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B.C. lawyer calls for changes, says courthouse signs don't always communicate equality

Last Updated Apr 22, 2019 at 10:03 am PDT

A lawyer in Vancouver who was recently visiting Vernon's courthouse says signs on two rooms there don't communicate equality. (Courtesy Kyla Lee via Twitter)

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – A lawyer in Vancouver who was recently visiting an Okanagan courthouse says signs on two rooms there don’t communicate equality.

It’s something Kyla Lee with the Acumen Law group says she’s seen before.

In the Provincial Court of B.C. in Vernon, she explains the room labelled “Male Barristers” is large, well-lit and on the main floor, while another labelled “Lady Barristers” is in a corner of the basement, and includes two chairs, a folding table, and leftover garbage.

“It also has a sign taped over the door that says ‘Duty Counsel’ showing that the space that’s created, or supposedly created, for women in the courthouse is expendable and a space that can double as something for other individuals.”

She says she found this “incredibly problematic,” adding she was a visitor to the courthouse and doesn’t normally practice there.

And as it turns out, Lee says the space labelled for men is open to women as well, but there’s nothing that communicates that.

“Because the signage told me that I wasn’t welcome,” she tells NEWS 1130. “To get into that space, you have to go to the Sheriffs, you have to … prove that you’re a member of the bar, you have to sign out an access card, and then you can get into the space. So it’s not like I can just walk in.”

Lee would like the province to do something, noting this is only “symptomatic of a larger issue.”

“We wonder ‘Why are women leaving the profession at such high rates? Why do women feel discriminated against as lawyers on the basis of their gender?’ But we don’t have to look very far to see why that is. If you look around the halls of the courthouse, you can see these little things, but these little things send a larger message.”

While she says these issues are evident in her profession, Lee adds they’re not isolated to the legal world.

She admits she hasn’t seen the same signage in other B.C. courthouses — adding she hasn’t been to all of them — but notes a similar situation in Toronto.

While she has not been in touch with the B.C. Law Society, Lee says B.C. Provincial Court did respond to one of her tweets on the subject, saying they would pass the message on to those responsible for signage in courthouses.