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Tribunal Finds Lengthy, Vexatious Emails a Basis for Dismissal

Updated: Feb 3, 2023

Case Summary

Markle v. York University, 2022 HRTO 1476

In a decision released on December 30, 2022, the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario affirmed abuse of process as sufficient basis to dismiss an application. The Tribunal's decision was based, in part, on the volume of emails the applicant continued to send the Tribunal and the parties, despite warnings to stop.


The applicant in this proceeding came under scrutiny by the Tribunal after filing a 150 page pleading and for continuing to send extensive emails to the respondents and the Tribunal. According to the decision, “[t]hese emails were lengthy, difficult to follow, and appeared to be (at best) peripherally related to the legal issues raised in the application.”


Prior to the December 30 dismissal, the Tribunal had attempted to consolidate and focus the material filed by the applicant. In a December 22 interim decision, the Tribunal directed the applicant to provide a 5-page summary of the allegations in her application and to make submissions of no more than 3 pages as to whether her application ought to be dismissed for delay. The applicant was directed to file these materials with a single email and thereafter to cease contact with the Tribunal and the respondent unless specifically directed otherwise.


But instead of heeding the Tribunal’s direction, the applicant sent “many confusing emails” to the Tribunal and the respondents. She did not file the required materials. As such, the respondents requested that the proceeding be dismissed for abuse of process, filing evidence that they had received over 200 emails from the applicant, which were “generally of a vexatious and harassing nature, with little to do with the merits or procedure of this application.” The respondents also filed evidence that they had already asked the applicant to stop emailing them, but to no avail.


In ordering the dismissal of the application for abuse of process, the Tribunal cited the Divisional Court in Papouchine v. Touram LP dba Air Canada Vacations, in which the court stated:


[4] Tribunals, like courts, are custodians of a scarce public resource: time before the tribunal. Meritorious complaints cannot proceed promptly if frivolous complaints clog the system and waste resources. Some tribunals, including the Tribunal, do not charge fees to initiate and pursue a complaint, and some do not order legal costs in favour of unsuccessful parties. These practices facilitate access to justice, but they may also create a false impression that justice is “free” and that there are no constraints on matters that may be brought forward for adjudication.


[5] Justice is not free. Quite the contrary. Justice is expensive. To the extent that the cost of justice is not borne by the parties, it is borne by the public purse. Tribunals, like courts, are responsible for overseeing their own processes so that public resources are applied effectively to matters worthy of adjudication. To achieve this, tribunals, like courts, must control their own processes, including restraining vexatious conduct and abuse of process.


The Tribunal concluded that the applicant had engaged in vexatious conduct, had failed to follow its directions without any satisfactory reason, and that it appeared she had “no intention of ever following Tribunal directions, now or in the future”. As such, her application was dismissed.


This decision upholds the duty that Tribunals have to guard against abuses of their process, and affirms that such abuses can include vexatious conduct by parties involved in their proceedings. The reasons in the decision acknowledge the need to ensure that Tribunal time is optimized to hear meritorious complaints, but also reflect the need for applicants to respect the cost of Tribunal proceedings to the public and responding parties.


We act for applicants and responding parties with claims related to Ontario’s Human Rights Code. Contact us at info@judsonhowie.ca for more information.


Written by Douglas W. Judson

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