The Barreau du Québec intends to continue prevention and raise awareness
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2021/02/09 Press releases 2021

Sexual Harassment and Violence in the Profession

The Barreau du Québec intends to continue prevention and raise awareness

Montreal, February 9, 2021 — In order to get a clear picture of the situation and identify possible solutions, the Barreau du Québec has collaborated in a survey conducted by a team of researchers from Université Laval to draw up a report on sexual harassment and violence in the practice of law in Quebec.

“We have chosen to openly address the situation to better target the problem and adapt the preventive and information measures already in place,” says Mtre Paul-Matthieu Grondin, Bâtonnier of the Barreau du Québec.

This survey, conducted in the fall of 2018 among lawyers and articling students, is the largest study undertaken on such issues in the Quebec legal community and is a first in the province’s professional system.

Sexual harassment and violence exist in all spheres of society and can occur in all employment contexts. “As a professional order, we felt we had to take responsibility by taking stock of this sensitive issue, as all members should be able to practice their profession in an environment free from harassment," says Mtre Grondin.

“Participation in this survey and the willingness to follow up on it are part of the Barreau’s commitment to equality and equity in the profession,” says Mtre Fanie Pelletier, equity adviser, a unique position among professional orders in Quebec, dedicated to promoting equality, equity and diversity within the Order and the profession.

14.5% of respondents among lawyers and articling students

To get a clear picture of the situation, members of the Barreau were asked to respond to an online questionnaire, whether or not they had experienced harassment or violence. The questionnaire covered three categories: sexual harassment, unwanted sexual attention and sexual coercion. The questionnaire focused on the context in which such violence occurs, its repercussions, the roles of witnesses and confidants, existing organizational practices and practices that should be reinforced or put in place.

14.5% of members of the Barreau chose to speak out on this issue. Participation was voluntary and the sample collected is one of convenience, meaning that the results presented in the report are documented by those who responded to the questionnaire and cannot be considered representative of all members of the Barreau du Québec. However, the Order considers it necessary to publicly share the results because they allow highlighting the importance of the issue, approaching the ensuing discussions and acting accordingly.

“We would like to acknowledge the incredible generosity of those who agreed to participate in this survey. Their responses to the multiple-choice questions, but also the testimonies they shared in open-ended questions show the presence and impact of sexual violence in the community. They also demonstrate the need to act in a contextualized manner to eradicate sexual violence”, says the research team.

In 2017, the Barreau du Québec adopted concrete measures to encourage the reporting and reduction of cases of sexual abuse or violence within the profession. For example, assistant syndics and members of the Barreau’s committees and decision-making bodies receive specific training on issues related to sexual assault or misconduct, and a new provision has been added to the Code of Professional Conduct of Lawyers, specifically prohibiting all forms of harassment.

Next Steps

Now, in the wake of the report, the Barreau du Québec begins an important discussion on other measures to be taken. More specifically, the Barreau intends to:

  • make the report public and popularize the results;
  • establish a working group to follow up on the report;
  • consult with stakeholders to develop measures tailored to the needs identified in the report;
  • develop free online training on the subject, which will be accessible to members and articling students and promoted using the Order’s usual communication tools;
  • continue to raise awareness about reporting the acts covered by the report.

For more information on the Survey on Sexual Harassment and Violence in the Practice of Law, click here.

The Barreau du Québec
The Barreau du Québec is the professional order representing more than 28,000 lawyers. Its elected bodies following analysis and recommendations by its advisory committees adopt its positions. To ensure the protection of the public, the Barreau du Québec oversees the practice of the profession, promotes the rule of law, raises the profile of the profession and supports its members in the practice of law.

Information

Martine Meilleur
Public Relations Consultant
Barreau du Québec
514 954-3489 or medias@barreau.qc.ca

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