Tribunal hearings

At a tribunal hearing, the parties present their cases to a neutral decision-maker who has knowledge and training in human rights law and issues.

Preparing for the hearing

All tribunal hearings take place over videoconference (Zoom) unless the Tribunal decides otherwise.

The Tribunal Office will arrange a pre-hearing conference with the parties, which will take 30 minutes to one hour. During the meeting, the Tribunal Office and the parties will:

  • identify any preliminary or procedural issues and how to move forward
  • discuss the possibility of an agreed statement of facts, which is a document setting out facts that both parties agree to
  • share the names of individuals the parties propose to call as witnesses
  • note any accommodation requests from the parties or their witnesses
  • discuss the number of days each party thinks it will need to present their case
  • set hearing date(s), which are usually one to five days but can sometimes be longer
  • set the deadlines for providing each party and the Tribunal any documents a party will use during the hearing

After the pre-hearing conference, the Tribunal Office will send the parties a summary of the decisions made at the meeting, including important dates.

Before the first day of the hearing, each party must file hearing submissions with the Tribunal Office and send them to the other parties. If a party does not comply, the Tribunal may not allow the party to submit a document or call a witness at the hearing.

A party’s hearing submissions must include:

  • a list of witnesses
  • a short summary of what each witness will say
  • a copy of any expert witness’ resume
  • any documents the party will use at the hearing
  • an agreed statement of facts (if available)

Refer to the Information to be filed before a hearing practice direction for more information.

During the hearing

Below is the process for a tribunal hearing, though the Tribunal Chair may change it as they see fit.

  1. The parties and the Member(s) of the Commission join the meeting by videoconference (Zoom). The Tribunal Chair introduces everyone and goes over what will happen during the hearing.
  2. The Tribunal Chair asks each party to make a brief opening statement about their case. The order for making opening statements is the Director’s lawyer (if the Director is involved in the hearing), the complainant (who may rely on the Director’s submissions), then the respondent. The Director's lawyer or complainant presents their case by calling their witnesses one by one and asking them questions. Often, the Director and complainant have the same position and the complainant relies on the Director to present the case.
  3. The respondent presents their case by calling their witnesses one by one and asking them questions.
  4. After a party finishes asking their witness questions, the other parties can ask the witness questions (cross examine). The Tribunal Chair will sometimes ask the witnesses questions too.
  5. The Tribunal Chair asks each party to make a closing statement. The order for making closing statements is the same as for the opening statements.
  6. The Tribunal Chair ends the hearing.

If a party does not attend the hearing, the Tribunal can go ahead without that party. If the complainant does not attend, the Tribunal can dismiss the complaint. If the respondent does not attend, the Tribunal can decide whether to go ahead without them. The Tribunal may decide to not give any further notice to a respondent that does not attend a hearing.

After the hearing

After the hearing, the parties will receive a letter with the Tribunal’s decision. The Tribunal aims to release its written decision within 120 days after the hearing ends. This is not a hard deadline, but a service standard the Tribunal aims to meet. Refer to the Status of hearing decision practice direction to learn more.

If the Tribunal decides the complaint has merit, it can order a remedy. The Tribunal has authority to make different remedies, including ordering the respondent to:

  • stop the discrimination described in the complaint
  • stop the same or similar discrimination in the future
  • provide the complainant with the rights, opportunities, or privileges denied to them because of the discrimination
  • compensate the complainant for lost wages, income, expenses, or general damages for injury to dignity and self-respect
  • any other action the Tribunal decides that would place the complainant in the position they would have been in, if the discrimination had not occurred. For example, the Tribunal can order the respondent to implement new workplace policies.

The Tribunal can also make an order about who pays the costs involved in bringing the complaint before the Tribunal.

The Tribunal’s decision is final, unless a party has grounds to apply for judicial review.

Refer to the Human rights decisions page to access all Tribunal decisions.


The Commission does not require the complainant or respondent to be represented by a lawyer throughout the process. However, you may need or want someone to represent you during the process.

For example:

  • you can have a relative, friend, or advisor help you
  • if you are a minor under 18, a parent or legal guardian will represent you
  • a person who lacks legal capacity to participate in the complaint process can have a representative

If you have someone other than a lawyer representing you, you must fill out an additional form.

You may also choose a lawyer to help you through the process. If you do get legal help, you pay the costs of the lawyer yourself. For more information on where to get legal help, refer to the Other helpful agencies page.

For the Tribunal process, read the Litigation Representative practice direction for more information.


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:

  • smudging
  • 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.


Learn more about filing and serving documents at the Tribunal by reading the Document filing and service at the Tribunal practice direction.

Tribunal hearings are open to the public, except where a Tribunal restricts access. Refer to the Tribunal hearing schedule page for more information on upcoming hearings. Read the Public access to hearings and documents practice direction to learn more about requesting access to a hearing.

All decisions, including interim decisions, screening decisions (made under section 26 of the Alberta Human Rights Act), and hearing decisions, are available to the public for free. Refer to the Human rights decisions page to access all Tribunal decisions.

Complaint documents are not available to the public unless a person makes a successful request under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

Sometimes, but not always.

The Director, the complainant, and the respondent are all separate parties in the complaint. If the Director has carriage of the complaint, the Director’s lawyer participates in TDR and tribunal hearings.

The Director’s role is to advocate for the public interest. Their lawyer does not represent the complainant or the respondent. The Director’s lawyer only takes instructions from the Director.

In most cases, the interests of the complainant and the interests of the public are very similar. In these cases, the complainant can choose to adopt the position and submissions of the Director’s lawyer, meaning the Director’s and complainant’s submissions are the same.

The complainant may also choose to present their own view of the case. The complainant must prepare their own submissions. The complainant may also wish to hire a lawyer rather than represent themselves.

Once the Tribunal sets the hearing dates, a party should not request to change the date unless absolutely necessary. A party that needs to request to change the date (an adjournment) should immediately contact the Tribunal Office and the other parties. They must give reasons for why they need to change the dates, such as a death in the immediate family. The Tribunal will consider the adjournment and give its decision on whether or not to adjourn.

Refer to the Adjournments practice direction for more information.

The Tribunal records hearings about the merits of a complaint, not about procedural issues. These recordings are not available to the parties or the public. The Tribunal also does not have a transcript of its hearings. Before the first day of the hearing, a party may request for the Tribunal to record or transcribe the hearing, at the party’s expense. No one else can record or transcribe the hearing.

Refer to the Recordings and transcripts of proceedings practice direction for more information.

Yes. The Tribunal has the authority to compel witnesses to attend a hearing, give evidence, and produce documents. If a party feels it is necessary to make sure a witness attends the hearing, the party can request that the Tribunal sign a notice to attend.

Refer to the Requests for notices to attend practice direction to learn more.

Each party is responsible for sending the hearing link to their witnesses and any document they will be asked to speak to.

Refer to the Witness testimony and examination at electronic hearings practice direction to learn more.

A party can apply to have the hearing held in-person if they need accommodation or believe an electronic hearing would be unfair.

Refer to the Requests for changes to hearing format practice direction for more information.

The Tribunal or Chief of the Commission and Tribunals may use initials to protect the identities of parties or participants in some situations. For example, the Tribunal uses initials to:

  • protect the identity of minors under age 18
  • protect the identity of parties and participants in a hearing where it is necessary to protect their health or other sensitive information

Refer to the Requests for anonymization of tribunal decisions practice direction to learn more.

Before the end of a tribunal hearing, a party can give notice that they will request costs. A party may file a request for costs within seven days of the end of the tribunal hearing. The request should be sent to the Tribunal Office and other parties and include:

  • written submissions outlining why the Tribunal should award costs, and
  • the amount of costs the party is requesting.

The other parties do not have to respond to the request for costs unless the Tribunal requests a response. If the Tribunal requests a response, the other parties must respond within seven days of receiving the request and give reasons why they believe a costs award is not appropriate.

The Tribunal can decide, or a party can ask the Tribunal, to reconsider a decision. This only happens where there is new evidence that was not available at the hearing or that for good reason was not presented at the hearing. The Tribunal must also believe the evidence is likely to impact the outcome of the complaint. A party may only request a reconsideration within 30 days of the Tribunal’s decision.

Reconsideration is an extraordinary remedy. It is not an appeal of a Tribunal decision. A party cannot ask for a reconsideration to try to address the weaknesses in their case.

Judicial review is a process where a justice of the Alberta Court of King’s Bench reviews a decision of the Alberta Human Rights Tribunal or the Director for an error in law.

If you file a judicial review, you must serve it on the Alberta Human Rights Tribunal at To apply for judicial review, you must file an Originating Application (Form 7) with the Court within six months from the date of the decision. This is a strict timeline and cannot be extended. You must contact the Court with any questions about this process. The Tribunal Office cannot give any legal advice on court applications. There is a fee to file an originating application. Talk to a lawyer to see if you have a valid reason for judicial review and to get more information on how to apply. For more information on where to get legal help, refer to the Other helpful agencies page.

The Commission is committed to ensuring that complainants, respondents, and all those who take part in our processes are able to fully participate. This outlines some of the services available to the public upon request. Refer to the information below to contact the Commission about requesting an accommodation.

Accommodations available

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.