Any person who wishes to institute proceedings before the Human Rights Tribunal because he/she believe that he/she has been the victim of discrimination, harassment or exploitation, prohibited by the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms (Charter), must first file a complaint with the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse (s. 74 of the Charter).

After determining the admissibility of the complaint, the Commission conducts an investigation in a non-adversarial manner and, subsequent to the investigation, exercises its discretion as to whether or not it will bring the matter before the Tribunal or, exceptionally, before another court of justice (s. 80 of the Charter). If the Commission determines that the complaint is well-founded, but decides not to represent the complainant before the Tribunal, it notifies the alleged victim and/or the organization that filed the complaint in writing, stating the reasons on which it based its decision. In this case, the alleged victim(s) or the complainant(s) may initiate proceedings before the Tribunal at their own expense (s. 84 of the Charter).

The Tribunal is independent and has the exclusive function of adjudicating. The cases submitted to the Tribunal are heard by a division of three members: a judge and two assessors (s. 104 of the Charter). The judge who presides the division has decision-making powers and signs the decision. The assessors provide counsel and assistance to the judge.

With a regard to greater accessibility to justice, the Tribunal hears cases in all of the judicial districts of Québec (s. 119 of the Charter).

The Tribunal operates according to procedural rules that enable it to render justice effectively and expeditiously. The Tribunal, though bound by the general principles of justice, may admit any evidence and allow any means of proof that are useful and relevant to the application submitted (s. 123 of the Charter). Every decision of the Tribunal is rendered in writing.

A decision of the Tribunal becomes executory from the date of its filing at the office of the Court of Québec in the district where the file was introduced, or of its homologation in Superior Court (s. 130 of the Charter). Final decisions of the Tribunal may be appealed to the Court of Appeal, with leave from a judge of that Court (s. 132 of the Charter).