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Replace Lady Barristers room at Osgoode Hall with unisex space, lawyers say

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Two Toronto lawyers say it’s time to retire the Lady Barristers robing room at Osgoode Hall in favour of a larger communal space that all lawyers using the courthouse on Queen Street West could access.

One of them says the sign itself, a relic from an earlier age, could be auctioned off, with the money going to support a scholarship for women in the legal profession. 

A change.org petition, which calls for a unisex robing room at the historic building at 130 Queen St. W., had already garnered more than 500 signatures by midmorning Tuesday. Osgoode Hall houses the Ontario Court of Appeal, the Divisional Court of the Superior Court of Justice and Law Society of Upper Canada offices.

Fay Faraday and Breanna Needham told CBC Radio’s Metro Morning that Osgoode Hall has change rooms for male and female lawyers, but the one for men is spacious and has about 70 lockers, while the one for women is small and has only 12 lockers.

The Lady Barristers sign on the robing room for female lawyers has to go, say two lawyers, adding it’s a sign of the disparity women face in the legal profession. (Faraday Law/Supplied )

“I have been doing this for over a quarter of century and every time I go into court, I have to walk by that ridiculous sign for the Lady Barristers room, which, as I said in my post, is so two centuries ago. And it’s tiny,” said Faraday, a lawyer at Faraday Law who has commented on the robing room on Twitter.

Lawyers network, strategize in robing rooms

Faraday said the robing rooms, with lockers for clothing storage, do more than just provide space for lawyers to change into legal robes before appearing in court; they also allow them to interact with each other.

“I know about the disparity between the accommodations that we have and that the male lawyers have,” said Faraday. “But it’s not just about the space in which to change. It’s that the room, the robing room, is where lawyers, where they meet each other, where they strategize for cases, where they network, where there’s mentoring that happens.” 

It’s been over a century since the first Canadian woman was called to the bar. Since then, women in law have fought for equality in courtrooms and corporate offices, and apparently in robing rooms, as well. We tell you about a petition to retire Osgoode Hall’s tiny “lady barristers” room and instead give all lawyers access to its roomier communal space — currently the domain of male lawyers. 7:09

In the change room for women, she said: “You get in there and you get out as quickly you as can because it’s so small.”

Faraday said the disparity is glaring and an example of the inequality faced by women in the legal profession. She described the Lady Barristers room as “quaint” and “tiny.”

A 2015 article by Canadian Lawyer magazine described the change room for men as “opulent” with the feel of “a male locker room in an old-money golf and country club.” It also reportedly has tables and chairs.

The change room for women has one small couch and a couple of benches that look like they are from a pool change room. If seven lawyers stand in the room, they would take up 50 per cent of the space.

Faraday said it’s significant she and other lawyers have fought for women’s rights in cases at Osgoode Hall, but still have to fight for equality in the building itself.

“If we’re in there, fighting for equality for our clients, but it is visible that we, as the most privileged women, are still treated as second-class citizens, that sends a signal about how seriously we take equality in our justice system,” she said.

“The issues that I fight for my clients are much more serious than this and we are the most privileged women, but we are still treated like second-class citizens, and that has got to change.”

‘They’re just not inclusive’

Needham, who launched the petition and practises at Lax O’Sullivan Lisus Gottlieb, said she wanted to do something about the issue, which is talked about in private all the time.

“These robing rooms, they’re just not inclusive. They don’t recognize the practice of litigation as it exists today. It’s not just about men versus women,” she said.

“It’s about availability of this crucial space for informal networking and mentoring to all lawyers, regardless of their faith, background, whether they are men, women, non-binary individuals, LGBTQ+. We should all be able to engage in that. And that disparity starts early,” she said.

Needham said that ideally, the communal space would have private stalls where lawyers could change their clothes, but would also have a lounge, a working area and be accessible to all lawyers.

No basis for allocation of less space: petition 

The petition notes women and men make up roughly equal numbers in the legal profession.

“Women in law account for approximately 50% of practicing lawyers in Ontario — there is no basis upon which they should be allocated this much less than the men in anything in the profession, let alone space,” it reads.

For its part, the Law Society of Ontario has said it is looking into the situation.

“We appreciate the concerns outlined in the petition about the women’s robing room at Osgoode Hall and we are looking into options. We’ll provide an update as soon as we are able.”

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List of Tourist Attractions Open Now in Ottawa

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With Ontario now in Step 3 of 2021 three-step plan for reopening, museums and other indoor attractions are allowed to reopen with capacity limited to not exceed 50 per cent capacity indoors and 75 per cent capacity outdoors.

Here is a list of Ottawa attractions you can visit starting July 16th.

Do remember to wear masks and buy tickets in advance.

Parliament Hill

Parliament’s Centre Block and Peace Tower are closed for renovation.

You can join for tours of the Senate of Canada Building (2 Rideau Street), House of Commons at West Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill, and East Block at East Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill.

When: Grounds open; guided tours of Parliament are suspended through the summer of 2021.
Where: 111 Wellington Street, Downtown Ottawa

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Ottawa performer leapfrogs from gymnastics to Broadway to TV

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A new AppleTV+ series set in a magical town that’s stuck in a neverending 1940s musical includes a pair of Ottawa siblings in the cast. 

Warren Yang and his sister, Ericka Hunter, play two of the singing, dancing residents of the village portrayed in Schmigadoon!, a small-screen series that takes its cues from classic musicals like Brigadoon, Wizard of Oz and Sound of Music, and skewers them with the offbeat comedic mastery of Saturday Night Live. 

In fact, you’ll recognize many of the names from SNL, starting with executive producer Lorne Michaels, creator of the late-night, live-comedy sketch show. Schmigadoon! also stars SNL cast member Cecily Strong and comedian Keegan-Michael Key, who hosted SNL in May. They play a New York couple who get lost on a hike and stumble into a strange town where everyone sings and dances. 

For Yang, a relative newcomer to show-biz, the series marks his television debut. For Hunter, the younger of his two older sisters, it’s the latest in a career path that began with dance lessons as a child more than 30 years ago. She attended Canterbury High School, Ottawa’s arts-focused secondary school. 

“Her dream was always to perform,” said Yang, 34, in an interview. “But that was never the path I thought was an option for me.” 

While his sister studied dance, Yang did gymnastics. He was an elite gymnast throughout his youth, ultimately leaving Merivale High School at 16 to train in Montreal, finishing high school through correspondence courses. He was a member of the Canadian National Team and received a scholarship to study at Penn State, majoring in marketing. 

A few years after graduation, Yang was working at an advertising agency in Toronto when he got a call from a Manhattan number. To his astonishment, they asked if he would be interested in auditioning for a Broadway revival of Miss Saigon.

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COVID-19: uOttawa to require vaccination for students living in residence

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Vaccination will be mandatory for students who want to live in residence at the University of Ottawa this year, with proof of vaccination and at least one dose required before move-in, or within two weeks of doing so if they can’t secure a shot before arriving.

Those who can’t receive a vaccine for “health-related reasons or other grounds protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code” will be able to submit a request for accommodation through the university’s housing portal, according to information on the university’s website.

Students with one dose living in residence will also have to receive their second dose “within the timeframe recommended by Ottawa Public Health.”

People who haven’t been granted an exemption and don’t get vaccinated or submit proof of having done so by the deadlines set out by the school will have their residence agreements terminated, uOttawa warns.

“Medical and health professionals are clear that vaccination is the most (effective) means of protecting people and those around them,” reads a statement provided to this newspaper by uOttawa’s director of strategic communications, Patrick Charette.

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“It is precisely for this reason that the University of Ottawa is requiring all students living in residence for the 2021-2022 academic year to be fully vaccinated. The University recognizes that some students may require accommodations for a variety of reasons and will be treating exceptions appropriately.”

Faculty, staff and students are also strongly encouraged to get vaccinated, the statement notes.

“Ensuring a high vaccine coverage in all communities is critical to ensuring an ongoing decline in cases and ending the pandemic. This will be especially important with the return of students to post-secondary institutions in our region in the fall of 2021.”

Neither Carleton University nor Algonquin College is currently mandating vaccination for students living in residence, according to the websites for both schools. But uOttawa isn’t alone in its policy – Western University, Trent University, Durham College and Fanshawe College have all implemented similar requirements. Seneca College, in the GTA, is going even further, making vaccination mandatory for students and staff to come to campus, in-person, for the fall term.

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