“Starting now, we all have an opportunity to show leadership, courage and conviction in helping heal the wounds of the past as we make a path towards a more just, more fair and more loving country.”
– Hon. Senator Murray Sinclair
Content warning: harassment (including sexual harassment), trauma, violence, and missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
An Independent Investigation is a process where a neutral third-party is retained to investigate complaints or incidents, typically where some type of conflict or an allegation of conflict arises in the context of a workplace, organization, or institution. A neutral third-party conducts interviews and gathers evidence in order to determine what events took place and may even make recommendations to address those events. Independent investigations must respect the rights and need for procedural fairness for all parties involved.
In some circumstances, investigations are optional, but investigations can also be mandatory. For example, Ontario employers have an obligation to investigate complaints of workplace harassment, discrimination and violence.
If you are unsure of your obligation to investigate or of your right to have an investigation take place, please contact us so we can help navigate these situations.
Independent investigations can prevent escalation of disputes. They can also reduce costs, keep disputes private, and are far less adversarial than involving police or regulatory bodies.
As part of our range of dispute resolution practices, Westaway Law Group provides investigation services to our clients. Our lawyers have a combination of formal education, developed expertise, background and experience in these processes. We use a trauma-informed approach.
Investigations – For Indigenous Organizations and Governments
Indigenous governments, institutions, and organizations provide employment opportunities and deliver programs and services to a range of people. Sometimes disputes arise in the normal course of governance and operations with employees, members, and program recipients which can give rise to legal obligations on the part of the Indigenous group. For example:
- Police are called over disputes involving students and faculty members
- Band employee is dismissed or makes a claim for wrongful termination
- Allegations of harassment by or within First Nation government or institution
In these situations, Indigenous organizations and governments might consider using an independent investigation process to resolve the dispute based on the following considerations:
- Ownership of the process: Opportunity to design a custom process, using as much or as little of traditional practices as desired
- Cost effective: As with other forms of dispute resolution, investigations can prevent costly litigation
- Relationship-restoring: Opportunity to focus on building and healing relationship instead of adversarial process
- Private: Protects reputations of all involved
Investigations – For Workplaces and Educational Institutions
Harassment and sexual harassment remain pervasive barriers to achieving substantive equality in our society. Employers and institutions have positive obligations to their employees, students, and members of the public to ensure they are treated with dignity and their human rights respected. This includes an obligation to take action if allegations of discrimination, harassment and sexual harassment are raised. This is both a legal obligation and a moral imperative. Further, our societies, workplaces, institutions work better when all rights are respected and protected.
At Westaway Law Group, We provide trauma-based services to uphold the dignity of all parties involved in dispute resolution processes. Our practice requires us to be sensitive to diverse and unique needs of individuals within investigative processes and Inquiries. Our lawyers are happy to listen carefully to your needs and concerns in order to employ and/or develop a dispute resolution process that is right for you.
Public Inquiries are established by the government, but do not make up part of the government and are run independently from the government. Both federal and provincial governments may create inquiries under their respective legislation. Inquiries seek to find answers to specific issues or questions through an independent process. Commissioners of inquiries may call and question witnesses and experts, introduce evidence, and make recommendations under specific terms of reference established at the beginning of the inquiry. Inquiries may cover a broad range of topics from systemic injustices to coroner’s inquests.
Many Inquiries offer the opportunity for interested third parties to apply for standing to have their interest in the issue in question represented and heard. Our lawyers have experience representing Indigenous clients as parties with standing before Inquiries – contact us if you are interested in standing before a federal or provincial inquiry.
The lawyers at Westaway Law Group have considerable experience working in various capacities in investigations and formal inquiries. This includes the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, the Air India Inquiry, the Afghan Detainees Inquiry and the Long-Term Care Homes Inquiry.
Other important examples of Inquiries in Canada include the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. You can read the final reports of these inquiries here: