Persons who believe they have been wronged can sometimes be consoled or mollified by an apology. In many cases, apologies allow reconciliation to be achieved. They are seen as a useful tool in resolving disputes and may make it possible to reduce litigation.1 To date, eight Canadian provinces and territories2 have passed Apology Acts.
Apology legislation serves a dual purpose. From a legal perspective, it affords the protection of the law to the party making the apology. Apologies are not admissible as evidence in civil, administrative or other proceedings, such as arbitrations, and may not constitute an acknowledgment of liability. The victim does not lose any rights and may obtain full compensation for any damages suffered.
From a sociological perspective, apology legislation has undeniable benefits, as certain jurists have noted.3 It has been shown that financial compensation is not always the solution to a dispute and that victims appreciate receiving apologies. They promote reconciliation and allow professional or business relationships to be maintained. At the same time, they enable the wrongdoer, who may or may not incur liability, to express concern for the victim.
Health care is undoubtedly one area where apologies can play an important role. But apologies can also be useful in a number of other fields. Product recalls of food or manufactured goods, along with issues of all kinds that arise in service industries, are examples that come to mind. Many companies, at one time or another, must deal with a problem situation and often refrain from communicating with their customers for fear that the apologies they might offer could be used against them.
So an Apology Act allows a professional or a business to express sympathy toward a customer owing to a given situation while eliminating the risk that such an apology could cause one of the parties to lose rights or suffer a disadvantage.
The Quebec government should adopt such legislation, which would be to everyone’s benefit.