Ontario has some of the highest levels of disability discrimination in Canada, according to a report released Wednesday.
More than half of all provincial disability lawyers who have applied for work in the province are women, while women represented nearly 60 per cent of the provincial disability claims in the first quarter of 2018, according a report by the Canadian Association of Disability Lawyers.
The report was the result of a study of more than 400 disability claims filed by provincial disability law firms.
In Ontario, women represent approximately two-thirds of the disability claims.
The gender gap in the disability lawyers is significant, said the report, which found the gender of a lawyer’s clients has a significant impact on their representation.
The data, obtained by CBC News, suggests the gap is growing, with the number of women in disability lawyers in Ontario continuing to grow.
“If you are looking to hire someone for a disability case and you are going to have to hire two or three people, you will need a lawyer who is gender-neutral, which means that they have a disability,” said Pauline Bowers, a lawyer with the Ontario Disability Lawyers Association.
“There are a lot of people who do not have that.”
The association says women represent about four per cent in the profession.
Women make up about three per cent (or about 50,000) of Ontario’s total population, according the latest census.
The numbers are even worse in Quebec, which has about half the province’s total.
According to the latest data, more than half (52 per cent) of Quebec disability lawyers are women.
But the number has been growing, says Bowers.
“Quebec has a much smaller pool of people than Ontario and so we need to work with Quebec to increase the pool of representation,” she said.
And when you’re recruiting, you’re looking at people who have a very strong commitment to disability, a very high level of engagement, and a willingness to do the work.” “
It’s a really important signal.
And when you’re recruiting, you’re looking at people who have a very strong commitment to disability, a very high level of engagement, and a willingness to do the work.”
Bowers says the number is on the rise in Ontario, with an increase of about 25 per cent since the end of last year.
The number of people in disability legal practice has also been growing since last year, with a 5.8 per cent increase in the number in 2018.
That compares with a 0.7 per cent jump in the proportion of people employed in the legal profession in 2015.
“The fact that the number that are out there is growing every year means that we’re looking for better representation of all groups,” said Bowers of the rise.
“We need to be more proactive in our recruitment process and better recruitment practices and better training.”
Ontario has the lowest rate of disability-related employment in Canada at 0.9 per cent, compared with 9.2 per cent nationally, according To Be Heard.
Ontario is also among the provinces with the highest rates of disability claims, at 16.9 claims per 100,000 population, compared to 5.3 in Saskatchewan, 3.3 each in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador, and 3.7 in Alberta.
It has the second-highest rate of total disability claims at 12.4 per 100 100, in Ontario at more than three times the national average.
Bowers also noted that more women are applying for disability cases, which she says “is good news.”
“There is a significant number of disabled people, people with disabilities, that have been excluded from the justice system for too long, that are unable to make their claim,” she told CBC News.
“So it’s important to recruit for that.”