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When can the Commission refuse to process a complaint? When can we close a file?

This information is about complaints of discrimination, harassment or exploitation.

Under certain circumstances, the Commission may be obliged or may decide to:

  • refuse to process a complaint
  • cease to act on (close) a file

The reasons for refusing a complaint or ceasing to act are set out in the Québec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.

  • Reasons for refusing to open a file when someone makes a complaint
    Refusing to act

    Reasons for refusing to open a file when someone makes a complaint

    We do not have jurisdiction

    The Commission cannot intervene in every situation. Sometimes, another institution or organization is responsible for your complaint.

    For example:

    • A situation that involves an institution that is regulated by the federal government, like a post office or telecommunications company. These complaints fall under the Canadian Human Rights Act, so only the Canadian Human Rights Commission can intervene.
    • A situation that involves a union grievance. These complaints fall under a collective agreement, so only a grievance arbitrator can interpret or enforce these rights and obligations.

    Learn more about the situations in which the Québec Commission has jurisdiction to process a complaint of discrimination, harassment or exploitation.

    You have already brought the case before a court or another judicial or quasi-judicial body

    The Commission may be unable or unwilling to intervene in your case if you have filed the same complaint or claim with another court or organization, like the Tribunal administratif du travail (TAL) or the Court of Québec.

    The situation happened more than two years ago

    Gathering evidence about a complaint more than two years after the fact can be too difficult.

    The victim or the complainant does not have sufficient interest

    If the discrimination, harassment or exploitation does not affect you personally, you do not have sufficient interest to file a complaint. 

    For example:

    • Someone speaks poorly of your religion in the newspaper or on the radio
    • You see a discriminatory job offer, but you do not intend to apply for the position
    • Your colleague experiences discriminatory harassment
    • You see a work of art that depicts your community in a negative light

    To have sufficient interest to file a complaint with the Commission, the situation must affect you personally, which means:

    • You are a direct victim of the discrimination, harassment or exploitation
    • You are an indirect victim of the discrimination or harassment, for example:
      • Your parent comes with you to view a rental apartment and the owner refuses to rent to you because your parent has a disability
      • Your child was denied reasonable accommodation at school
      • You and your friend were refused entry to a restaurant because she had her service dog with her[C2]

    If your complaint is frivolous, vexatious or made in bad faith

    For example, if you file a complaint without telling us what happened (a description of the facts is required to file a complaint.)


  • Reasons for closing a file
    Ceasing to act

    Reasons for closing a file

    Another claim has been made for the same case

    The Commission is obliged to refuse a complaint or may decide to close a case if it becomes aware that the victim or complainant has made a claim with another body, like the Tribunal administratif du travail (TAL), the Court of Québec, the Superior Court of Québec or the CNESST, for the same facts that were reported in the complaint or revealed by the Commission’s investigation.

    Why?

    When you make a claim with a court or another organization, they initiate a process to resolve it.

    If you make multiple claims, then multiple organizations will initiate this process at the same time. This means that they all use their human and financial resources to address your situation.

    For this reason, multiple claims for the same situation are considered detrimental to the proper administration of justice and an unreasonable use of public money and other resources.

    The investigation is complete

    The Commission will close your file after our investigation if:

    • there is insufficient evidence to support your complaint

    The Commission may also close your file after our investigation and choose not to represent you in court if:

    • there is sufficient evidence, but your case has any of the following six characteristics:
    1. It is not a case of systemic discrimination
    2. It is not a recurring situation or part of a broader dispute that requires corrective measures for the public interest
    3. It does not raise a complex factual issue
    4. It does not raise a new or complex legal issue that requires the Commission’s specialized services
    5. The victim has the necessary legal capacity or is already properly represented
    6. There is no power imbalance terms of their legal representation between the parties

    Even if the Commission decides not to represent you at court for these reasons, we will still suggest corrective measures to the respondent before we close the file.

    Learn more...

    The Charter sets out rules for the Commission to follow if we refuse your complaint or close your file after our investigation.

    Closure of certain files about claims of discriminatory remarks

    Since October 2021, the Commission has had to close a number of files about claims of discriminatory remarks. This is because the Supreme Court of Canada’s ruling in the Ward case reframed the Commission’s investigative jurisdiction over language-related complaints.

    Learn more...

  • What should I do if the Commission refuses my complaint or closes my file?

    What should I do if the Commission refuses my complaint or closes my file?

    If the Commission refuses your complaint because we do not have jurisdiction in the matter:

    • if we cannot assist you, we will refer you to somewhere that can.

    If the Commission closes your file due to multiple claims:

    • you continue the process with the court, judicial body or quasi-judicial body to which you brought the case.

    If the Commission closes your file after our investigation:

    • because of insufficient evidence: you can always decide to initiate a claim in the civil courts (e.g., the Superior Court or the Small Claims Division or another division of the Court of Québec), at your own expense.
    • if the Commission finds sufficient evidence for your complaint, but will not represent you at the Human Rights Tribunal: you can initiate a claim with the Tribunal on your own within 90 days of receiving notice from the Commission that your file has been closed. Learn more  on court representation