearings. Usually, there will be a mid-morning break, a lunch break and a mid-afternoon break although the circumstances of each case may be different.
If a party or a witness needs a break for any reason, she or he may ask the Adjudicator to adjourn for a reasonable amount of time.
The parties will have the opportunity to speak to the Adjudicator about adjournments of any significant length, e.g. to another day, or to extend the time for hearing evidence, e.g. to an evening of the same day, before a decision is made to do so.
The main requirement for speaking during proceedings and for talking to other participants is that all communications must be respectful. The Adjudicator will intervene if a party or witness uses abusive, argumentative or disrespectful language.
It usually neither disrespectful nor abusive, however, for a party to challenge the evidence given by a witness (see: cross-examination, below).
Usually the Adjudicator will be referred to as Mr., Mrs. or Ms. Likewise the parties and their witnesses are usually referred to in that manner. Using first names, e.g. John, Mary, etc., is also acceptable when addressing the parties and their witnesses so long as nobody objects. If in doubt, ask how the Adjudicator, a party or a witness prefers to be addressed.
When a party wishes to speak to the Adjudicator or when questioning witnesses, it is customary to stand up. Standing is especially helpful when a party wishes to “object” to a question or procedure used by the other party because it quickly draws the Adjudicator’s attention to the objection before the question is answered or the procedure is completed.
However there is no fixed rule about sitting and standing and parties may request the opportunity to stay seated (or the Adjudicator may suggest that approach from the beginning).
There is no “dress code” for hearings. Informal attire is acceptable.
Every party has the obligation to appear at the time fixed for the proceedings to begin. If a party fails to do so without good and sufficient reason, he or she runs the risk of the hearing taking place without their participation.
Preparation for a hearing or application should include:
- Obtaining and serving any witness attendance forms if necessary (see Rules 22-24)
- Preparing and delivering to the other parties and the HRAP any written argument, will-say statements of witnesses, agreed-upon documentary Exhibits and copies of legal cases to be used during the hearing
- Making sufficient copies of documents to be introduced by witnesses, if necessary
- Making a list of questions to be asked of witnesses at the hearing
- Making notes of what to say to the Adjudicator after the evidence of all of the witnesses and all of the exhibits have been entered
- Organizing all documents, other written materials, note pads and writing instruments to be used at the hearing.
Before an Appeal or a Referral hearing takes place, a party may wish to make an application or motion to an Adjudicator. Typical pre-hearing applications include:
- A request to have a hearing take place outside of Yellowknife
- A request to have a witness give evidence by way of affidavit, teleconference or videoconference
- A request to obtain disclosure and production of documents and records
To make a pre-hearing application a Form D Notice of Application must be completed by the applicant except that the date for the hearing is left blank.
A copy of the completed Form D, along with the applicant’s calendar of available dates and times for the hearing of the application (usually during the next 30 days), must then be forwarded to the Panel’s Administrative Assistant.
The Administrative Assistant will then attempt to coordinate a date upon which the application can be made before an Adjudicator. Once the date is provided and the Adjudicator has decided whether to hear the application by way of teleconference or by way of oral hearing, the Administrative Assistant will fill in the date and time and mode of hearing and forward copies to the parties.
Generally, the procedure related to hearings applies to telephone applications with obvious modifications.
Information on what to expect at/from pre-hearings can be found in the Frequently Asked Questions section and Rules 15-21.
Following receipt of a Notice of Appeal or a Referral to Hearing, the Panel’s Administrative Assistant will contact the parties to arrange a pre-hearing conference.
A party may also request a pre-hearing conference by calling the Administrative Assistant. If an Adjudicator agrees that it is necessary to have a pre-hearing conference, the Administrative Assistant will take steps to schedule one.
The Administrative Assistant will try to accommodate the schedules of all of the parties and the presiding Adjudicator. Usually scheduling arrangements are made by telephone but, in some cases, a formal Notice of Pre-hearing Conference may be sent to the parties.
If a party fails to show up at a pre-hearing, the Adjudicator may make procedural decisions in that party’s absence.
Most pre-hearings take place by the use of telephone conferencing (“teleconference”). The cost of teleconferencing is borne by the HRAP. There is no long distance charge to parties who participate in pre-hearing conferences.
Parties will receive information from the Panel’s Administrative Assistant setting out the date, time, telephone number and access code for participants to connect to the teleconference.
Parties are expected to be on-time to avoid missing important procedural advice and direction from the Adjudicator.
When all of the parties are connected, they will be asked by the Adjudicator to provide their names. The Adjudicator will then proceed to ask questions about the Human Rights Complaint and the parties may ask questions of the Adjudicator, too.
Pre-hearing conferences are intended to be informal and all participants are expected to engage in the discussion. To avoid confusion, of course, the Adjudicator will lead the discussion and call on each of the participants in turn.
In most cases, pre-hearing conferences are not electronically recorded. The rare exception is when a pre-hearing conference is arranged to allow a party to make an application that requires the calling of evidence and argument. For example, if a party requires the disclosure of documents from a party who refuses to deliver them, an application or motion may be heard by teleconference.
At the conclusion of pre-hearing conferences, the Adjudicator will issue to all of the parties a written summary of what took place, called a Memorandum.
The following forms for self-completion are available here or by contacting the Panel’s Administrative Assistant:
- Form A Notice for Attendance of Witness
Form B Mediation Agreement
Form C Withdrawal Notice
- Rules of Practice and Procedure
- Frequently Asked Questions
The forms are self-explanatory. Please read each form carefully before completion.