Cynthia Petersen practices constitutional, administrative and labour law, specializing in equality rights issues. She joined the firm in 1995, after teaching in the Faculty of Law at the University of Ottawa for several years.
In her labour practice, Cynthia represents both private and public sector unions in mediation, grievance arbitration, collective bargaining, and human rights cases. She has also been retained by a variety of organizations (including human rights commissions and professional regulators) to conduct investigations of employee workplace harassment complaints. Cynthia has consistently been selected by her peers to be named in the Canadian Legal Lexpert Directory and in Best Lawyers as a leading practitioner in workplace human rights law.
In addition to litigating before tribunals and lower courts, Cynthia has a busy constitutional law practice, representing interveners in public interest cases before the Supreme Court of Canada and various provincial Courts of Appeal. She has represented clients in numerous ground-breaking Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms cases, including almost all of the lesbian and gay rights cases that have been litigated before the Supreme Court of Canada.
Cynthia has been repeatedly recognized for her work advancing the equality rights of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals: in 2000, she was awarded the Canadian Bar Association’s Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Conference Hero Award; in 2010, she was awarded the Metropolitan Community Church’s Hope and Freedom Award; and, in 2011, she was awarded a Law Society Medal and was inducted into the Canadian Queer Hall of Fame. In October 2013, Cynthia’s high school, Howard S. Billings, inducted her into its Wall of Distinction in recognition of her accomplishments. In September 2014, she received Egale Canada Human Rights Trust’s first Leadership Award.
Since November 2002, Cynthia has acted as the Discrimination and Harassment Counsel for the Law Society of Upper Canada. In this role, she provides confidential information and advice to individuals who have complaints of discrimination or harassment against lawyers or paralegals in Ontario.
Cynthia is a regular speaker on a wide variety of subjects relating to social justice issues and often conducts educational workshops on human rights issues for unions, associations and other community organizations. She provides training on workplace harassment to both individuals and groups in a wide variety of settings, as well as training under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. She has published several articles on equity issues and has been qualified as an expert witness in a number of legal proceedings (on the topics of institutionalized racism in the criminal jury selection process, the constitutional rights of lesbian and gay Canadians, and workplace sexual harassment).
Cynthia received a bachelor of laws degree from Queen’s University in 1989 and a master of laws degree from Harvard Law School in 1990. She was called to the Ontario Bar in 1994.
- Josef v. Ontario (Minister of Health)
- Jane Doe v. Metropolitan Toronto (Municipality) Commissioners of Police
- Carter v. Canada (Attorney General)
- Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission v. Whatcott
- Canada (Attorney General) v. Bedford