Frequently Asked Questions
1. How can I make an appointment?
Appointments can be scheduled by email, phone, or in-person. For urgent matters, same day appointments can be arranged.
2. Who will meet with me?
Kristen Woo, the Director of the Human Rights Office (HRO). HRO is staffed by Kristen Woo and Roya Ghorab, the Confidential Administrative Professional.
3. Will the information I give be kept confidential?
Yes, but two exceptions apply. If a person seeking service from the HRO indicates an intention to harm themselves and/or others, the information will not be kept confidential. Moreover, if a person seeking service from the HRO wants to proceed beyond the consultation (advice-seeking) stage to initiate a complaint against a member of the University community, the complainant’s identity and the allegations will be fully disclosed to the respondent (the person alleged to have breached the policy). Fairness to all parties is a core value of the complaints process under the SFU Human Rights Policy, and full disclosure is fundamental.
4. What if I only want advice from the HRO Director?
If, as is the case with many people who come to the HRO, you want advice about how to deal with your situation, the Director will identify several ways to address it. You can continue to seek advice from the HRO without ever initiating a complaint.
5. What are the various steps in the complaint process?
- If you want to proceed beyond the informal consultation stage, you must file a complaint with the Human Rights Office in writing.
- You will be asked to identify yourself and provide all relevant contact information and describe the details of your complaint.
- The Director will make a preliminary review of the complaint to assess if your complaint is within the scope and jurisdiction of the policy;
- After the complaint is accepted, the Director will inform you of the process for voluntary informal resolution of your complaint.
- If you agree to proceed with a voluntary informal resolution process, the Director will initiate an informal inquiry, discussing the complaint with the Respondent to seek a mutually acceptable resolution.
- If no resolution is reached, the Director may help the parties in resolving the complaint through mediation.
- If yet no resolution is reached, either party may make a written request to the Director that the complaint be investigated.
- The Director will send this request for investigation to the Responsible Office for the respondent.
- The Responsible Office will consider the request for investigation and decide whether and how to investigate.
- The Responsible Office will communicate its decision to the complainant and to the respondent in writing with reasons.
6. Can I make an anonymous complaint?
Anonymous complaints are not accepted.
7. Can I initiate a complaint about something that has happened to someone else?
The University does not act on third-party complaints; we act on the basis of clear and convincing evidence given by the person who was the target of harassment or discrimination. Without direct information from the target, we do not have the kind of evidence we need to proceed with an investigation. If you witness behavior you believe would constitute discrimination or harassment, the responsible thing to do is to approach the target, letting them know what you observed, and offer to act as a witness. Whether or not they choose to report the behavior is their decision.
8. If after obtaining advice I want to proceed with a complaint, what services are offered by the HRO?
The HRO offers informal resolution, mediation, referral to University-based and community resources, and referral to formal investigation.
9. What is mediation?
Mediation is a process whereby people who are in conflict with one another come together with an impartial third-party (the mediator) in an attempt to resolve their issues. The bulk of the work that is done in mediation is done by the parties themselves, who must have an honest desire to resolve their conflict. Mediation proceedings are confidential, “off the record” and normally result in written agreements which stipulate the actions each of the parties has agreed to undertake to ensure that conflict does not arise in the future.
10. May I bring a support person with me when I meet with the HRO?
Support people and advocates are welcome to accompany you to the HRO; however, they are not permitted to actively participate in the discussion, investigation and/ or mediation process.
11. Will a record of my complaint be maintained on file?
The Records Retention and Disposal Authority for the HRO specifies that records are to be maintained for varying lengths of time, depending on the type of file. For example, consultation files are maintained for three years while informal ones are kept for five years. However, HRO files are not used for other purposes, which means that generally they are not disclosed to other University officials and/or used in other cases.
12. I don’t want to make a complaint, but I would like to put information “on the record” in case certain behaviour keeps happening or it happens to someone else. Is that ok?
No. The HRO will not maintain a file containing unproven allegations against a member of the University community. In the interests of fairness, we do not act on the basis of allegations; we act only on the basis of evidence that has been the subject of careful investigation. Proof of discriminatory or harassing behavior in one case does not “prove” the behavior happened in another case. At SFU, we take our obligation to provide a harassment and discrimination-free environment seriously, just as we take seriously our obligation to adhere to the principles of fair treatment.
13. If I make a complaint about a certain individual, will the HRO tell me if other (similar) complaints have been made?
No. The HRO acts in an impartial manner. We do not disclose personal or confidential information about past cases to current complainants.
14. Will the person I am complaining about know that I have complained?
If you are seeking advice, the respondent is not notified. However, if you wish to proceed beyond the consultation stage, the HRO will disclose the full case to the respondent, including your identity and all of the allegations.
15. Will precautions be taken to ensure my personal safety?
If issues are identified involving personal safety, the case is referred to campus security and/or to the police. The University can take steps to ensure that complainants and respondents do not come into contact as cases are being resolved.
16. If I feel too upset to go through the trouble of an investigation, can I obtain a remedy without going through an investigation?
No. As previously stated, we do not take action based on allegations; the University acts only following careful investigation.
17. If I feel like I have been the target of discrimination or target of harassment related to a personal characteristic protected by the Code, is that enough to bring a complaint under the SFU policy?
No. “Feeling like” you have been harassed or are the target of discrimination would not be sufficient. The legal test is whether, on a balance of probabilities, there is evidence of discrimination or harassment, generally defined as follows:
Discrimination: The intentional or unintentional differential treatment based on one or more of the personal characteristics protected by the BC Human Rights Code (“Code”), for which there is no bona fide and reasonable justification, and which imposes burdens, obligations or disadvantages on specific individuals or groups.
Harassment related to a personal characteristic protected by the Code is a behaviour directed towards another person or persons that: is abusive and demeaning, and includes a direct or indirect reference to a prohibited ground of discrimination under the Code, and would be viewed by a reasonable person experiencing the behaviour as an interference with their access to a university service or their participation in a University-related activity, or which leads to or implies job or academically related adverse consequences for the person harassed
18. What should I do if I have experienced discrimination or harassment in relation to the Coronavirus/COVID-19?
The Provincial Health Officer and BCCDC recommends not making assumptions about the risk of students, faculty or staff based on their ethnicity or travel history.
Every member of our university community has the right to be treated with respect and dignity and to be welcomed and supported on our campus. No person should be targeted in any way or subjected to discrimination resulting from a misplaced perception that they may be a carrier of a communicable disease based on their perceived disability, race, ancestry, place of origin or otherwise. This kind of targeting is discriminatory and a breach of university policy (GP18).
If you feel you have been targeted based on any of the above factors, you should discuss the matter with the Human Rights Office by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you need immediate assistance because you fear for your personal safety, contact 911, or for an on-campus safety concern contact Campus Public Safety at 778-782-4500 (24 hrs a day/7 days a week).
For more information, or to make an appointment please call the Human Rights Office at 778-782-6632 or email email@example.com.