Discussion of Workshop at the SOAR Conference on Culturally Competent Decision-Writing

  • November 22, 2022
  • Sarah Schumacher, Counsel to the Chair, Workplace Safety and Insurance Appeals Tribunal

The Society of Ontario Adjudicators and Regulators (SOAR) held their Annual Conference virtually on November 3rd. The program was packed with interesting plenary discussions and workshops. This article focuses on the Culturally Competent Decision-Writing workshop.

Anshumala Juyal, Senior Counsel, Legal Services Division, Canadian Human Rights Commission moderated the discussion between the Honourable Justice Avvy Yao-Yao Go of the Federal Court of Canada and the Honourable Justice Mohan Sharma of the Superior Court of Justice. Given their wealth of personal and professional experience, these dynamic speakers brought interesting perspectives.

The goal of the workshop was to raise awareness of the diverse communities our administrative bodies serve and the role cultural competence can play in their perceived legitimacy and their ability to build trust with stakeholders and the public at large. The workshop focused on how to write decisions that are culturally competent and, thus, speak more meaningfully to its readers.

Justice Sharma noted that in a recent speech the Chief Justice of Canada, the Right Honourable Richard Wagner stressed the importance of cultural competency to ensuring the rule of law and to access to justice. He encouraged judges to take advantage of opportunities to engage with and learn from the wider public; including communities with which they have little or no life experience.