Addressing Discrimination, Harassment Among Licensees

Photo: Pearl Vas

Photo: Pearl Vas

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.”

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    by Leonard Dabydeen, Paralegal (LSUC); author of Watching You, A Collection of Tetractys Poems (2012)

    According to Jim Rohn, a man’s character is “a collection of qualities” analogous to greatness. He contends that “When you have character, you’re a person of substance – and you truly deserve the personal and professional success you’ll attain.”

    Greatness then, I opine, is the resonance that beset your personal and professional success – being in science, work in the humanities, arts and literature, medicine, legal services as judges, lawyers and paralegals, or religion, or any other discipline. It is the yardstick that measures your character. It sculpts your character to accord with who you really are, and what you’ve become on the basis of your achievement.
    Anne Frank puts it this way for us to feast our candlelight thoughts: “Human greatness does not lie in wealth or power, but in character and goodness. People are just people, and all people have faults and shortcomings, but all of us are born with basic goodness.”

    According to Aristotelian ethics, “We are what we repeatedly do. Greatness, then, is not an act, but a habit.” And good habit is a derivative of a good character. A good character, therefore, makes for greatness of the person. David Henry Thoreau, an acknowledged pillar of great inspiration to Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., shared his motivational thoughts by saying: “Never underestimate the seemingly difficult course in your life. No matter what direction you take be sure to choose one that will give you happiness and appreciation.” Such direction is the hallmark of good character and greatness.

    However, being of good character does not necessarily make for greatness of the person. But the propensity is always there. In the legal services industry professionals such as lawyers and paralegals are expected to be of good standing with the governing Law Society, meaning as well to be of good character, but to what extent will they achieve greatness? It is no small wonder if this merely implies essentially the understanding and application of a Code of Conduct and established By-laws. Character building can be suspect on these platforms per se, as in the case of paralegals who were investigated by the Law Society for misconduct as a result of complaints from the public for sexual harassment. There is certainly more to being of good character beyond any Code of Conduct and By-laws. The rhapsody of greatness comes from what is inside the inner Being as the character is sculpted to perfection. It must be benign.

    A more in depth framework for good character is the indelible ethical doctrine by the Josephson Institute, Center for Youth Ethics, titled The Six Pillars of Character:

    1. Trustworthiness
    • Be honest
    • Don’t deceive, cheat or steal
    • Be reliable – do what you say you’ll do
    • Have the courage to do the right thing
    • Build a good reputation
    • Be loyal – stand by your family, friends, and country

    2. Respect
    • Treat others with respect
    • Follow the Golden Rule
    • Be tolerant and accepting of differences
    • Use good manners, not bad language
    • Be considerate of the feelings of others
    • Don’t threaten, hit or hurt anyone
    • Deal peacefully with anger, insults, and disagreements

    3. Responsibility
    • Do what you are supposed to do
    • Plan ahead
    • Persevere: keep on trying
    • Always do your best
    • Use self-control
    • Be self-disciplined
    • Think before you act – consider the consequences
    • Be accountable for your words, actions, and attitudes
    • Set a good example for others

    4. Fairness
    • Play by the rules
    • Take turn and share
    • Be open – minded; listen to others
    • Don’t take advantage of others
    • Don’t blame others carelessly
    • Treat all people fairly

    5. Caring
    • Be kind
    • Be compassionate and show you care
    • Express gratitude
    • Forgive others
    • Help people in need

    6. Citizenship
    • Do your share to make your school and community better
    • Cooperate
    • Get involved in community affairs
    • Stay informed; vote
    • Be a good neighbor
    • Obey laws and rules
    • Respect authority
    • Protect the environment
    • Volunteer

    In order to magnify these Six Pillars of Character in search of greatness, or to have greatness trusted upon oneself in harmony of building good character, Mahatma Gandhi says,
    “As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being
    able to remake the world – that is the myth of the atomic age –
    as in being able to remake ourselves.”


    1. Your Achievement NewsLetter, September 25, 2013: Article: Creating Your
    Character is Like an Artist Creating a Sculpture by Jim Rohn.






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