The President of the Bar Paul-Matthieu Grondin.  Photo: Radio-Canada


The President of the Bar Paul-Matthieu Grondin. Photo: Radio-Canada

The Barreau du Québec wants to tackle harassment and sexual violence experienced by its members. To paint a picture of the situation and find possible solutions, the organization collaborated in a survey conducted by a research team from Laval University.

The report of this investigation carried out in the fall of 2018, in the wake of the #moiaussi denunciation movement, was published today. 3,785 lawyers answered the questions, which represents only 14.5% of the members of the Bar.

The chairman Paul-Matthieu Grondin was not “particularly surprised” by the results of this survey.

Some highlights

  • 50% of women have experienced sexual harassment in the form of repeated offensive sexual jokes (compared to 22% of men)
  • 42% of women had gaze stripped naked in a way that made them uncomfortable (compared to 5% of men)
  • 31% of women have experienced derogatory comments about their body, appearance or sexual activity (compared to 14% of men)
  • 27% of women have been touched in a way that made them uncomfortable (compared to 7% of men)
  • 4% of women experienced negative consequences because they refused to engage in sexual activities (compared to 0.4% of men)

“It pushes us to want to make an effort in our profession,” said Me Grondin, in an interview with Droit-inc.

“We would all like the number of events to be zero,” he replied when we asked him if these numbers strike him as worrying.

Some extracts from testimonies

The report contains many disturbing testimony to say the least… Here are a few examples.

  • “I was in the practice room and I was bending over to take a document from my suitcase. I was toga. A lawyer obviously 40 years older than me told me, “It’s been years since I had a woman your age kneeling in front of me.” I had never spoken to this lawyer before. This comment was made so that another young lawyer and a young intern could hear it. ”
  • “Are you ready for your first case of sexual assault?” So … I am the aggressor, you are the victim! ”
  • “In the photocopy room of the office, while I was back, an associate took my buttocks with both hands. ”
  • “An opposing lawyer at a business meeting grabbed my head and forced a kiss. An opposing lawyer put his hands to my behind as we walked to a hearing room at the palace. A judge put his hand on my thigh at a dinner for judges and lawyers. A client told me he wanted to fuck me on my desk while we were alone in my office. ”
  • “Two different colleagues, on two different occasions, raped me when I was unable to provide informed consent (drunk). The first rape happened during a 5-7 and the second rape after a 5-7. ”
  • “When I was an intern and at the beginning of my practice, there were several occasions when a partner from the firm came into my office, pulled down his pants and asked me to comment on his attributes. ”

Few denunciations

Unfortunately (but not surprisingly), people who have been victims of such wrongdoing reveal them to those around them, but denounce them very little, according to the study. Only 1% of respondents who were victims of harassment or unwanted sexual behavior reported these acts to the syndic of the Bar or to the police.

“It is the reflection of society,” said the president. We must insist on prevention, awareness and support. “

In this regard, 41% of women and 26% of men surveyed believe that the Bar does not raise enough awareness about harassment and sexual violence. A large majority of women also believe that the professional order should adopt clear and transparent policies on this subject.

“We must make additional efforts,” admits the president.

The publication of this report is a first step in this direction, according to him. This survey also represents the largest study carried out on the issues of harassment and sexual violence in the legal environment.

The Bar also intends to implement all of the recommendations listed by the researchers, including setting up a working committee dedicated to studying this report and developing possible solutions.

The chairman specifies that he also plans to set up new free training courses on the subject for his members, and is considering making them compulsory.