This week, the BC Provincial Court and BC Supreme Court announced protocol for speaking in court. Now, everyone is asked to introduce themselves to the court – not only by name but by pronouns and preferred titles.
For some people, these announcements do not seem like big news. It is huge for others. This new protocol means that the courts can better acknowledge people based on how they identify.
This makes for a more respectful and open environment. It makes our courts more inclusive and embraces diversity. In her announcement, the Chief Judge of the BC Provincial Court explained that introducing this measure is meant to improve the experiences within the legal system for gender diverse parties and to avoid uncomfortable tension.
Those assumptions – based on how someone looks, how someone sounds, or how someone’s name appears – can be wrong. When pronouns are used that are inconsistent with a person’s identity, it can inflict harm. Even if there are no bad intentions, mis-gendering a person can be leave them feeling disrespected, dismissed, or alienated.
Many businesses have been forced to close, limit their hours, or reduce their capacity. Despite a vaccine, the economic impact will likely continue, particularly in the face of new strains of the virus.
On January 28, 2021, the Ontario Superior Court addressed “inadequacies in current legal responses to internet defamation and harassment” by creating a new tort of internet harassment and cyber bullying.
While the global pandemic has been incredibly disruptive, the Court is embracing these changes and the legal community is using the tools available to move matters through the court system despite challenges.