Time was, like many lawyers in Ontario, I was content with the leadership of our government authorized regulatory agency. Time was.
Now, I endorse the slate of lawyers running for election as benchers under the STOPSOP (Stop the Statement of Principles) banner. I also stand opposed to remaining benchers who voted against accreditation of a law school at a religious university. In six short words, the primary reason why is, Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. To add three more, rule of law.
It seems that in recent years the Law Society’s elected leadership concluded a little trim or nip and tuck on the rules was no longer sufficient, instead apparently going all-in with the mistaken belief the responsibility to regulate is a call to control. Sadly, in doing so, it looks as if a majority of benchers concluded the rule of law to be a threat to rule over the realm of legal practitioners.
In 2014, benchers voted 28-21 against adhering to the agreement entered into with the Federation of Law Societies of Canada authorizing the mechanism for approving new law schools. Why? Because the school in question was to be at a Christian university that held to a Biblical standard for members of its community. That vote was also a vote against fundamental constitutional principles of religious freedom as had been determined by the Supreme Court of Canada, ironically in regard to the same Christian university operating a faculty of education.
For the 2015 bencher election, I posted How would they vote on Trinity Western’s Law School today? Candidates for the law society in Ontario. The blog includes a link at the bottom to a breakdown of how then benchers and bencher candidates voted, or would vote, on the issue of accrediting the proposed law school at Trinity Western. (I include this note because some have asked me for such a breakdown to aid in their consideration of bencher candidates this April.)
In the Trinity Western case, the Law Society of Upper Canada, as it was then known, was saved by the proverbial bell when the Supreme Court of Canada decided for stunningly poor reasons, that abrogated from basic principles of legal and constitutional interpretation, to carve out a new and special niche within Canada’s constitutional law only for government authorized bodies regulating the legal profession. As I stated in Supreme Court sidesteps Supreme Being and supreme commitment: beyond the headlines and headnotes in the Trinity Western law school cases, the decision invents a “Charter value” in order to uphold
a professional arrogance that asserts lawyers hold a special place in Canadian society as ‘protectors of the public interest’ (as if Canada was not a democratic society with elected officials to fill that role…) … The result of this professional arrogance is, at times, lawyers seek ways for the law not to apply to them in the same way the law applies to others. Although it was hoped the lawyers-now-justices of Canada’s Supreme Court would rise above that particular vanity, most did not.
The concern with the Supreme Court’s inventiveness is perhaps best stated by Justices Brown and Côté, writing in dissent in the Trinity Western law school cases:
First, Charter “values” — unlike Charter rights, which are the product of constitutional settlement — are unsourced. They are, therefore, entirely the product of the idiosyncrasies of the judicial mind that pronounces them to be so. … What is troubling, however, is the imposition of judicially preferred “values” to limit constitutionally protected rights, including the right to hold other values.
Secondly, and relatedly, Charter “values”, as stated by the majority, are amorphous and, just as importantly, undefined.
At the same time the Trinity Western debacle was unfolding, the benchers were busy needlessly rebranding the historic Law Society of Upper Canada to the Law Society of Ontario, theoretically as part of a bid to be better understood by the public. I have imagined a majority of benchers somehow convinced the history of Canada taught in Ontario’s education system no longer included reference to the Constitutional Act of 1791 when the provinces of Upper Canada and Lower Canada were carved out of Quebec in an early step toward the Confederation that would take place in 1867. Equally, they must have convinced themselves that those looking for a lawyer, or to complain about one, would suffer confusion searching out the Law Society of Upper Canada that would not be present with the new name, Law Society of Ontario.
Tinkering with the Law Society’s image and function has bloated the annual budget to over one hundred and forty-two million dollars ($142,535,700.00 to be precise). This is a more than 30% increase in budget in last four years, and a 100% increase (yes, the budget has doubled) over the last thirteen years.
In October 2017, while continuing to battle in the courts against Trinity Western University’s requirement for a commitment to shared religious beliefs, busy rebranding the Law Society to a friendlier name, and authorizing budget expenditures like they were spending someone else’s money (they are), the benchers imposed a new requirement on the profession, a mandatory declaration of a Statement of Principles (SOP).
I declare that I abide by a Statement of Principles that acknowledges my obligation to promote equality, diversity and inclusion generally, in my behaviour towards colleagues, employees, clients and the public. [Whatever that means.]
Tick the box, they told us.
In February 2018, I wrote about Why I said “NO” to the Law Society. In the same way that the Law Society was seeking to impose an ideological tick box on Trinity Western University – agree with us and we’ll let you have a law school – the benchers were now imposing an ideological tick box on every member of the legal profession.
The Law Society made it mandatory to tick the YES box, offering a NO box without telling us what the repercussions would be for those of us who ticked it. Ostensibly, the position expressed is, “You will face consequences, but we will not tell you what they are.” This coercive type of policy that mandates agreement with an ideological opinion violates conscience, and has historically been evidenced by totalitarian regimes.
Given the number of TWU-opposed, budget-bloating and SOP-favouring benchers seeking re-election, I choose to support those who have expressed their commitment to the rule of law and principles of constitutional interpretation, known as the STOPSOP slate. Here’s the list:
Inside Toronto : Robert P. Adourian; D. Jared Brown; John F. Fagan; Sam Goldstein; Philip H. Horgan; Murray Klippenstein; Lubomir Poliacik; Geoff Pollock; Chi-Kun Shi; Nicholas Wright.
Outside Toronto: Ryan Alford; Gerard Paul Charette; Joseph Chiummiento; Jean-Jacques Desgranges; Gary D. Graham; Cheryl R. Lean; Cecil Lyon; C. Scott Marshall; Trevor Robert Parry; Jorge E. Pineda; Brian L. Prill; Alexander D. Wilkes.
If anyone has a Law Society of Upper Canada lapel pin you are willing to part with, I would much appreciate receiving one. My own effort to purchase a pin was left too late, and the stock was gone.
I’d like to wear the LSUC pin when speaking to law students and young lawyers. When they ask what it is, I will tell them, “Time was, there existed the oldest professional self-regulating body in North America. Called The Law Society of Upper Canada, it was recognized by statute in 1797, ‘for the purpose of securing to the province and the profession a learned and honorable body, to assist their fellow subjects as occasion may require, and to support and maintain the constitution.’”