Federal funding provided to an Ontario legal support organization to help address workplace sexual harassment

Federal funding provided to an Ontario legal support organization to help address workplace sexual harassment

Everyone has the right to a safe workplace with fair treatment for all. Workplace sexual harassment impacts the health and well-being of those involved, as well as their ability to perform their jobs to the best of their ability. The Government of Canada is committed to help workplaces become settings where everyone can feel safe and respected.

Today, the Honourable David Lametti, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, along with the Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health and Member of Parliament for Toronto—St. Paul’s, announced that the Government of Canada is providing financial support to Pro Bono Ontario for a free legal advice hotline for those who have experienced workplace sexual harassment, with legal information and advice accessible to anyone throughout the province. Funding of $788,392 over four fiscal years began April 1, 2021, and was approved for Pro Bono Ontario through Justice Canada’s Legal Aid Program.

This funding will enhance Pro Bono Ontario’s ability to assist those who have experienced workplace sexual harassment by developing resources to ensure that staff and volunteer lawyers can provide consistent, high-quality, trauma-informed legal services, and by extending the hotline’s hours of operation. The funding will also help Pro Bono Ontario integrate services with other funded organizations in Ontario, by developing referral protocols to help hand off clients to other organizations and by informing other organizations about Pro Bono Ontario to increase referrals to the hotline.

The hotline, launched in 2017, assists Ontarians dealing with problematic workplace conditions, including sexual harassment, toxic work environments, and human rights violations. It helps improve efficiency in the justice system by reducing wait times for people trying to obtain immediate legal assistance and aims to provide Ontarians with ‘just-in-time’ legal assistance to help them understand their rights, know their options, and take concrete steps to solve their legal problems before they escalate and multiply.

Quotes

“Legal aid is essential for helping people who cannot afford a lawyer. The funding we are providing today to Pro Bono Ontario will help to ensure that individuals who have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace can get the legal assistance they need through a free legal advice hotline. We all have an important role to play in creating and maintaining workplaces where everyone can feel safe and is respected.”

The Honourable David Lametti, P.C., Q.C., M.P.
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

“No one should experience sexual harassment at their place of work. Pro Bono Ontario plays an essential role in Ontario by offering programs that connect vulnerable Ontarians with free legal support. This funding will help create a safer and more empowered workforce across Ontario.”

The Honourable Carolyn Bennett, M.P.
Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health and Member of Parliament for Toronto—St. Paul’s

“This investment from the Department of Justice enables PBO to create a space where victims throughout Ontario can access timely, trauma-informed legal assistance for the intersecting legal issues arising from workplace sexual harassment. It helps PBO to build capacity, strengthen relationships, and provide legal advice, legal drafting support and referrals that would otherwise be unavailable.”

Lynn Burns, Executive Director, Pro Bono Ontario 

Quick facts

  • The Survey on Sexual Misconduct at Work from Statistics Canada found that in 2020 one in four women (25%) and one in six men (17%) reported having personally experienced inappropriate sexualized behaviours in their workplace during the previous year. About half of women (51%) and one in five men (20%) who had experienced inappropriate communication in the workplace discussed the incident with someone at work. One in five women (20%) did not speak to someone about the incident for fear of negative consequences for their careers.
  • In Budget 2018, the Government of Canada responded to public and stakeholder concerns relating to workplace sexual harassment by proposing to invest $50 million over five years through two Department of Justice Canada programs to address sexual harassment in the workplace. Of this amount, $25 million has been dedicated to boosting legal aid funding across the country to support those who have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace and the other $25 million has been dedicated to organizations to enable them to provide public legal education and information to workers.