Response to Debbie Jabbour’s “Counsellor Liability”

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Response to Debbie Jabbour’s Counsellor Liability
March 24, 2004
http://www.ausu.org/voice/articles/articledisplay.php?ART=2696

Debbie Jabbour argues that a court ruling on counsellor liability has school counsellors worried, “with good reason”. I don’t disagree that they should be worried, but the tone of the article was that this was a bad thing. As near as I can tell from Debbie’s article, Heather Crerar was given bad advice – and nobody disputed that. So somebody must be responsible.

The telling paragraph was “Crerar’s lawyer, argued that her client had received a “string of bad advice” and that although she had filed an academic grievance with the college, her appeal failed, leading her to take the case to court.” The whole issue here is not that counsellors are expected to be infallible, but that when they gave bad advice – no matter whose ultimate responsibility it was – the college fell back on procedure instead of making an attempt to solve the problem. If the college had taken an active interest in the case, they may well have convinced U Lethbridge that they’d made a mistake. Instead they told Ms. Crerar to take a running jump.

Further, the article states that Ms. Crerar’s lawyer ‘compared college counsellors to lawyers and accountants, who, … “are responsible for their advice.” This bothers me on several levels. I don’t think I’ll even touch the notion that lawyers and accountants take responsibility for their advice – I’ve not seen consistent evidence of that.” That’s a low blow of the sort that can only be leveled at lawyers and accountants. The statement actually said nothing about lawyers “taking” responsibility for their advice, but that they are “held” responsible. Which is entirely true. You can sue a lawyer or accountant for giving bad advice. As near as I can tell from this article, you still can’t sue a school counsellor – only the school.

Derek Broughton
( B.S. CIS – maybe this year!)
Musquodoboit Harbour, NS

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