Conciliation is a non-adversarial way to resolve complaints with the help of a human rights officer, also known as a conciliator. The Commission will schedule a half-day conciliation meeting and give the complainant and respondent six weeks' notice of their scheduled date.
Conciliators are human rights officers who are experts in human rights law, conflict mediation, and remedies. Conciliators can help the parties understand the complaint issues and generate possible solutions to them. The objective is to find a satisfactory resolution for all parties.
Approximately two weeks before the conciliation meeting date, the conciliator will:
- review the information already provided by the parties
- contact the parties to discuss the complaint and the conciliation process
- request additional information and documents, if needed, to inform the conciliation process
At the conciliation meeting, the conciliator will help the parties explore and discuss the issues outlined in the complaint. The conciliator also facilitates discussion between the complainant and respondent to help resolve the complaint.
Conciliation meetings take place virtually over a private videoconference. The parties can request accommodation or other format options, if needed. The conciliator, complainant, respondent, and their representatives (if any) attend the meeting.
The conciliator will facilitate the meeting and parties will have a specified time limit to discuss issues and possible solutions. Any other follow-up to a conciliation meeting occurs over the phone.
Once a conciliator is assigned to the complaint, the Commission has a 60-day timeframe for the parties to:
- share information, and discuss any issues and concerns with the conciliator,
- meet to discuss the issues and options for resolution, and
- finalize any agreements reached.
The 60-day timeframe gives parties a reasonable amount of time to exchange information and to meet to discuss complaint resolution. It is important for the parties to cooperate in the conciliation process and respond within the specified time limits. Conciliation will be considered unsuccessful and end if the parties do not reach a resolution on time.
Parties who resolve the complaint at any point during the complaint process will sign an agreement documenting the resolution and the settlement terms. If the parties resolve the complaint through conciliation, the complaint is closed. If the parties do not resolve the complaint, it will go to the Director for a decision.
Complaints that do not resolve at conciliation are forwarded to the Director of the Commission for a decision (also known as "Director's decision"). Under section 21 of the Alberta Human Rights Act, the Director can dismiss a complaint if they considered the complaint:
- is without merit
- is made in bad faith for an improper purpose or motive
- has no reasonable prospect of success
- is more appropriately dealt with in another forum or under other legislation
The Director can also dismiss a complaint if they think a complainant has not accepted a fair and reasonable proposed settlement. This could include a settlement proposed by the respondent during conciliation but rejected by the complainant.
The Director can also decide whether the complaint should proceed. If that's the case, they will refer it to the Chief of the Commission and Tribunals for resolution.
Yes. Only a complainant or their legal counsel or authorized representative may withdraw (cancel) a complaint at any time.
If the complaint is at the Tribunal, the complainant must complete a Notice of Withdrawal form and send it to the Tribunal Office.
During the complaint process, the Commission encourages the parties to find a mutually agreeable resolution. Both parties should make reasonable efforts to settle or remedy a complaint. When considering or making a proposal to settle or remedy a complaint, you should think of:
- whether there were any financial losses (for example, lost money or paid expenses) as a result of discrimination
- how much the complainant was impacted by the discrimination
- what changes might prevent similar discrimination from happening again
During conciliation, the conciliator may provide guidance on finding an appropriate remedy to resolve a complaint. A remedy is a way to address the issue between the parties. The goal of a remedy is not to punish the respondent. It is meant to restore the complainant to the position they would have been in if they did not experience discrimination. A remedy can be financial, non-financial, or a combination of both.
Some examples of financial remedies include:
- compensating the complainant for lost wages or general damages
- making a charitable donation
Some examples of non-financial remedies include:
- making a verbal or written apology to the complainant
- making policy changes
- taking human rights training
The parties to a complaint can resolve the issue outside of the complaint process. If you and the other party do so, you should document and sign the agreement and provide a copy of the signed agreement to the Commission.
To learn more about how remedies are determined, refer to our Remedy information sheet.
What cultural or spiritual practices may Indigenous people use during the complaint and Tribunal process?
The Alberta Human Rights Commission is committed to ensuring Indigenous Peoples have access to culturally appropriate services that consider the uniqueness of Indigenous culture and heritage. Indigenous people may use a variety of cultural or spiritual practices, including:
- having an Elder or other culturally relevant person attend a conciliation, tribunal dispute resolution (TDR), or tribunal hearing
- affirming, swearing in, or giving evidence using an eagle feather or other sacred object
At the earliest opportunity, interested parties should inform the Commission of their request. If you are involved in the Tribunal process, read the Indigenous cultural/spiritual practices at Tribunal proceedings practice direction for more information.
How long will it take my complaint to get through the Commission's human rights complaint resolution process?
The Commission aims to:
- Resolve complaints at the Director’s stage within one year. This includes intake and assessment of the complaint, asking for a response to the complaint, conciliation, and a Director’s decision.
- Resolve complaints at the Tribunal stage within one year. This includes tribunal dispute resolution, pre-hearing conferences, and hearings. There are many factors that could impact this time frame, including party-driven delay (e.g. extension requests, preliminary applications, availability).
For the fiscal year 2021-22, complaints took an average of 538 days for the Director and staff to either resolve the complaint or make a decision to dismiss or refer the complaint to the Chief of the Commission and Tribunals. Many complaints resolve at conciliation, which takes less time.
For files that reach the Tribunal stage, in 2021-22, the overall average time for complaints to close was 721 days.
In some circumstances, additional time may be needed to process complaints if:
- complainants or respondents are unable to be reached
- the Commission puts a complaint on hold because it is being heard in another forum
- parties request extensions to submit documents or schedule meetings
Refer to the 2021-22 Annual Report for more information on complaint resolution statistics.
What kinds of accommodation are available during the complaint resolution process and how do I request it?
The Commission is committed to ensuring that complainants, respondents, and all those who take part in our processes are able to fully participate. This webpage outlines some of the services available to the public upon request. Refer to the information below to contact the Commission about requesting an accommodation.
A variety of accommodations may be available to help parties fully participate in our complaint and tribunal processes, including:
- different communication methods, such as email, video, or in-person
- language translation
- American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation
- Video-Relay Service (VRS)
- accessible document formats, such as large format
- a support person
- reasonable adjustments to scheduling, such as additional breaks, different start times, and shorter days
- access to a computer or phone from a Commission office to attend a virtual meeting, such as conciliation, Tribunal Dispute Resolution (TDR), pre-hearing conference, or tribunal hearing)
- recording a tribunal hearing (see the Tribunal’s practice direction on recordings and transcripts of proceedings)
This is not a complete list of all the accommodations available. Parties can work with the Commission to identify and request appropriate accommodations.
The Commission is also committed to ensuring our accommodation process is respectful of the diverse populations we serve. A formal request for accommodation is not always necessary. For instance, a party may inform the Commission of their correct pronoun prior to or at any point during the complaint or tribunal process (see the Tribunal’s practice direction on pronouns and form of address).
Factors impacting an accommodation request
The Commission is only required to provide accommodations for needs (not preferences) to the point of “undue hardship.” This means that if a requested accommodation impacts the timeliness of the complaint process or the right to a fair hearing, it may not be possible to provide. Instead, the Commission will work with the party to determine an appropriate accommodation that is less disruptive to the fairness of our processes, while still accommodating individual needs to the best of our ability.
The Commission may ask for information regarding an accommodation request, such as medical records, to:
- determine if the requested accommodation is linked to a protected ground in the Alberta Human Rights Act, and
- better understand an individual’s needs so we can determine how to make our processes more accessible.
How to request an accommodation
The party requesting an accommodation should contact the Commission and provide details of what they need. In some cases, the Commission may ask for more information, including relevant medical records. The party requesting the accommodation does not need to send their accommodation request to the other parties, unless the Commission thinks the accommodation could impact the rights of the other parties.
If you are involved in the Tribunal process, read the Accommodations practice direction for more information, including how to request accommodation.