Ontario has approved legislation that prevents the imposition of liability based on an apology, by making the apology inadmissible for purposes of proving liability and by not construing the apology as an admission of liability. British Columbia passed its Apology Act in May 2006, followed by Saskatchewan in May 2007, through an amendment to its Evidence Act, and Manitoba in November 2007. The legislation does not affect a victim’s right to sue, or the right to compensation for harm done. It does not allow a wrongdoer to escape the consequences of the wrong, nor does it affect any criminal or provincial offences prosecution where the accused person has apologized. The legislation is based on the concern that an expression of regret or an apology might be construed as an admission of legal liability. The rationale for the legislation is that apologies, whenmade quickly after an incident occurs,may lead to earlier and more cost effective dispute resolution. The Act applies to all Ontarians, as well as courts, tribunals, arbitrators and other judicial and quasi-judicial bodies. Though the legislation arose principally fromconcerns in the health care industry, it applies to all legal proceedings, such as civil lawsuits, administrative proceedings and professional discipline matters, and is not limited to healthcare institutions.
Attention on this legislation has been principally focused on the effect it will have in mitigating animosity, promoting mediation and ultimately reducing unnecessary litigation in the health care context, but it may have a broader impact on other areas of the law, such as how brokers can and should respond to client complaints.
Pursuant to the legislation, the effect of an apology is that it is not an express or implied admission of fault or liability by the person in connection with the matter; is not an acknowledgment of liability for the purposes of s.13 of the Limitations Act; and does not void, impair or otherwise affect any insurance coverage that is available or that, but for the apology, would be available in connection with the matter.