This case concerns access to justice and privacy at administrative tribunals that serve people in poverty. Toronto Star brought a Charter challenge at the Ontario Superior Court concerning whether the public should have access to records held by fourteen administrative tribunals in Ontario, including the Social Benefits Tribunal, Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, and the Landlord and Tenant Board.
ISAC intervened in coalition with the HIV/AIDS Legal Clinic of Ontario and ARCH Disability Law Centre to raise the perspective of people living in poverty, who may be denied access to justice if the deeply personal information filed with administrative tribunals is available to the public.
The Superior Court’s Decision:
The Superior Court agreed with the Toronto Star that documents filed with administrative tribunals should be presumptively available to the public. However, the Court also recognized that there should be protections for privacy rights and access to justice for vulnerable people.
The Superior Court’s decision can be read here.
Following the release of this decision, the Ontario legislature enacted the Tribunal Adjudicative Records Act, 2019 (“TARA”), which applies to a number of tribunals in Ontario including the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario and the Landlord and Tenant Board. This statute requires records and documents before those tribunals to be available to the public. However, the statute also provides for the ability to make those records confidential if certain conditions are met. Importantly, the Social Benefits Tribunal is not covered by TARA, and continues to be presumptively private.