Frequently Asked Questions for Witnesses
- What does it mean to be a witness in a Human Rights Investigation?
If you are contacted as a witness during a Human Rights Investigation, it means the Investigator has identified you as a person who may have relevant information to the Complaint. While you may or may not have knowledge of the Complaint itself, you may have useful information regarding the organization or individuals involved in the situation. The Investigator will set up a date and time with you to conduct an interview. The Investigator will ask you a number of questions relevant to the Complaint.
- Do I have to participate in a Human Rights Investigation? What if I don’t want to?
Yes, you are required to participate in a Human Rights Investigation. Most witnesses who are contacted by the Commission willingly cooperate with the Investigation. Failure to cooperate may lead to a Court order compelling your cooperation.
- Does the Investigator act for either of the parties?
The Investigator does not act for any party. The Investigator is tasked with remaining neutral and unbiased while gathering information from the Complainant, Respondent, and any other witnesses. If the Chief Commissioner refers the matter to the Court of King’s Bench for a hearing after the Investigation, then the hearing will be conducted by Commission counsel.
- What happens with the information I provide to the Investigator?
The Investigator will record your evidence and, at the end of the investigation, will prepare a Disclosure Report which summarizes the evidence from each of the parties, relevant witnesses, and lists the relevant documents that have been collected. The information you provide to the Investigator will be summarized in the Disclosure Report. The Disclosure Report is provided to the parties and they are given an opportunity to respond. The Disclosure Report is then provided to the Chief Commissioner who ultimately decides if the Complaint will proceed further or if it will be dismissed.
- Will I receive a copy of the report at the end of the investigation?
The Disclosure Report is provided to the parties named in the Complaint and to the Chief Commissioner. You will not receive a copy of the Disclosure Report unless you are a party to the Complaint.
- Will my name be published or shared anywhere?
Your name will not appear in the Disclosure Report unless you have been named as a party to the Complaint. If you are not a named party, your name will be anonymized. For example, you may be identified as “Witness A” and referred to by your job title throughout the Disclosure Report. The Disclosure Report is not published anywhere but the named parties do receive a copy of the Report.
- I am worried that my employment will be affected if I speak to the Investigator. What can I do?
This is something you can speak with the Investigator about ahead of time. Respondents (employers) are notified that cooperation with an Investigation is required. Section 53 of The Saskatchewan Human Rights Code, 2018 protects against intimidation or discrimination of any individual who has or may participate in a Complaint. If you suffer any adverse treatment as a result of your participation, you should contact the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission to discuss how you might proceed.
- Do I have to attend the interview in person?
Most interviews take place by videoconference using Microsoft Teams. The interview may take place in another manner at the discretion of the investigator, for example if barriers to technology exist or the witness requires a form of accommodation.
- Can I have a lawyer come with me?
Any party to the complaint or witness is entitled to retain a lawyer. Most non-party witnesses do not feel it is necessary to hire a lawyer.
Lawyers are entitled to attend the interview of their own client only. They are not permitted to attend the interview of the other party or any non-party witnesses.
If your employer has been named as a Respondent and you are contacted as a witness, the Respondent’s lawyer may attend your interview in certain circumstances. If you are considered a “directing mind” of the Respondent, Respondent counsel may request to sit in on your interview. An employee who performs management duties and/or has supervisory authority may be considered part of a company’s “directing mind.” This determination is highly fact-specific. Employees who are not “directing minds” of a company are not parties to the proceeding. They are considered witnesses. Respondent counsel cannot attend interviews with non “directing mind” witnesses. The presence of Respondent counsel may compromise the witnesses’ ability to speak freely to the Investigator.
- Can I bring someone with me to my interview?
If you don’t have a lawyer, you may be permitted to bring a support person to your interview. Your support person should not be someone who is also a witness to the complaint. It is important that the support person does not interfere with the interview or answer questions directed toward you. They should only be there for support. If you require a translator or interpreter for the interview, please notify the Investigator so necessary arrangements can be made.
- How long will the interview take?
Interview lengths vary from case to case. The Investigator may be able to provide you with an estimate ahead of time. If you were directly involved in the circumstances giving rise to the Complaint, the interview may be longer.
- Will the interview be recorded?
Yes, the interview will be recorded to ensure your evidence is accurately reflected in the Disclosure Report.
- Will I be required to testify in court if I cooperate with the investigation?
Very few Complaints (1-2%) proceed to hearing as most are resolved prior to reaching that stage. If the Complaint you provide information about proceeds to a hearing, you could be called to testify in court.