The Ontario Human Rights Tribunal has recently confirmed that it will generally not allow testimony by teleconference where the credibility of the witness is a significant issue or where the witness’ evidence is extensive or key to the proceeding. A leading case is Zeividavi v. Catholic Immigration Services, 2011 HRTO 406 (CanLII) where the Tribunal noted:
Ordinarily, participants, especially parties, are expected to be available in person to testify and submit to cross-examination and also to be present in person to question other witnesses.
In the Zeividavi case, the only reason put forward for requesting that the witnesses testify by teleconferece was the “expense and inconvenience associated with travelling to the hearing.” The Tribunal, in the circumstances, refused to allow the applicant and his girlfriend to testify by teleconference. It held that their:
..... presence at the hearing is necessary to ensure a fair opportunity for cross-examination and to allow the Tribunal to fairly assess the credibility of all of the witnesses.
The most recent case on the point is Paul v. Tyco Security Products Canada Ltd., 2015 HRTO 1239 (CanLII) - where the applicant sought to be able to have two (2) physicians testify by teleconference. The applicant maintained that to require the physicians to attend at the hearing would “interfere with their busy practices”.
The Tribunal relied on Zeividavi and allowed one (1) of the physicians to testify by teleconference because “the doctor’s credibility is not a significant issue, and the assessment of his credibility will not be substantially affected if he testifies by teleconference.” However, as to the other doctor, the Tribunal refused to allow him to testify by teleconference because “the credibility of his evidence is critical” and that there were anticipated to be conflicts in the medical evidence presented by the parties such that this doctor’s attendance at the hearing was required.