On April 15, 2008, Bill 59, an Act respecting apologies, was introduced to the Ontario legislature by David Orazietti, MPP. If passed, the legislation will provide that an apology made by or on behalf of a person in relation to any civil matter:
- does not constitute an admission of fault or liability by the person or an acknowledgement of liability in respect of a claim in relation to the matter;
- does not affect the insurance coverage available to the person making the apology; and
- is not admissible in any judicial or quasi-judicial civil proceeding.
The proposed legislation is not limited to healthcare situations, but will not apply in criminal proceedings.
The Bill proposes to define “apology” as “an expression of sympathy or regret, a statement that one is sorry or any other words or actions indicating contrition or commiseration, whether or not the words or actions admit or imply an admission of fault in connection with the matter to which the words or actions relate”.
The purpose of the proposed legislation is to foster communication between people after unexpected events occur without fear of legal recourse. Anecdotally it has been reported that an early apology can assist in resolving disputes more quickly and cost-effectively where errors have been made. It is important to note however that to date, an apology has not lead to a finding of legal liability in Canada.
The proposed Ontario legislation is not unique. Similar legislation was enacted in British Columbia in 2006, and in Manitoba and Saskatchewan in 2007.
The Bill passed first and second reading and was referred to the Standing Committee on Social Policy on May 15, 2008.
You can access Bill 59 at: http://www.ontla.on.ca/bills/billsfiles/39_Parliament/Session1/b059.pdf