Law Times - Newsmakers

2017 Top Newsmakers

The premier weekly newspaper for the legal profession in Ontario

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 1 of 7

IN SEPTEMBER, the Law Society of Upper Canada be- gan to take action on the recommendations outlined in the report "Working Together for Change: Strate- gies to Address Issues of Systemic Racism in the Le- gal Professions." The report was a product of four years worth of research led by the LSUC's Challenges Faced by Ra- cialized Licensees Working Group, with the intro- duction of the statement of principles — but that ac- tion did not come without backlash. The LSUC has started looking at how to reduce barriers faced by racialized licensees by outlining guidelines that lawyers need to satisfy, in accordance with the report, including the requirement for all li- censed lawyers to record a statement of principles in their annual report. This involves following a set of equality and inclu- sivity-promoting principles that concede a lawyer's obligation to promote and enhance diversity (the re- port, recommendation 3(1), states that it is an obligation). While it is mandatory for lawyers to write or adopt a statement, they do not need to submit it to the law society. "My consistent position has been that in order for effective implementation of diver- sity initiatives, and [to] ensure a cultural shift in the profession towards greater diversity, we need entity regulation," Lai-King Hum, past chairwoman of the Roundtable of Di- versity Associations, told Law Times. She said that implementing entity regulation and diversity-improving measures should coincide. On the law society's website, it states that equality, diversity and inclusion should be prioritized "on the basis of grounds set out in the Human Rights Code." Although this is framed as advancing human rights within the profession, some lawyers oppose the statement of principles and feel it is a violation of their freedom of conscience, contrary to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and imposes beliefs unto them that they may or may not share. "It's offensive in my view because it's requiring lawyers to make a statement as to their beliefs," Bencher Sidney Troister told Law Times. A professor at the Bora Laskin Faculty of Law at Lakehead University, Ryan Alford, reiterates this point of view and even filed a notice of application to the Ontario Supe- rior Court, requesting that the statement of principles be deemed unconstitutional and out of the law society's realm of statutory authority. "When you ask people to swear that they have any particular value — even if that view is one that we would all agree is unproblematic — you're coercing people to reveal what is innermost," Alford told Law Times. He also said that the statement of principles could have multiple troublesome conse- quences since imposing the guideline is not a trait of a free state. The professor further argues that this is problematic because lawyers are supposed to be "guardians of the constitution and defenders of the rule of law." Even though some praise the statement of principles, others worry that it clashes with the ability to defend clients charged with heinous, grotesque crimes, such as crim- inal defence lawyer Hans John Kalina, who expressed his concern to Law Times and said he intends to not comply. As it stands, the law society won't be penalizing lawyers who don't comply with the statement this year, but aren't ruling out the possibility of doing so in the future. Paul Schabas, LSUC treasurer, said that those who do not abide by the statement of principles would receive a letter from the law society to inform them of this noncompli- ance. On Nov. 21, the law society released a guide to assist with the clarification of the statement of principles requirement in wake of misunderstanding. The guide is to com- bat the point of view that the statement of principles is compelled speech, when this is not the case, said Schabas. The controversy continued as Bencher Joe Groia filed a motion for the law society to consider an exemption to the statement of principles requirement for those not will- ing to participate ("conscientious objectors"). Groia also said that while he supports the goal of diversity, it's undemocratic to impose the statement of principles in a manner of compelled speech. This discussion took place during Dec. 1 convocation where his motion was struck down and the requirement will not be optional. The reopening of this discussion has generated outrage with some organizations that thought the recommendations did not go far enough to begin with. Bencher Anne Vespry, a racialized lawyer and bencher, seconded his motion prior to its rejection, be- lieving that this will give benchers the chance to give the statement of principles another look without jeopardizing the report's other recommendations. During the initial vote on the recommendations from the report, Vespry actually voted to consider the state- ment of principles separately. Ultimately, benchers voted 38-16 to defeat the motion. (See page 20 for who voted in favour of the motion.) Issues about diversity and the law have emerged in other ways. For example, last year, Selwyn Pieters made a racial profiling complaint to the On- tario Human Rights Tribunal against the law society. This year, the case settled. Pieters alleged that a security guard racially profiled him as he was stopped upon his entry to Law Society of Upper Canada in July 2016. He was denied entry with his ex- pired identification card, while other white members entered beforehand without any issue, he claimed. He requested $75,000 in damages and that the human rights tribunal order the law society to give staff training on anti-black racism. — With files from Alex Robinson top stories 12 December 2017 What do your clients need? The means to move on. Guaranteed. ™ Baxter Structures customizes personal injury settlements into tax-free annuities that can help your clients be secure for life. » Pre- and post- settlement consultation and support » Caring professionalism for over 30 years » No fee to you or your clients Need more information? Contact us at 1 800 387 1686 or Kyla A. Baxter, CSSC PRESIDENT, BAXTER STRUCTURES Untitled-1 1 2017-12-05 8:24 AM Diversity initiative causes discord Motion launched for exemption to statement of principles BY ALEXIA KAPRALOS, FOR LAW TIMES Lai-King Hum says implementing entity regulation and diversity-improving measures should coincide. Fresh Ontario legal news and analysis available on any device. Get More Online

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Law Times - Newsmakers - 2017 Top Newsmakers