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Law Talk: Discrimination and harassment counsel

Community Legal Services | News | April 7th, 2008



Under the Rules of Professional Conduct that govern lawyers, “Everyone in Ontario has the legal right to be free from discrimination and harassment by lawyers, law firms and legal clinics.” If you feel you have been discriminated against or harassed by a lawyer, law firm, or legal clinic you can contact the Discrimination and Harassment Counsel (DHC) for the Law Society of Upper Canada to seek confidential advice and assistance. There is no cost associated with DHC services offered to the general public.

How can you tell if you've been discriminated against or harassed? You have been discriminated against if you have been treated differently because of your race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, same-sex partnership status, age, marital status, family status or disability. You have been harassed if someone has engaged in a course of conduct or comments against you based on the prohibited grounds of discrimination listed above that is known or ought to be known to be unwelcome.

The DHC is only available to people with complaints against a lawyer or an articling student. It will also provide help to people who have experienced discrimination or harassment at a law firm or legal clinic that has failed to take adequate steps in addressing the complaint.

If you fall under any of these categories, the DHC can help you to identify discriminatory and harassing behaviour, understand your options, and assess the advantages and disadvantages of each option. You will never be required to file a complaint. The DHC will support your decision on how you want to handle your situation.

In some situations, it may also be possible to enlist the DHC to intervene as a neutral facilitator or to conduct a formal mediation where the respondent volunteers to participate. The mediation would also be a confidential process and would provide you and the respondent with an opportunity to discuss the complaint and generate options to resolve the issues. In this case the DHC would not take sides but would facilitate a discussion in the hopes of reaching a solution agreed upon by both parties. The mediation can take place in a face-to-face meeting or in a setting where the parties meet individually with the DHC. The parties can bring a friend, advocate, or their lawyer to the mediation meeting.

You can contact the DHC 24-hours a day by leaving a confidential message on voice-mail at 1-877-790-2200, sending a confidential facsimile at 1-877-398-1100 or sending a confidential e-mail message at assistance@dhcounsel.on.ca.

The DHC cannot provide legal advice or legal representation and cannot make referrals to lawyers. If you do require a lawyer, the law society operates a Lawyer Referral Service: see www.lsuc.on.ca/public/a/finding/lrs.

This column provides legal information only. If you need legal advice please contact a lawyer, community legal clinic or the Lawyer Referral Service at 1-900-565-4LRS (a $6.00 charge will apply. Fanshawe College students may also book an appointment to attend our outreach clinic at the college. Please call us at 519-661-3352 to book an appointment.
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