Overlapping Human Rights Issues at the CAT and HRTO

In the case of YCC 435 v. Karnis et al, the parties agreed that the resident required a service animal because of the resident’s disability.  However, the condominium corporation claimed that the resident’s need for accommodation did not entitle the resident to the particular dog, which exceeded the weight limit, and was a prohibited breed, under the corporation’s rules.

The resident had also started a claim to the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal (HRTO) and applied for a deferral or stay of the CAT process (because of the resident’s pending HRTO application).

The CAT denied the resident’s request for a deferral, and accordingly allowed the CAT process to continue.

In arriving at this decision, the CAT confirmed that it has jurisdiction to resolve issues under the Human Rights Code.  Therefore, there were clearly overlapping issues under the two separate proceedings.  The CAT also acknowledged that multiple proceedings, with overlapping issues, are generally not permitted.     

However, the CAT ultimately decided that a “balancing of all factors” weighed in favour of allowing the CAT process to continue.  Among other things, the CAT said:

It is a persuasive argument that if the HRTO determines that there was no Code violation, YCC435 would have to proceed with its CAT Application to enforce the removal of the service dog. If the CAT application proceeds, the CAT can address both the alleged Code violation and enforcement. I acknowledge that the CAT cannot address the general, special and aggravated damages remedies requested by the Respondent in the HRTO application. It is unclear whether the CAT’s denial of a stay ultimately precludes the Respondent from pursuing those damages at the HRTO. That is an issue for the HRTO’s determination. Ultimately, one tribunal’s decision may impact a party’s access to another tribunal and the remedies within that other tribunal’s jurisdiction. This is a consequence when tribunals have overlapping jurisdictions.

The bottom line is that the CAT can deal with Human Rights issues in the context of a dispute relating to “provisions that prohibit, restrict or otherwise govern pets or other animals” (in a condominium’s governing documents).  And the CAT may be willing to allow its process to continue even where the resident has made a related claim to the HRTO.   In fact, it occurs to me that, depending upon the circumstances, a stay or deferral of the HRTO proceeding might in many cases be more appropriate.   This is something for the parties to consider with their legal counsel in a given case.