Human Rights Complaint Guide

Review this guide before completing the Complaint Form.

How do you make a human rights complaint?

The first step in the complaint process is to complete the self-assessment. The self-assessment will tell you if your complaint would be likely to fall within the Alberta Human Rights Act (we call it the “Act”). Our website offers a range of information to assist you in understanding the requirements to make a complaint and the complaint process.

To submit your complaint, you will complete the Human Rights Complaint Form. Refer to this Guide as you complete the Complaint Form. If you have questions about completing the form, contact the Alberta Human Rights Commission’s (the Commission, we, us) Confidential Inquiry Line.

Can someone represent you during the process?

The Commission can give you guidance about our requirements and how to complete our forms, but we do not give legal advice. In certain circumstances, you may need or want someone to represent you during the complaint process. You must provide additional information if someone other than a lawyer is representing you. If one of these fits your situation, complete that section of the Complaint Form, or do a separate form. You may be represented by an:

  • Authorized representative—you can authorize a person who is not a lawyer to communicate with us. An authorized representative could be a relative, friend, or advisor.
  • Lawyer—you may choose to use a lawyer to file a human rights complaint. If you do get legal help, you pay the costs of the lawyer yourself.
  • Litigation representative—this is a person who represents a minor under 18 or a person who lacks legal capacity to participate in the complaint process.

What is a human rights complaint under Alberta law?

The Alberta Human Rights Act defines what a human rights violation is under Alberta law. The Commission can only accept complaints that include specific elements required by the Act. The sections of the Complaint Form ask for the information the Act requires. The Act and Commission Bylaws are also available on our website.

What is important in specific sections of the Complaint Form?

Section C When and where did the possible discrimination happen?

The possible discrimination must have happened within the last year

Make sure you make a written complaint within one year of the most recent event of discrimination. The Act specifies this one-year limit and does not allow exceptions.

If the possible discrimination happened over a period of time, the complaint should list the time period and date of the most recent event. You may explain something that happened outside of this one-year period if it is relevant, but these events may not be included as part of the complaint.

We can only respond to issues connected to Alberta

The Commission is responsible for human rights issues in Alberta, so we can only respond to complaints originating in Alberta or based on actions of an Alberta organization.

Section D Is your complaint a human rights issue under Alberta law?

Section D, Part 1 The possible discrimination must have happened in a protected area

Human rights law in Alberta only covers the areas of life or work below called protected areas. The possible discrimination must have happened in at least one of these protected areas:

  • Employment practices, applications, and advertisements. This includes discrimination of an employee by, for example, firing, refusing to hire, or failing to reasonably accommodate them based on a protected ground. It also includes discrimination in job applications, advertisements, and interviews.
  • Equal pay based on gender. This may apply to an employee who does not receive equal pay for equal or similar work because of their gender.
  • Goods, services, accommodation, or facilities. This includes discrimination in goods, services, accommodation, or facilities available to the public. For example in businesses and organizations, such as restaurants, retail stores, hotels, hospitals, and schools, as well as municipal or provincial services. Accommodation also includes condominiums, co-op housing units, and mobile homes.
  • Membership in a trade union, employers’ organization, or occupational association. This includes discrimination against a member by, for example, excluding, expelling, or suspending someone from being a member because of a protected ground.
  • Tenancy. This means discrimination while renting or applying to rent available residential or commercial space.
  • Statements, publications, notices. This may apply when a public communication shows intent to discriminate or expose people to hatred or contempt. This includes signs, symbols, emblems, or other representations. This section should not be understood as interfering with free expression of opinions.

Section D, Part 2 The possible discrimination must be based on a protected ground

If you have been treated unfairly, it is only considered a human rights issue in Alberta if you were treated that way because one of the protected grounds below applies to you. The possible discrimination in one of the areas above in Part 1 must have been based on at least one of these protected grounds, as defined in the Act.

Mental and physical disability

A physical disability is any degree of physical disability, infirmity, malformation, or disfigurement caused by injury, birth defect, or illness. It also includes relying on a guide dog or service dog.

A mental disability is any mental, developmental, or learning condition. The cause or duration of the condition does not matter.

Gender, gender identity, or gender expression

Gender may be a woman, a man, cisgender, transgender, two-spirit, non-binary, or intersex. The protected ground of gender also includes pregnancy and sexual harassment.

Gender identity may be a person’s internal, individual experience of gender, which may or may not align with the sex assigned to them at birth. A person may identify as being a woman, a man, transgender, two-spirit, non-binary,  gender non-conforming, intersex, or other. Gender identity is different from sexual orientation, which the Act also protects.

Gender expression refers to the varied ways a person expresses their gender. This can include a combination of dress, demeanour, social behaviour, and other factors.

Sexual orientation

Sexual orientation is a person’s physical, emotional, or romantic attraction to others. A person may be heterosexual, lesbian. gay, bisexual, pansexual, asexual, queer, or any other sexual orientation.

Race and colour

Race includes belonging to a group of people, usually of a common descent, who may share common physical characteristics, such as skin colour, hair type, or facial features.

Colour refers to the colour of a person’s skin.

Religious beliefs

A person’s religious beliefs include their system of beliefs, worship, and conduct. The protected ground of religious beliefs includes Indigenous spirituality.

Ancestry and place of origin

Ancestry refers to belonging to a group of people related by a common heritage.

Place of origin includes a person’s place of birth and usually refers to a country or province.


Age means someone 18 years of age or older. This means the Act protects persons 18 years and older from age discrimination.

Marital and family status

Marital status is the state of being married, single, widowed, divorced, separated, or living with a person in a romantic relationship outside of marriage.

Family status is the state of being related to another person by blood, marriage, or adoption.

Source of income

Source of income means a lawful income that attracts a social stigma to its recipients, such as social assistance, disability pension, and income supplements for seniors. This ground does not include income that does not result in social stigma, such as employment wages.


Not all negative treatment is discrimination under the Act. If your concern matches at least one protected area and one protected ground, the Commission will review your complaint for acceptance. You can find more information about protected areas and grounds on this website.

Use a separate form for particular types of complaints under Section 10 of the Act

There are two other important categories of human rights issues that fall under Section 10 of the Act and require a different form called Complaint Form for Section 10. Section 10 does not allow:

  • Retaliating against someone for being involved in a human rights complaint or attempting to make a human rights complaint. This means you can make a complaint if you believe someone is punishing you or you are receiving negative treatment because of your part in a complaint or issue.
  • Frivolous or vexatious means a person brought a human rights complaint against you with malicious intent, intending to harm you.

These kinds of complaints must meet certain legal requirements. Please see the visit the Section 10 page for more information about Section 10 complaints and to get the Complaint Form for Section 10 if it applies.

Section E What happened?

Your complaint must include enough detail about the possible discrimination.

You must give detailed, relevant information about the possible discrimination and fill in all sections of the Complaint Form that apply to you. In Section E, Part 1 of the Complaint Form you must explain:

  • Who was involved. Include the name of the person or organization you believe discriminated against you. We call this person or organization the “respondent” in our process.
  • What they said or did.
  • When they did it.

Do not include documents with the form. In Section E, Part 2, list a timeline and supporting documents or records that relate to the complaint. If needed, you will have an opportunity to provide documents later in the complaint process.

Section F How do you think the issue could be reasonably resolved?

This is where you can suggest possible ways to resolve a complaint.

You and the respondent will be asked to seriously consider reasonable offers to settle or remedy the complaint. A remedy is a way to address the issue between the parties. The respondent may agree to a financial remedy, for example, compensating the complainant for lost wages or general damages, or making a charitable donation. A remedy can also be non-financial, such as an apology, a change in policy, or human rights education. A remedy can combine different things.

The goal of a remedy is not to punish the respondent. It is to try to put the complainant in the position they would have been if the discrimination had not happened.

When you propose to settle a complaint, consider whether you actually lost money or paid expenses as a result of the discrimination. Also consider what changes might prevent similar discrimination from happening again. Put these in Section F.

For more information about remedies, please see the Remedy information sheet.

Sections G and H

You can find guidance about Section G (Have you taken other actions related to this complaint?) and Section H (Your signature and checklist) in the Complaint Form itself.

What happens after the Commission receives your complaint form?

When the Commission receives a complaint, we assess it based on requirements in the Act and Bylaws, which determine whether or not we can accept it.

If we do not accept your complaint:

If the Commission does not accept your complaint, we will write to you explaining why.

If we need more information, you must provide it in a timely manner or we may not continue processing your complaint. If we do not accept your complaint and you disagree with that decision, we will explain how you can request a reconsideration.

If we accept your complaint, the respondent will receive a copy of it:

If the Commission accepts your complaint, we send a copy to the people or organization you made the complaint against. We do not share your contact information. We ask the respondent to respond in writing and explain their point of view about the possible discrimination. We will give you a copy of their written response.

We may ask for more information:

The Commission may ask for more information from you or the respondent (together called the “parties”).

The parties may agree to resolve the complaint themselves:

You may discuss and resolve the complaint yourselves.

You can also withdraw your complaint at any time and for any reason by notifying the Commission.

Where can you get more information about the complaint process?

Completing a Complaint Form is only one step in the process. We have more information about making a complaint and the overall complaint process.

If you have questions about completing the Complaint Form, you can contact the Commission.