Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

shIt seems everyone has a story where they have been victims of unwanted attention from coworkers, clients or employers.  Reflecting on my personal experiences, these comments stand out in particular:

“You always have the prettiest women working for you; where do you find them?” I was working in an accounting office when a man walked in and said this to my employer in front of me, he then looked at me as if I should have been flattered instead of disgusted.

A more recent example, a client had called for information that I did not have on hand so I asked if I could get his number to call him back and he replied with “If I give you my number, can I have yours?” I replied with a stern “no”. He was shocked and said “but you just responded with a no” – I’m not sure what he was expecting to be honest. Although some argue that this is merely “harmless humour”, others would strongly disagree.

Sexual harassment is common in most workplaces; however, the Occupational Health and Safety Act will now include sexual harassment under its code to help protect employees. The proposition of the act is currently being referred to as Bill 132 and will include factors such as: gender, sexual orientation, gender identity expression, sexual solicitation and advances made by a person in a position of power.

shhThe objective is to help victims who are too afraid to take action against such behaviour in their workplace due to power dynamics with the harasser. The idea is that the harasser should know or should reasonably know that such advances would be unwelcomed. The bill will allow the Ministry of Labour to order third-party investigations into sexual harassment complaints. Who will pay for this investigation? The employer, especially in circumstances where the investigation process is faulty or inadequate.

The bill is expected to become effective as of Sept. 8, 2016.  The Occupational Health and Safety Act will set out:

  1. Investigators responsible to oversee the investigation if the accused harasser is the employer;
  2. the means of maintaining confidentiality; and
  3. make conclusions drawn from the investigation available to both the complainant and alleged harasser

Employers would be required to carry out:

1. appropriate investigations;
2. make available written results; and
3. complete annual reviews of the sexual harassment complaints (at minimum)

Have you been harassed at work? What is your story? Leave your thoughts in the comments!

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Terrorism in Orlando

This past Sunday, Orlando U.S was faced with an act of terrorism that left 50 individuals dead and countless individuals traumatized. The attack targeted the LGBTQ community at a nightclub known as Pulse. A man armed with an assault rifle and handgun began shooting in the nightclub during the late hours of the night.

LgbtqAccording to some sources, the man worked for homeland security in the United States. Thus, this man was legally permitted to carry the firearms.  The assailants’ co-worker explained that the assailant had a short-temper when it came to topics regarding women, homosexuality and religion.  The assailants’ ex-wife stated that she had divorced him due to his “bipolar personality” and physical abuse. She also stated that the assailant had a history of using steroids which she believes altered his mental stability. Media sources had stated that the shooter, Omar Mateen had allegedly pledged himself to ISIS.

Today it was revealed that the man had ties to the LGBTQ community, in fact he was a regular at the nightclub. He was also an avid user of gay dating apps. Mateen’s ex-wife later explained on a Portuguese media station that the FBI had asked her not to share that he was gay with media.

Many Muslims are outraged and feel the FBI is orchestrating a hate crime of their own as conflicting theories have been released stating that Mateen had connections with ISIS and Al Qaida, two ideologies that run parallel to each other.

americanIn contrast to Canada, Americans have a legal right to bear arms. June is recognized as PRIDE month in Toronto. The LGBTQ community floods the streets of downtown Toronto to celebrate liberation, acceptance and freedom to be who they are. However, this event in Orlando has left many individuals scared for their safety. In light of the fear, the Canadian government has agreed to provide more security during the PRIDE parade this year.

There have been many attacks against the LGBTQ community including bombings of venues, setting homosexuals on fire and targeted mass shootings. However, some argue that the distinct factor in this case is the high death toll. Members of the LGBTQ community often face stigmatization relating to HIV and AIDS; consequently, LGBTQ members are also more likely to become victims of physical abuse than their heterosexual counterparts. Furthermore, teenagers belonging to the LGBTQ community are more likely to be suicidal than their heterosexual peers. This group of individuals is considered a vulnerable minority due to this harsh reality.

Canada has taken significant steps to embrace the LGBTQ community by proposing legislation to help protect their rights and choices. To read more about the proposed legislation, click on the links below.

What are your thoughts on this incident? How do you think the media handled this tragedy? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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Cy and Ruby’s Law

preggersWhat if you had no legal rights to your child? This is a reality for new LGBTQ parents in Ontario. If a lesbian couple choose to have a child with a known male donor, the male donor is considered the father not the lesbian partner of the birth mother. In contrast, heterosexual couples do not face this complication.

What complications arise?

If the birth mother and child experience health complications during labour, the known male donor will be contacted instead of the partner of the birthmother. Similarly, if the mother dies in labour, her same -sex partner will not be permitted to take the child home, rather the known male donor will be considered the legal parent of the child.

For a lesbian couple, the birthmother will be deemed the mother of the child immediately but her same -sex partner must wait 21 days before legally adopting the child; within this time frame, the known male donor can choose to become the legal parent of the child. After a child is born, the same – sex partner of the birthmother must obtain a court date and choose if she would like to adopt the child and be declared a legal parent.

Same – sex partners can also find themselves faced with adversity when trying to access parental benefits. Some workplaces will not recognize the same-sex non-birthmother until they have legally been deemed a parent. The legal process of becoming a legal parent can stretch over six months. Within this time frame, the known male donor can choose to opt-out of the adoption agreement.


This proposed law not only aims to allow same-sex couples to obtain equal rights as heterosexual couples but also allow for three parents to have legal access to the child. For instance, a gay couple may ask a lesbian couple to act as a surrogate and agree to allow the mother who carries the child to term to also have legal rights to the child along with the gay couple.


Despite the progress towards equality, there are still many individuals who believe that the biological parent (the known male donors) should always have legal rights over their biological children. Others suggest determining who has legal rights over the child should only be addressed after childbirth as parents feel differently once they see the physical child.

In opposition, the LGBTQ community argues that not allowing same -sex parents to have legal rights over their children is a form of blatant discrimination. It is argued that heterosexual couples do not need to go to court to obtain legal rights to their children; they are just given at birth. It is also argued that the wait for non-biological parents to obtain legal rights over their children is stressful as the legal process does not ensure legal rights over the child.

How do you feel about this new proposal?

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Points of Discussion:

  1. Does your experience as a parent make you sympathize or criticize the new proposal?
  2. Does your country/province have different rights for the LGBTQ community?




Vandalizing an Elementary School in the Name of Protest

It’s that time of the year again, when parents take a sigh of relief while children return to school. However, this year returning to school has been different for many students and teachers. Why? Teachers school facility, MPP’s and school buildings are facing the backlash of the new sex education curriculum.

AidsIn the first two days of schools alone, two schools were vandalized supposedly by parents in protest of the newly revised sex education curriculum. The phrase “shame on you” was spray painted on the walls of Thorncliffe Park public school and Fraser Mustard Early Learning Academy. Personally, I found this behaviour to be immature. Canadians have the right to protest but this kind of action is just unacceptable especially in the case of elementary schools.

Students shouldn’t be exposed to vandalism as a means of adult protests. It’s not fair for the children to have what is supposed to be their safe space to learn vandalized. Imagine seeing these words in a space where children aged 4-10 play and learn. Imagine how upsetting it was for parents to explain to their children why that writing was on the wall. Sex-education is a sensitive issue and it is understandable why parents have their concerns. Everyone has the right to protest and follow their beliefs however; I don’t believe vandalism is the way to achieve that goal.

Furthermore, half of the students from Thorncliffe were removed from their first day of classes as a protest to the new curriculum. Thorncliffe is known for having a large Muslim population of students. However, some Muslim community members such as Farrah Marfatiah have chosen to take a unique role by creating a guide to the new guidelines by explaining the changes in accordance to Islamic beliefs. Read more about it here: In the past, some parents have protested outside of Liberal MPP offices against the new legislation.

Wednesday, “the day of protest” was put together by the pro-life group Campaign Life Coalition. Some parents went as far to suggest that they are considering removing their child from public school and placing them in Catholic schools or home schooling their children in order to avoid having their child learn the new sex-education material. Other parents are arguing that sex-education should be taught at home. Conversely, some parents are accepting the sex-education curriculum for the most part but object to parts of it including teaching children about homosexuality.

LgbtqDespite the backlash, many students, parents and school boards support this movement and believe that it should’ve been updated much earlier. Some children have stated that they understand the material better and had many of their questions answered. Moreover, parents are arguing that they may not have the time to stay up to date with the new technological threats which have evolved over the years and are glad that schools are taking on this responsibility.

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What does the new sex-ed curriculum include? Find out here:

Law School = Heterosexuality?

When most people consider law school they generally don’t assume that they would be signing up for three years of abstinence but that’s exactly what this school was asking for.

Trinity Western University sought the approval of the Law Society of Upper Canada for opening a new law school. The school was focused on protecting Christian values and went as far to require students to sign a covenant binding them to not to have sex outside of a heterosexual marriage during their attendance at the university. The contract went as for to state that violation of these terms could result in suspension or expulsion.

The Law Society of Upper Canada rejected the proposal and the B.C university took the matter to court. The case could progress and be heard before the Supreme Court of Canada.

Legal implications

The Law Society of Upper Canada rejected this proposal due to a violation of human rights. The university’s proposed contract would discriminate against the LGBTQ community. Individuals belonging to this group would be unable to form relationships they wish to form. If the university was open to LGBTQ students they would have to suppress their sexuality and refrain from forming intimate relationships. Many legal practitioners argue that these rules violate fundamental rights of equality of opportunity.


The lawyer representing the universities interests supported his position with a case from 2001. The case was about TWU teaching college graduates being denied accreditation by the B.C College of Teachers for allegedly discriminating against students. The judge found that there was a lack of evidence to support this claim and allowed the graduate students to obtain accreditation.  Consequently, the TWU representative argued that the present case is similar to the case in 2001. He went as far as to argue, that the decision had already been made as the Supreme Court of Canada should continue to protect religious freedoms.


The lawyer representing the Law Society of Upper Canada argued that there are significant differences in the case and attitudes towards the LGBTQ community have significantly changed since the 2001 ruling. He went on to argue that if TWU was to get approval it would not only be seeking to operate a law school to promote its religious beliefs but also only operate if it was allowed to provide its services if it is guaranteed access to the largest market for future law school graduates.  If TWU is successful in its claim the school will only produce Christian heterosexual lawyers. Consequently many minority groups will be denied an opportunity to learn at TWU.

Points of Discussion:

1. How do you feel about a Christian based heterosexual law school?
2. Should law schools dictate who you can have intimate relationships with?

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LGBTQ Legal Update

With the month of PRIDE coming to an end, it would be appropriate to provide an overview of the legal developments in the last year with regard to LGBTQ rights.

  1. NDP MPP Cheri DiNovo proposed a bill to end conversion therapy for LGBTQ community members. The bill passed with unanimous approval from all parties and has surpassed the U.S version of the bill as it includes transgendered individuals as well. Cheri DiNovo noted that the attempted suicide rate among transgendered individuals is 50% and there is an absolute need to include them in this bill. This bill also prohibits medical professionals from billing the practice under OHIP.
  2. Transgendered inmates in Ontario will now be dealt with based on their own gender identity rather than their sexual traits. Inmates will be housed according to the gender identity they identify with and by their chosen names rather than their legal names. This legislation is significant as it protects the rights of a transgendered individual in the same way non-LGBTQ individuals’ rights would be protected. Transgendered individuals were often isolated from the rest of the inmate population but they will now be integrated into the general population when possible.
  3. Sex –Ed will now discuss LGBTQ topics. Although this legislation has received significant backlash and continues to be attacked by critics, many support the legislation. Gay marriages, intercourse and issues will be discussed in the classroom to ensure that youth identifying with the LGBTQ community are not isolated. The suicide rate among LGBTQ community members is significantly higher than non-LGBTQ youths and this legislation hopes to address the discrepancy with knowledge.
  4. The HIV & AIDS Legal Clinic Ontario (HALCO) has created an initiative known as Trans Legal Needs Assessment to address the needs of transsexual individuals. HALCO aims to identify barriers transsexual individuals face when accessing legal services and to eliminate those barriers to help increase their access to justice. Legal Aid Ontario is helping to fund this project to show their support for gender identity and expression under the Human Rights Code.
  5. Canada has infiltrated a new program geared towards helping transgendered families. The legal education program helps transgendered parents stay with their families after divorce. According to this project, 1 in 4 parents in Ontario are transgendered and numerous transgendered parents lose their children due to their transition. This project aims to help families maintain family relationships and provide better service in family law matters for transgendered individuals. Moreover, the project aims to equip legal professionals to provide better legal service to transgendered parents.

Ontario has made some major strides in moving towards equality and protecting the human rights of transgendered individuals this year. Ontario has also made some major commitments to achieving and maintaining equality for the LGBTQ community, especially in the transgendered community. Let’s see what next year has in store.

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Points of discussion:

1. What do you think of these new developments?

2. What are some legal topics regarding the LGBTQ community you believe Ontario should address?

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India’s Daughter India’s Reform Part 1/5

If you have not had an opportunity to read parts 1 and 2 be sure to give them a read before reading this final part.

Part 1:

Part 2:

The last two posts examined why the rapists were brought to justice and the impact Jyoti’s death and India’s Daughter (the documentary) have had in India. It was discussed that India still has a long way to go as a woman is raped every 20 minutes and marital rape is not considered rape illegal in India.  But how can India proceed to try to address the issue?

After discussing the topic of gang rape in India with many individuals, there have been multiple suggestions including blaming the mothers for raising their sons to not respect women and the need to change the mentality of the men in India. Thus, they are arguing that the changes need to begin at a mircro-level and will translate into the bigger picture.  I however, take a different approach.

I believe the change needs to come at a macro-level via the legal sphere, political sphere and media before we can see drastic changes in mentality. Why?

Much of India lives in poverty and parents in dire need of money do not have the time to discuss such matters with their children because they are too busy putting food on the table.  The mentality in India is very different than that of in the western world. How?


For instance, as a South Asian woman, I know my parents did not want to discuss the idea of sex, dating, rape, gender equality or even sexual health with me. It is an awkward topic to discuss, especially for less educated parents and older generation parents as  those conversations never took place  with their parents.  Fortunately, children born in Canada have sex-education in school where they can learn about their  bodies, healthy relationships and ask questions.  Conversely, India does not have sex-education. The topic of sex is considered extremely taboo.  Moreover, there are no legal pornography stores and homosexuality is illegal.

On the other hand, India has one of the largest prostitution markets in the world. A market that is readily available for interested customers.  A market where men are invited and women essentially fight for a chance with a man to make some money. Women and girls often resort to prostitution in times of financial hardships as the sexual services are always in demand. India is also known to have one of the largest markets for human trafficking which aims at girls as young as 12. I often question if the average male in India knows how women end up in prostitution or about the hardships these women face.

In the Western world we have social sciences to teach individuals about socio-economic conditions that contribute to the individuals choices and learn to empathize rather than exploit the disadvantaged. If there was a mandatory equivalent to this type of education in India, perhaps this could help evolve the mentality of the future male generation.

The first step is to have the younger generation (high school, university students) discuss sex in a safe environment in a mature and non-hypersexualized manner. If teenagers can see that this is a mature subject, they may learn to take it more seriously rather than relying on unreliable sources, such as Bollywood, for self -education.

If the subject of sex no longer becomes taboo, it becomes easier to discuss. If the topic is open for discussion then woman may feel less scared to come forward when they have been sexually assaulted because they will learn to not blame themselves for dressing a certain way, being at the “wrong place at the wrong time” or for any other ludicrous reason. If women and gay men recognize that the male is wrong, they may speak out. This kind of paradigm shift, may take down a couple of bricks in a very high wall. This can only be implemented by legal changes and political pressure.

Make sure to read part 2 of the part 5 series next week.  Don’t forget to “like” the post, if you like what you read. Follow The Social Paralegal


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