Since 2017, the CRT has included optional questions during the intake process, asking about participants’ pronouns and chosen names, to ensure participants are addressed respectfully throughout the CRT process. We’ve also made sure to use gender inclusive language in CRT communications, including tribunal decisions. We are proud that the CRT was the first tribunal or court in British Columbia to make these changes, and we also know how important it is to keep looking for ways to be as inclusive and accessible as possible. As part of our commitment to continuous improvement, the CRT frequently checks in with stakeholders and participants, researches best practices, and rapidly implements changes.
That’s why we were grateful to meet with members of the Canadian Bar Association BC (CBABC) Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Community (SOGIC) Section, to ask for feedback on our forms and processes. Our collective understanding of best practices for inclusivity continues to evolve, and the SOGIC members generously helped us ensure our forms, processes and language are up to date. We have now implemented almost all SOGIC’s recommendations, with a few remaining action items that will be addressed in the coming months.
Here are some highlights.
CRT Style Guide
The CRT’s Style Guide helps staff and tribunal members with plain language and consistent terminology in everything from website content, emails to parties, and even tribunal decisions. The guide has always included a section on inclusive language, and with SOGIC’s help, we’ve updated the guidance to include information about titles and remove references to “preferred pronouns” which inadvertently implied that gender identity is a choice and can marginalize trans and non-binary identities.
Here’s an excerpt from our updated Style Guide:
CRT Code of Conduct
The CRT Code of Conduct sets out the tribunal’s expectations of participants. It requires participants to refrain from abusive behaviour towards other participants, CRT staff, tribunal members, witnesses, or other third parties. We’ve amended the Code of Conduct to specifically state that abusive behaviour includes, “deliberately refusing to use a person’s indicated name, title, or pronouns, in written or verbal communications.” While abusive behaviour of this kind is extremely rare at the CRT, we want to ensure that all participants know that the tribunal is a safe place for them by clearly explaining and enforcing expectations.
CRT Forms and Data Collection
SOGIC helped the CRT to identify questions in our forms where the wording should be revised, as well as some new demographic questions. Asking demographic questions is challenging because of the understandable concern that private information about sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression could be misused. At the same time, the CRT wants to better understand who we are serving, and who we might be underserving, as well as the unique needs of different populations who come to the tribunal. We are grateful for SOGIC’s thoughtful recommendations, which have now been implemented.
Many CRT team members have participated in diversity and inclusion training around sexual orientation, gender identity, and inclusive language. The CRT is committed to ensuring all staff and tribunal members receive this type of training in a more systematic and thorough manner. SOGIC has generously shared training resources to achieve this goal.
Another area we discussed is the need for parties to be aware that they can ask a tribunal member to order that a decision be anonymized, redacted, or not be published where there is a risk of harm to a participant. Tribunal members can also make these orders on their own motion. We recognize the increased physical and emotional risk that LGBTQ+ people face, especially when their information is made publicly available. Providing additional training for tribunal members to help them recognize where nonpublication orders are appropriate is a priority this year.
Areas for further work
While we’ve been able to quickly implement almost all the Committee’s excellent recommendations, there are areas for further work. One of these areas involves legal names on court-enforceable orders. For a CRT order to be enforceable as a court order, it must include the parties’ legal names. However, a transgender or non-binary person’s legal name may be their former name, or “deadname”. We know that using a person’s “deadname” can be harmful and traumatic, and we want to avoid this. At the same time, the legal requirements for court orders to be enforceable are outside the CRT’s jurisdiction or authority to change. While we do further work in this area, here are some of the measures we are implementing:
- Providing parties with clear, up front information about the situations where their legal names must be used on specific documents, like CRT decisions and orders, and explaining the reasons for this,
- Using a participant’s chosen name wherever possible, and restricting the use of their legal name to situations where it is strictly legally required,
- Providing parties with information about how to change their legal name, including referrals to pro bono organizations that can assist, and
- Raising this issue within the justice sector to advocate for changes to the legal requirements around the enforcement of court orders.
Inclusivity and accessibility are core values at the CRT. An inclusive justice system requires organizations like the CRT to listen carefully to the lived experience and expertise of those we serve, to adapt to new information and knowledge, and to humbly correct mistakes as quickly as possible. On behalf of everyone at the CRT, we are grateful to SOGIC for helping us with the ongoing work of meeting these goals. We would like to particularly thank Lisa Nevens, Dustin Klaudt, and JT Beck for generously sharing their time, energy and expertise with us. We very much appreciate it.
As always, if you have comments or suggestions on ways we can improve the CRT’s inclusivity and accessibility, please contact us.