A 10-year summary report released today by the Law Society of Upper Canada’s Discrimination and Harassment Counsel underscores the need for current and ongoing initiatives designed to address and stem discrimination and harassment within the legal profession.
Law Society Treasurer Thomas Conway told Convocation Sept. 25 that the report indicates that discrimination and harassment are still persistent in the legal world. This confirms the need for Law Society programs such as those established through the Law Society’s Retention of Women initiatives. “The report findings also reinforce the value of work now underway by our Working Group on Challenges Faced by Racialized Licensees,” Conway said.
The report resented to Convocation includes statistics from January, 2003 to December, 2012. It shows that a higher proportion of discrimination and harassment complaints against lawyers and articling students were made by women, as compared to men. A total of 75 per cent of the complaints from within the legal profession and 66 per cent of complaints from the public were filed by women.
Of the 586 discrimination and harassment complaints about lawyers and articling students received over the 10-year period, 50 per cent were related to sex, 26 per cent related to disability and 16 per cent were related to race. Of the 291 complaints based on sex as a ground of discrimination, 151 related to sexual harassment and 46 related to discrimination as a result of pregnancy/maternity leaves.
The report notes that 15 discrimination and harassment complaints were filed against paralegals from January 1, 2008 to December 31, 2012. Of these, seven were made by members of the legal profession and the majority of complainants (six) were women. Most of these complaints related to race (four), followed by sex (three) and sexual orientation (one).
A total of eight complaints about paralegals were made by members of the public. These were related to disability (five), race (three) and sex (one). Fewer than half of these complainants (three) were women.
“The Discrimination and Harassment Counsel program is a very valuable service provided free-of-charge to the Ontario public, lawyers and paralegals,” Conway said. “We will continue to look at ways to address and prevent discrimination and harassment in the legal profession and address ongoing challenges.”