Victims no longer silenced as landmark legislation takes effect on P.E.I.

P.E.I. has officially become the first jurisdiction in Canada to limit the use of non-disclosure clauses in settlement agreements after new legislation came into effect Tuesday.

P.E.I. becomes 1st jurisdiction in Canada to limit use of non-disclosure agreements

Green MLA Lynne Lund, who introduced the bill six months ago, says she's excited to see P.E.I. 'leading the way' on limiting NDAs. (Tony Davis/CBC)

Victims of harassment and sexual misconduct on P.E.I. will no longer be silenced by non-disclosure clauses in settlement agreements.

The province officially became the first jurisdiction in Canada to limit the use of non-disclosure clauses in settlement agreements after new legislation came into effect Tuesday.

The bill, which passed in the P.E.I. Legislature six months ago, stipulates that in cases of discrimination or harassment, including sexual misconduct, a non-disclosure agreement can only be part of a settlement if the person bringing forward the allegation wants it there.

Green Party MLA Lynne Lund, who brought the bill forward, said the legislation will help survivors heal. 

"Dealing with trauma means you need to be supported. You need to be able to talk these things through," she said during a panel discussion Tuesday with Island Morning host Kerry Campbell.

Also on the panel were John McKiggan, a Halifax-based lawyer who has represented many victims of childhood sexual abuse involving the church, and Elizabeth Grace, a Toronto-based lawyer who has represented both plaintiffs defendants where allegations of sexual misconduct were raised.

All three support the new legislation. Grace said it's not only important to allow victims to speak about their experiences, but it's also in the public's interest.

Public interest

"On a wider societal level, it's a big problem because it keeps the public from knowing that there are predators out there because of the confidentiality that's required from the people who have suffered abuse. So there's less accountability, there's less knowledge. And we can have repeat predators out there without being able to stop them because … people have been silenced."

McKiggan said allowing confidentiality agreements leads to more victimization.

"I have done literally thousands of these types of cases. In every single case but one, the abuser had multiple victims. Where there's one victim, there's 10. That's why they fight so hard to keep this type of conduct secret."

In a limited number of instances, P.E.I.'s law could prevent a settlement from being reached, McKiggan said, but overall, the benefits outweigh any potential downside.

Nova Scotia is developing similar legislation.

"I think it's where public policy has to move," McKiggan said. "It's where those of us that work as advocates for survivors have been sort of moving towards for years, decades even."

Lund said she watching to see if other provinces can create even better protections for survivors.

"Moving forward, I'm excited to see P.E.I. leading on this and I look forward to seeing what the rest of the conversation is."

With files from Island Morning