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What happens to HRTO applications if the applicant dies?


The question of whether the estate of an applicant who has died may continue to pursue an application with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario was addressed in the 2010 HRTO decision Morrison v. Ontario Speed Skating. In that case, the Tribunal refused to dismiss the application of a deceased applicant which was being advanced by the applicant’s wife (who was also executor of his estate).

The Tribunal determined that a human rights application was not automatically extinguished through common law.  It ruled that the rights of an applicant do not automatically abate upon death, noting that the Human Rights Code contemplates complaints being brought forward by persons other than the applicant.

This reasoning has since been adopted in two subsequent tribunal decisions (Dorosz v. Kingston General Hospital and Roy v. Wal-Mart Canada), and the principle appears to be settled.

To successfully continue to pursue this kind of claim, the person bringing the claim forward on behalf of the applicant must prove his or her authority to act on behalf of the applicant’s estate, such as submitting documentation proving the appointment as the estate trustee.

As for evidence at the hearing, the case law suggests that the adjudicator can use his or her discretion in determining whether to admit the hearsay evidence and what weight to give it, considering any other evidence regarding the circumstances.

With thanks to Roni Hoffman, Articling Student.

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