London lawyer hails victory on university, college use of non-disclosure agreements

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A London lawyer who fought for a change to Ontario legislation restricting non-disclosure agreements is celebrating a victory.

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Bill 26 was given third reading last week to ban non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) in all private and publicly funded post-secondary institutions in the wake of sexual assault accusations and convictions, says London personal injury lawyer Rob Talach.

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Previously, the bill did not include accusations of sexual misconduct, an amemdment for which Talach had pushed because he felt the legislation didn’t go far enough.

“We fundamentally altered it before the ink dried,” he said.

The victim’s name and how much money they might receive would remain confidential, Talach said.

Commonly used when an employee is fired for sexual harassment or other sexual misconduct, NDAs bind both parties to be silent on the reason for termination.

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Talach had been working with Julie Macfarlane, a retired University of Windsor professor, who founded the group Can’t Buy My Silence.

The change is important because “sexual abusers, perpetrators don’t do it just once,” Talach said.

NDAs are designed to protect an employer’s reputation by “gagging victims of sexual abuse,” Macfarlane said in a recent interview.

“NDAs allow perpetrators to continue their misconduct without the knowledge of others, including new employers,” she said. “They silence victims and cause ongoing trauma.”

Both MacFarlane and Talach had applied to address the committee reviewing the bill on Wednesday, but were not invited despite their years of experience and expertise, Talach said.

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