BC Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau has tabled a bill that would make it illegal for employers to use non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) in cases of harassment or discrimination.
Furstenau announced the bill at an event at Vancouver’s VIFF Centre on March 8 by Can’t Buy My Silence, a group seeking to create legislation that protects victims of harassment and discrimination from being silenced by NDAs.
“Too many British Columbians are faced with gag orders that allow instances of harm to be swept under the rug. It’s time for this practice to end,” said Furstenau in a release.
“It’s time that British Columbia steps up to make our workplaces a safer, more transparent place for everyone, especially our most vulnerable. I call on the BC NDP and Premier Eby to support this important work.”
The bill, intituled the Non-Disclosure Agreements Act, follows a talk in Kamloops given by Can’t Buy My Silence co-founder Dr. Julie Macfarlane, a Emerita Distinguished Law Professor at the University of Windsor.
“This legislation will make an enormous difference to people across B.C. who are regularly faced with signing NDAs, which add another layer of harm to the abuses they’ve suffered,” said Macfarlane.
Macfarlane’s talk in Kamloops came after a recent high-profile misconduct probe at Thompson Rivers University.
According to Macfarlane, some complainants who had signed NDAs were prevented from participating in the investigation of their claims.
The tabled bill comes off the heels of similar legislation being passed in Prince Edward Island, and being tabled in Nova Scotia and Manitoba.
“We call on the BC government to please adopt this bill and make its passage speedy. Every day, people in B.C. are forced to contemplate signing NDAs, and any delay will push even more victims into a life of silence,” said Macfarlane.
“This movement is growing across Canada, and we expect that in the coming weeks and months, it will move even more rapidly.”
On Feb. 9, the Canadian Bar Association voted 94 per cent in favour of discouraging the use of NDAs in cases of harassment and discrimination, and advocated for governments to limit their use.
The Ontario government recently passed a law prohibiting universities from using NDAs in cases of faculty and student sexual misconduct.