One of the administrative units at some schools is the Equity (or Human Rights) Office. In Canada, about 44% of post-secondary schools have such an office. This Office provides an independent and confidential service, and is also empowered to investigate complaints as well as facilitate or negotiate solutions. They deal with issues related to harassment and discrimination based on race, citizenship, creed, sex, age, marital status, or disability. The Office is usually open to all students, faculty, staff, and visitors to that school.
Types of complaints that the Office may deal with include employment inequities, academic disputes by disabled students, sexual harassment, bullying, and religious discrimination. In each case, an advisor is assigned to the case, and serves as an impartial 3rd party to help resolve disputes.
When a complaint is made to the Equity Office there are several ways to deal with it, ranging from personal resolutions to accessing the Provincial Law system.
A resolution by the complainant involves them receiving clarification or coaching from the Equity Office and proceeding to resolve the matter themselves.
An informal resolution is where the complaint does not proceed to an internal or external review. This option includes asking the Equity Office to speak informally with the person believed to be responsible for the harassment or discrimination.
An internal investigation involves a review of the facts by the Equity Office, and resolution through any means that the Equity Office deems appropriate. This type of resolution can result in a report being submitted to the School’s Registrar or to some Provincial authority.
Resolution by a board of inquiry can only be accessed through management or a union (for employees), or the School’s Student Union (for students).
Other recourses involve possibilities at the provincial level such as the Human Rights Commission, Civil Litigation, the Ministry of Higher Education, or the Office of the Ombudsman.
The Equity Office will also provide resources and conduct education and awareness initiatives. This can include gender sensitivity training, group sessions, and workshops. In some schools this can be combined with similar community-employer initiatives. The Office will also train people in conflict resolution, mediation skills, effective listening, assertiveness, and negotiation. Other Offices that may collaborate with the Equity Office include Security Services, Women’s Centre, First Nations Centre, and Counseling Services.