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Government OHSA advisers must be licensed paralegals, court decides

By Adrian Miedema

Employees of Ontario’s Office of the Worker Advisor (OWA) and Officer of the Employer Advisor (OEA) who provide legal services relating to the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) must be licensed paralegals, an Ontario judge has decided.

Since 2007, paralegals have been regulated by the Ontario Law Society Act. A paralegal must not provide legal services unless licensed by the Law Society of Upper Canada, which regulates lawyers and paralegals in Ontario.

The Law Society went to court asking for a declaration that government employees who provide legal services relating to the OHSA must be licensed paralegals. The issue arose when the OWA (which provides certain legal services to non-unionised workers) and OEA (which provides legal services to smaller employers) started advising on safety-related reprisals after 2011 amendments to the OHSA. The amendments permitted the OWA to educate, advise and provide representation before the Ontario Labour Relations Board to union-unionised workers who experienced reprisals from employers under the OHSA. The Law Society had granted an exemption to the OWA and OEA to provide legal services in relation to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act but not the OHSA…

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