Toronto

Ontario appeal court opens gender-neutral change room for barristers

The Law Society of Ontario says a gender-neutral space has now been created at the province's top court for barristers needing to change into their robes. 

Regulator says it has completed the transformation of what was formerly the men's robing room

The regulator says it has completed the transformation of what was formerly the men's robing room at Toronto's Osgoode Hall courthouse so that it can be used by people of all genders.  (Patrick Morrell/CBC)

The Law Society of Ontario says a gender-neutral space has now been created at the province's top court for barristers needing to change into their robes. 

The regulator says it has completed the transformation of what was formerly the men's robing room at Toronto's Osgoode Hall courthouse so that it can be used by people of all genders. 

In a tweet earlier this week, the law society says barristers are asked to change in private stalls located in the washroom area. It says there are also private unisex washroom stalls. 

The organization says the women's robing room has not been altered and remains available for those who do not feel comfortable changing near men. 

The renovation was announced in February after Toronto lawyers highlighted the size discrepancy between the women's space, which holds 12 lockers, and the men's, which had close to 70. 

'Sometimes, after centuries, change happens quickly'

Fay Faraday posted photos of the women's room on Twitter, prompting Breanna Needham to launch an online petition calling for a unisex space. 

The petition, which described the rooms as "one representative example of the systemic inequality that is pervasive in the legal profession," drew significant attention in legal circles and received roughly 900 signatures.

"Sometimes, after centuries, change happens quickly," Faraday wrote on Twitter after the new room was unveiled.

The news was largely hailed online, though a few dissenters suggested the move was creating a new type of inequality.

"Men lose their change room, women keep theirs. That's equality today. Where do Muslims, Religious Jews, and modest people change?" lawyer Sam Goldstein tweeted.

Lawyers are required to wear black, flowy robes to appear in Superior Court and at the Ontario Court of Appeal. Wearing them outside the courthouse, however, is generally considered "bad form," according to the law society.