Lawyers and advocates are calling for an amendment to Nova Scotia’s NDA legislation after the vote
Some Halifax lawyers and attorneys are hoping a recent vote on abuse of non-disclosure agreements is a first step to ensure the contracts are not used to silence whistleblowers.
On Thursday, lawyers across Canada voted in a resolution to urge the agreements — also known as NDAs — to no longer be used to silence those who come forward with allegations of abuse and discrimination.
According to Julie Macfarlane, a law professor at the University of Windsor who also co-founded the Can’t Buy My Silence campaign, the Canadian Bar Association passed the resolution at its AGM by a majority of 94 percent.
Ron Pink of the Halifax-based law firm Pink Larkin said information morning The vote lends some weight to the message that action needs to be taken to adjust the circumstances in which non-disclosure agreements can be used.
“NDAs are both beneficial and detrimental,” Pink said.
“It depends. In commercial situations, it makes perfect sense to protect the interests of companies, trade secrets, patents and developments in which they may be involved. But when it comes to sexual harassment and discrimination, non-disclosure agreements are a deadly tool.”
Pink continued that women are often subject to covenants to prevent them from speaking out about abuse and harassment, which can be traumatizing.
“There is absolutely no reason to include victims of harassment and abuse in these confidentiality agreements,” said Liz LeClair.
It was her own turbulent handling of an NDA that inspired the local attorney to push for a change in legislation.
while on information morning Along with Pink, LeClair, who works for the Can’t Buy My Silence campaign, said she faced sexual assault and harassment at work for years.
When she filed a complaint with the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission, she said she had to sign an NDA to accept a settlement. She refused.
“I was told I couldn’t talk to my husband about it, I couldn’t talk to my family, I could only talk to my accountant and possibly a therapist, but that was it,” LeClair said.
“People think women make a lot of money from these settlements. They cost $10,000, $15,000. It’s not something to carry on with your life.”
She added that while she was able to get legal advice, many people who sign NDAs don’t have the resources to analyze the agreement.
CBC News has contacted the Justice Department for comment and has not yet received a response.
Nova Scotia had an opportunity to change legislation last year, but Attorney General Brad Johns said the issue was not a priority and the department would wait to see the outcome of recently introduced legislation in Prince Edward Island.
Last year, with the support of all parties, the PEI Legislature passed legislation prohibiting the use of NDAs in cases of harassment, discrimination and sexual misconduct unless the individual making the allegation consents.
“The government continues to hurt women who are harassed and seriously harmed as a result, and will do nothing to help them,” Pink said.
The provincial NDP proposed Bill 144 last year to regulate the use of non-disclosure agreements in Nova Scotia.
The bill states that “no responsible party or person who has committed or allegedly committed harassment or discrimination shall enter into a non-disclosure agreement with any relevant person if … the relevant person has experienced or alleged harassment or discrimination.” among other conditions.
The bill is still in the legislative process and would need to go through several steps to become law.
As part of the push for the legislation, LeClair said she was launching a petition to encourage the government to back the law in the spring session.
“I would put the question to anyone who thinks non-disclosure agreements are still a good tool at this point… maybe there’s a chance they haven’t entered into one themselves and have something to hide,” she said.
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