The Government of Ontario recently introduced Bill 108 – "An Act respecting Apologies." 

According to the Attorney General’s news release, the Apology Act would, if passed:

  • Allow individuals and organizations, such as hospitals and other public institutions (or condo corproations), to apologize for an accident or wrongdoing without fear of the apology being used as evidence of liability in a civil lawsuit
  • Help victims by acknowledging that harm has been done to them — an apology is often key to the healing process
  • Promote accountability, transparency and patient safety by allowing open and frank discussions between patients and health care providers
  • Enhance the affordability and speed of the justice system by fostering the resolution of civil disputes and shortening or avoiding litigation.

Several other provinces and states have passed similar legislation and there has been growing call for such a law to be introduced here so as to help minimize conflict and disputes.   Indeed, the bill has the support of the legal and medical professions:

“Apology legislation would help to foster better communication and more compassionate relations between potential litigants,” said Jamie Trimble, President of the Ontario Bar Association. “An apology should not be something that can be used in a lawsuit later on to establish the liability of another party, nor should it be able to be used by one party to prevent the ability of another to seek justice.”

We’ve all heard about long and drawn-out lawsuits over disputes that reportedly could have been resolved at the very beginning with a simple apology.  Only time will tell whether apology laws have an appreciable effect on the number of disputes ending up in our courts or whether people begin to apologize more freely to each other.   We all hope that legislation like this is a step in the right direction towards creating a more civil society.

Update (July 17, 2009):   The Apology Act, 2009 was passed and came into force in April 2009.  See here for full text.