Earlier this year, Ontario passed the Apology Act, which now allows an individual or organization to offer an apology as part of a dispute resolution process without concern over legal liability. The Apology Act provides that an apology made in relation to a civil matter does not constitute an admission of fault or liability and would not be admissible in a civil proceeding.
For years, individuals and organizations involved in disputes avoided making apologies for mistakes and bad judgment because saying "sorry" could be taken as admitting guilt, opening the door to civil lawsuits, awards and judgments.
It is the hope that this legislation may open the door for organizations or individuals to consider more active reputation management strategies starting with expressions of regret and compassion. It is intended to jump-start the healing process by acknowledging that harm has been done, and to promote an atmosphere of accountability and open communication among the parties involved in the dispute.
A number of studies have been released touting the merits of an apology as part of the dispute resolution process and the Uniform Law Conference of Canada in 2007 passed a resolution recommending that all provinces adopt some form of apology legislation. Ontario became the fifth jurisdiction in Canada to do so.
Originally published: Centre for Sport and Law Newsletter (2009) Vol. 5(2)