Culture Change

A profession free from discrimination

Culture Change

This edition, Human Sexuality & the Law, features a fascinating range of legal issues. I want to thank our many contributors for sharing their knowledge, employed every day for the benefit of their clients, with all readers so that we know the latest and emerging issues, a little bit of history, and who to call when we come across these issues with our own clients or in our workplace.

To have this issue devoted to this topic shows how integrated these issues have become in our clients’ lives and in our society as a whole. From privacy law to employment & labour law to immigration law, human sexuality no longer plays a role in just criminal or family law. The legal principles of equality and fairness are applied in many areas, and despite progress in rights and responsibilities in assisted human reproduction, adoption by same-sex couples, sex work, workplace law, etc., there remain challenges and discrimination. This is where lawyers can improve the state of the world, our laws, and the culture of the legal profession.

And about that culture. You will want to be sure that you and your own organization aren’t inadvertently discriminating against people on the basis of gender or sex. How is that parental leave policy working out? Do you actually apply it, or do you say you have one, only to find a work-around that effectively discriminates against the new parent intending to take a leave? What language do you use in your advertisements for articling students and new associates, in your annual Christmas speeches, in your choices of firm events? These kinds of stories are recent, not those of years gone by.

In 2018, CBA marked the 25th Anniversary of the CBA Report, Touchstones for Change: Equality, Diversity and Accountability. That 1993 landmark report examined the legal profession and gender discrimination and while primarily focused on the experience of women lawyers, also reported on the experiences of the LGBTQ2SI+ community. The recent #MeToo movement highlights that discrimination continues within our profession despite the improved circumstances for many lawyers. Our society has changed, the law has changed, and all lawyers, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identification, should be able to thrive in their profession, free from discrimination.

None of us are beyond making the occasional misstep. Whether it is mis-using a person’s preferred pronouns, or forgetting to consider the time of a meeting given your associate’s childcare responsibilities, mistakes will happen. The key is to keep learning through formal and informal education, and then change your actions. That’s where CBABC comes in. Our Section meetings and professional development webinars this fall have many opportunities to learn about best practices and new concepts, or refresh your memory about what you learned once, but haven’t recently put into practice.

The newer, younger members of the Bar have experienced a far different societal environment from the majority of the Bar. They expect equality and a profession free from discrimination. There isn’t really an alternative. They live in a world where sexuality, its expressions and practices, are comparatively more public. The clients they assist will encounter different legal issues. To mentor those lawyers effectively and meet their expectations, more senior lawyers (and judges) need to be aware of those experiences and the new laws to address them, and improve workplace policies and courtroom practices.

To the lawyers and judges who daily make a conscious effort in their practice or in their workplaces, to create a culture free from discrimination, thank you! It is not easy to take that role on in addition to the day-to-day work. It is because of leaders like you that lawyers stay in the profession, and the public sees lawyers as champions of equality.

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