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.
1. Pierre-Claude LAFOND, L'accès à la justice civile au Québec, Cowansville, Éditions Yvon Blais, 2012, pp. 268 – 269.
2 Alberta in 2000, British Columbia in 2006, Manitoba in 2007, Nova Scotia in 2008, Ontario in 2009, Saskatchewan in 2007, Newfoundland and Labrador in 2009, Nunavut in 2010. Other countries that have apology legislation are Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States (36 states).
3 Nabil N. ANTAKI, Dominique F. BOURCHEIX, Lucie MARIER
and Michelle THÉRIAULT, Les lois sur la
présentation d'excuses : Aspects légaux,
historiques et sociologiques, Gatineau, Congrès du
Barreau du Québec, June 3, 2011, p.1, online:
Norton Rose Group
Norton Rose Group is a leading international legal practice. We offer a full business law service to many of the world's pre-eminent financial institutions and corporations from offices in Europe, Asia, Australia, Canada, Africa, the Middle East, Latin America and Central Asia.
Knowing how our clients' businesses work and understanding what drives their industries is fundamental to us. Our lawyers share industry knowledge and sector expertise across borders, enabling us to support our clients anywhere in the world. We are strong in financial institutions; energy; infrastructure, mining and commodities; transport; technology and innovation; and pharmaceuticals and life sciences.
We have more than 2900 lawyers operating from 43 offices in Abu Dhabi, Almaty, Amsterdam, Athens, Bahrain, Bangkok, Beijing, Bogotá, Brisbane, Brussels, Calgary, Canberra, Cape Town, Caracas, Casablanca, Dubai, Durban, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Hong Kong, Johannesburg, London, Melbourne, Milan, Montréal, Moscow, Munich, Ottawa, Paris, Perth, Piraeus, Prague, Québec, Rome, Shanghai, Singapore, Sydney, Tokyo, Toronto and Warsaw; and from associate offices in Dar es Salaam, Ho Chi Minh City and Jakarta.
Norton Rose Group comprises Norton Rose LLP, Norton Rose Australia, Norton Rose Canada LLP, Norton Rose South Africa (incorporated as Deneys Reitz Inc), and their respective affiliates.
On January 1, 2012, Macleod Dixon joined Norton Rose Group adding strength and depth in Canada, Latin America and around the world. For more information please visit nortonrose.com.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.