SOP = Statement of Principles
Oct 18 2019 Tweet by CABL (Canadian Association of Black Lawyers) on Justice Cromwell expressing disappointment in the attack on the SOP added Oct 19, 2019:
Snap above, added July 16, 2019, from https://twitter.com/LouisCentury
Cartoon by Rob Rogers
Snaps of tweets below were taken June 29, 2019:
Photo of Trisha Lewis (read her excellent piece published in Globe and Mail below)
Photo above of Murray Klippenstein, Ernst’s lead lawyer who suddenly quit her case via email on August 26, 2018, blaming “some pretty substantial changes in the political climate in the legal profession in Ontario” and Ernst for no longer having faith in Canada’s legal system (even though he warned her before taking on the case that she would not see justice because of how inaccessible and unfair the system is for ordinary Canadians).
Murray Klippenstein email to Ernst, August 26, 2018:
“Over the last while there have been some pretty substantial changes in the political climate in the legal profession in Ontario, which I have concluded, after a long period of thought, are not conducive to, or compatible with, the operation of a law firm such as the one I have been operating for the last two decades. This is not the occasion for me to get into details….”
Why the hell not? Imagine Ernst’s shock and horror to now discover, ten months later via the media, Klippenstein’s real reason for quitting!
Snaps of tweets below were taken June 28, 2019:
Snaps of tweets below were taken June 27, 2019:
Tweets copied below from June 28, 2019:
Gerald Chan @Gerald_Chan_law Partner
Some reflections on the SOP debate at Convocation yesterday. Before the debate, I heard the objections to the SOP being made on the basis of “compelled speech”. (1/7)
But yesterday, I heard most of the Stop SOP slate voting against a voluntary SOP (with Convocation keeping track of the number of licensees who choose to create one). (2/7)
I heard arguments with little connection to compelled speech—including denials of system racism, which fly in the face of evidence the SCC has repeatedly recognized. (3/7)
I heard a rejection of the notion that the Law Society’s public interest mandate includes achieving equality, diversity and inclusion. That ignores what the SCC said as recently as TWU (“A diverse bar is more responsive to the needs of the public it serves.”). (4/7)
Finally, I heard a painful rejection of the voices of racialized lawyers, who were told that they were the ones who didn’t listen enough to the rest of the profession. (5/7)
It wasn’t all bad. Many Benchers spoke eloquently in favour of equality, diversity and inclusion and advocated tirelessly for the preservation of the SOP in some form. (6/7)
Those Benchers understand that the Law Society should stand up for certain fundamental values, including access to justice and equality, diversity and inclusion. That’s what it means to serve the public interest. (7/7)
Andrea Girones ⚖️ @AndreaGirones Replying to @Gerald_Chan_law @atrishalewis
Sounds like a really sad day for our profession
Vanessa MacDonnell @vanessa_macd Replying to @Gerald_Chan_law
I know most folks are saying we are no further ahead, but I’m not sure I agree. The votes show that there is not a majority for abolishing the SOP. This is positive. There is also not (currently) a majority on a voluntary SOP. Also positive.
Louis Century @LouisCentury Retweeted Joshua Sealy-Harrington
And thanks @JoshuaSealy for this excellent thread taking us through the many logical fallacies that characterized the Stop SOP submissions:
Joshua Sealy-Harrington @JoshuaSealy Blackademic | JSD student @ColumbiaLaw researching law/identity/sexuality | Fmr Law Clerk @SCC_eng & Litigator @BlakesLaw | JD @UCalgaryLaw & BSc @UBCMath
Joshua Sealy-Harrington @JoshuaSealy
To anyone doubting the need for more Critical Race Theory in Canada, the anti-SOP submissions are a clinic of uncritical and conservative race rhetoric:
-Acknowledging racism exists means everyone white is racist
-Acknowledging racism exists is overly political
-Acknowledging racism exists is “political correctness”
-Acknowledging racism exists victimizes racial minorities
-We should be “colourblind”
-We should value shared experience, not lived experience
-We should listen to white people more
-Racism is individual and intentional, not systemic
-Calling someone racist is worse than someone being racist
-Racial minorities are actually treated better, not worse, than white people
-But what about reverse racism?
-But what about “merit”?
-And everyone’s favourite: If you value diversity, what about diversity of thought?
Today’s SOP hearing was a depressing reflection of the state of racial discourse in Canada.
At least the SOP debate unearthed how woeful Canadian race discourse is. We don’t talk about race. And we can’t even agree on the most modest measures to address racism.
There is so much work to be done.
End of conversation
Solomon McKenzie @S0LMcK Replying to @JoshuaSealy
Excellent list- also, look how diverse and inclusive we are now! How can there possibly be racism if there are racialized folks in this room?
Hammer Time @Fammertime Replying to @JoshuaSealy
If the general population can have misperceptions about societal realities due to anecdotal experiences, memorable events, vivid scenarios, and moralistic narratives; there is no reason to think black people can’t be wrong about the prevalence of racism.
Hammer Time @Fammertime
I understand that our societies past misdeeds makes us rather sensitive/ responsive t to accusations of present discrimination but we have to loose this pretense that any accusation by a minority is Holy Writ !
June 27, 2019: Gerald Chan @Gerald_Chan_law
Etienne Esquega raising the issue of whether Murray Klippenstein and Ryan Alford are conflicted out of voting on the Statement of Principles given that they have pending litigation against the Law Society on this exact issue.
Diversity debate drags on at Law Society of Ontario as lawyers wrangle over key initiative by Jacques Gallant, June 27, 2019, Toronto Star
After about nine hours of debate Thursday, the Law Society of Ontario is no closer to deciding the fate of one of its key diversity initiatives.
At issue is the “statement of principles” (SOP), a requirement from the legal regulator that every lawyer and paralegal adopt a statement (which they can write themselves) that acknowledges their “obligation to promote equality, diversity and inclusion.”
The requirement was one of 13 recommendations made in 2016 by the law society’s working group on challenges faced by racialized licensees, in a bid to tackle what it found was systemic racism in the legal profession.
The requirement quickly drew the ire of some lawyers, who argued the requirement for such a statement is compelled speech and unconstitutional.
That criticism spilled over into this year’s law society board of directors’ election, in which the slate, known as StopSOP, was victorious in April, taking 22 of the 40 lawyer seats on the board. The slate campaigned on striking down the statement of principles.
Thursday’s law society board meeting kicked off with a motion by StopSOP board member Murray Klippenstein to repeal the statement of principles.
Law Society report proposes changes to combat systemic racism
Law Society votes to keep requirement lawyers adopt statement of principles on diversity
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“I recall the shock I felt, the disbelief when I saw I was going to be compelled, coerced, by force of law to publicly promulgate principles that someone else had dictated to me,” Klippenstein said at the meeting.
On the table was also a motion from board member Joe Groia to amend Klippenstein’s motion to encourage lawyers and paralegals to voluntarily adopt a statement of principles.
Groia had proposed to the previous board in 2017 that licensees be allowed an exemption if they had a “conscientious objection” to the requirement. His proposal failed in a 38-16 vote.
“Today, we should be really focused on what we will do tomorrow to encourage equity, diversity and inclusion,” Groia told the board Thursday.
But, after hours of wrangling over motions and amendments (some were voted down, rulings appealed, motions withdrawn, some votes resulting in ties), the meeting ended with effectively both motions still on the table.
(Aside from the 40 lawyer seats, there are also five paralegal seats and eight lay benchers appointed by the provincial government.)
Treasurer Malcolm Mercer, the elected head of the organization who was re-elected to a second term earlier in the morning, decided to adjourn the meeting around 6:30 p.m. and push the matter over to a special session in July.
That means that, for now, the statement of principles requirement remains mandatory.
“What the public should recognize is that this question is one that has fundamentally divided convocation (the board) and we worked long and hard to find a way through and another day we will find a way through,” Mercer told the Star afterward, when asked what kind of message Thursday’s meeting could send the public about the legal profession’s ability to govern itself.
The working group that recommended the statement of principles requirement spent four years studying the challenges faced by racialized licensees and holding consultations, concluding that the challenges “are both longstanding and significant.”
Atrisha Lewis, a new board member and vocal supporter of the statement of principles, told the board Thursday that combatting racism within the profession and ensuring that there’s a diverse bar is important to the public interest.
“To those who think this is about freedom of expression, don’t be fooled,” Lewis told the board. “This is about denying the existence of racism.”
BRILLIANT READ! Confusing Equality with Tyranny: Repealing the Statement of Principles by Joshua-Sealy-Harrington, June 26, 2019, ABlawg
Tomorrow, the Law Society of Ontario will vote on a motion to repeal the Statement of Principles (SOP) requirement for Ontario lawyers and paralegals. Many lawyers opposed to the requirement were recently elected to the Law Society’s governing body. But their opposition is, for the most part, disingenuous — pro speech in form, but anti-diversity in substance.
As background, the SOP requirement asks every Ontario lawyer and paralegal to write an annual statement acknowledging their existing legal obligations relating to equality. It seeks to promote reflection on racism in the legal profession. The statement is private. It is never disclosed to, or scrutinized by, the Law Society. Other than acknowledging one’s existing legal obligations, the statement’s content is entirely up to the author. And the Law Society has never indicated that any lawyers or paralegals would be sanctioned for failing to complete their SOP. It is a modest regulatory requirement.
Despite its modesty, however, the SOP has received hyperbolic resistance. There have been requests of accommodation for those who would conscientiously object to giving any thought to racism (stretching the meaning of “conscience”). Multiple scathing op-eds have been penned, actually likening moderate Canadian equality promotion to oppressive regimes in North Korea, Nazi Germany, and Communist Russia. There is an ongoing legal application challenging the SOP requirement’s constitutionality (since annual private journal entries purportedly compromise Canadian public discourse). And, now, there is a motion to repeal the SOP requirement.
Many SOP opponents claim that their opposition has nothing to do with equality, and everything to do with free speech. But this is, largely, a smokescreen. They say nothing about the Law Society’s regulation of legal advertising, for example. And lawyers must pledge an oath to join the profession. When a public state-drafted oath demanding that licensees “champion” the “rule of law” goes virtually unchallenged for over a century and a private self-drafted journal entry alluding to “diversity” inspires instant fury, free speech rings hollow. Indeed, one must be wilfully blind to characterize this debate as having nothing to do with diversity. It is the content, not compulsion, of the SOP that is its primary controversy.
How can we know this? Because SOP opponents have told us, repeatedly. They claim that diversity is vacuous and a misguided trend. They assert that racial minorities are simply disinterested in the law. They consider “systemic racism” and “white privilege” a myth. And they think equality promotion is tantamount to anti-Semitism. Perhaps most alarmingly, one recently elected anti-SOP bencher even tweeted — and then deleted— that racial minorities are underrepresented in law, “in large part”, because they lack “a culture of learning.” This admitted contempt for equality, and open admission of racist beliefs, illustrates that the material reason for much of this forceful opposition is precisely the rationale for the SOP’s imposition: insufficient awareness of systemic discrimination in Canadian legal practice, which has been detailed time and time and time and time again. The protest against the SOP, ironically, magnifies its purpose. SOP proponents are not “making everything about race” (as that recently elected bencher claimed); rather, many SOP opponents seem convinced that nothing is about race.
ANOTHER BRILLIANT READ! Repealing Ontario lawyers’ statement of principles is not a principled stand by Atrisha Lewis, June 12, 2019, The Globe and Mail
Atrisha Lewis a bencher of the Law Society of Ontario. She is a commercial litigator at McCarthy Tétrault LLP.
After recommendations adopted by the Ontario Law Society in 2016, lawyers and paralegals are required to create and abide by an individual statement of principles that acknowledges their obligation to promote equality, diversity and inclusion generally and in their behaviour toward colleagues, employees, clients and the public. It is a private requirement from the regulating body of lawyers in the province: Members are not mandated to share their statement with the Law Society, but they must confirm that they have one.
And yet, somehow, this obligation is offensive to some. On May 1, a slate of 22 lawyers was elected to the Law Society as members of its board of directors – “benchers,” in our parlance – with a specific mandate to repeal the statement of principles requirement, arguing publicly that the mandate is a threat to freedom of expression.
This argument, however, is unpersuasive and selective. And come June 27, when the Law Society of Ontario votes to repeal, I will be one of the 53 benchers who will vote to defend the statement of principles.
Lawyers and paralegals already have obligations under our Rules of Professional Conduct, which confer a special responsibility to recognize the diversity of the Ontario community and to respect human rights. And yet, no one is commencing court cases or running social-media campaigns because lawyers must swear an oath upon their call to the bar, bow to judges or wear robes. And there is a certain hypocrisy among those who oppose the statement of principles on the grounds of freedom of expression, while seeming to simultaneously accept restrictions on expression in other contexts. Some, for instance, supported the Trinity Western University’s proposed covenant, which includes a promise to abstain from “sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman,” when the Law Society ultimately declined to accredit Trinity Western’s proposed law school.
But the most dangerous argument is the denial that racism exists within the legal profession. Some anti-statement members have said that most lawyers “do not see colour,” a suggestion that ignores the data collected by the Law Society of Ontario. Racialized lawyers are underrepresented in the legal profession and as law firm partners, and are overrepresented as solo practitioners. Seldom do leading lawyer rankings profile racialized lawyers. Forty per cent of racialized licensees identified their racial/ethnic identity as a barrier into practice, compared with 3 per cent of non-racialized licensees.
The denial of the existence of racism gaslights the lived experiences of racialized lawyers such as myself. It also denies the stories shared during the Law Society’s extensive consultation among lawyers and paralegals and the efforts of a working group around discrimination in the profession before the statement of principles requirement was passed.
The statement does encourage “better representation of racialized licensees, in proportion to the representation in the Ontario population,” prompting an argument voiced by elected bencher Murray Klippenstein in the online magazine Quillette: “If the proportion of some skin colours and ethnicities is too low, then the proportion of others must be too high. And while the authors of these rules no doubt would be quick to deny this plain corollary, the arithmetic truth is plain as a matter of simple logic. Without having the nerve to say so directly, the Law Society is telling us that there are, in effect, too many white Jewish lawyers – for there is no single group that has had more success, on a per capita basis, in gaining representation in the Ontario legal market.”
But the plain “arithmetic truth” Mr. Klippenstein fails to acknowledge is that if all races and ethnicities are equal in terms of talent, skill and ambition, the underrepresentation of some must be on account of something. That something is systemic discrimination, expressed in unconscious bias, microaggressions, or the fundamental apprenticeship model of lawyer training, which can be warped when some lawyers prefer to mentor those who look like them. Moreover, the goal of the statement of principles is to address discrimination – not to suggest that the proportion of other ethnicities is too high.
Those opposing the statement requirement have also not offered up another plan to address discrimination. The Law Society is required to regulate in the public interest, after all, and it is certainly in the public interest that lawyers and paralegals take a moment at least once a year to reflect on their obligations to the public at large.
It is a privilege to be a lawyer. This privilege comes with responsibility. I will be voting in favour of the statement of principles – and I hope my fellow benchers will follow suit.
How Social Justice Ideologues Hijacked a Legal Regulator by Murray Klippenstein with Bruce Pardy, February 11, 2019, Quillette.com
I have been a Toronto-based litigation lawyer for 30 years. My politics are progressive and strongly egalitarian. About two decades ago, I started my own law firm, specifically so that I could serve disadvantaged individuals and communities. I have sued governments and large corporations, often on a pro bono basis. I have acted for Indigenous clients—including the family of Dudley George, an Ojibway man who was shot and killed by police in 1995 at Ipperwash Provincial Park in Ontario. I have represented a regional Cree First Nations tribal council on the James Bay coast for more than 25 years, and for eight years a group of indigenous Mayan women in an ongoing claim against a Canadian international mining company for alleged rape and murder at its facility in Guatemala. I act in a class-action for almost a thousand people who claim to have been wrongfully mass-arrested by Toronto Police at the 2010 G20 Summit. I am a recipient of the Diane Martin Medal For Social Justice Through Law, the Human Rights Award from the Ontario Federation of Labour, and the Champion of Justice Award from Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto. In 2014, and again in 2015, Canadian Lawyer Magazine put me on its national Top-25-Most-Influential list because of my advocacy on behalf of those seeking access to justice. [Why exclude the Ernst vs Encana lawsuit? ]
I recite all this not to blow my own horn, but rather in the hope that my progressive credentials may convince otherwise skeptical readers to take seriously the arguments that follow. For all of my adult life, I have worked to advance social justice. Now I am horrified by what my own professional regulator is doing in the name of that same cause.
In Canada, the legal profession is regulated provincially. Seven years ago, the Law Society of Ontario (which then was still called the Law Society of Upper Canada) created a working group to address “challenges faced by racialized licensees” in Ontario’s legal profession. The working group reported in 2016 that it had discovered “systemic racism” in the profession. While no one will dispute that elements of racism can be found in parts of Canadian society, the collected survey data did not support the conclusion that racism in my profession is widespread and serious. Nevertheless, in December, 2016, Convocation (the legislative body that governs the Law Society) adopted a set of 13 recommendations on the topic. Times being what they are, no one felt comfortable putting the brakes on this process, despite misgivings. The idea that racism was rampant, and that heavy-handed measures were required to address it, took on a life of its own.
One of the listed recommendations was that the Law Society should “require every licensee to adopt and to abide by a statement of principles acknowledging their obligation to promote equality, diversity and inclusion generally, and in their behaviour towards colleagues, employees, clients and the public.” When the Law Society announced this new requirement the following September, its advisory also stated that we Ontario lawyers should “demonstrate a personal valuing” of these principles.
Despite the fact that I always have been a strong advocate for “equality,” this development left me flabbergasted: Our regulator was demanding that lawyers and paralegals draft and then obey a set of specific political ideas—both in their personal and professional lives—as a condition of their license.
Failure to prepare a personal statement of principles in keeping with the Law Society’s directive would likely result (after a short reprieve for re-education) in sanctions, such as an administrative suspension. (The Law Society has not formally announced what the penalty will be, except to say that “progressive measures” would be applied.) Lawyers who are suspended are not permitted to practice law. Their refusal to embrace these values would put their livelihood in peril. The Law Society was prescribing, effectively with the force of law, what to say and what to think. I never imagined that I would ever see such a thing in Canada.
I was raised a devout Mennonite. Most of my ancestors settled on the Canadian prairies in the 1870s, having fled religious persecution in Russia. Some chose to stay in that country, but that did not end well. During the Russian Revolution, and in the civil war that followed, Mennonite villages were attacked in waves by the Red Army, the White Army, and hordes of peasant anarchist brigands bent on pillage and rape. Those who survived eventually were subjected to the anti-religious scourges of Stalin, with many Mennonites ending up imprisoned or executed. Most of the villages eventually were destroyed.
My grandmother left Russia in the early 1920s as a war refugee, coming to Canada when she was 14. I spent my summers with her on the farm and sometimes asked about her time in Russia. She always refused to discuss it. I think she saw some terrible things.
My family members were not the ultra-conservative Mennonites of the type you see dressed in black and traveling by horse and buggy. But we were very conservative in our lifestyle. My parents, wonderful and loving people, were devout, conservative Christians. We spent countless hours in church, and my father gathered the family every day for a period of Bible reading and prayer together at home. In those prayers, my parents frequently would express thanks to God that “we live in a free country.”
As a boy, I developed a voracious appetite for reading. I did not have much access to books, but I read whatever I could get my hands on. At some point, my parents bought an encyclopedia set to use with our school work. I loved those 24 volumes, which I would open to random pages and read whatever entry I found there. Eventually, I had difficulty finding an article I hadn’t yet read.
I did not know anyone who had gone to university, except for the teachers at my small rural high school, who had gone to teachers’ college. After high school, I attended a conservative Bible school in Manitoba. There, I sometimes felt that there were parts of my belief system that didn’t make sense to me. I couldn’t talk to anyone about these thoughts since I didn’t know a single person in my life who was not at least formally a Christian or who had seemed to even consider any other way of life or thought. My curiosity eventually led me to university, where I reveled in a landscape of debate and truth-seeking. Over time, I became non-religious, although that is not something I make a point of proclaiming.
In short, I would not be the person I am without freedom of thought and expression. I will not be told what to say or what to value—especially by the regulator of what is supposed to be a body of independent lawyers. And so I have decided that I must contribute, in my little corner, in my limited way, to the defence of those freedoms. I did this knowing that taking a stand on this issue might destroy the career and law firm I had built. And it has, although it has been a disaster I have been able to manage.
[“Freedom of thought and expression” my ass! When the following cartoon by C Abel came out (published in Lethbridge Herald, March 5, 2014), Ernst was surprised and delighted – she loves cartoons and never imagined she would be in one. Her delight was quickly killed. After sending the cartoon to her legal team, Klippenstein instructed Ernst not to post it or distribute it, not even with it public, published in the media. (Ernst uploaded the cartoon to her website in June 2019 to add to this post)
Speaking of “freedom of thought and expression,” this is how Ernst sees the “justice” system after 12 years – so far – of incredible expense, stress, stagnation, dishonesty and disrespect:
“vile demented inefficient greedy racist misogynistic old-white-man legal system”
(“inefficient” added August 2, 2019)
Compelling speech is unconscionable regardless of the principles a person is made to parrot. Today, we are being told to promote “equality, diversity and inclusion.” But once this line has been crossed, the content doesn’t matter. And tomorrow, we might be asked to pledge allegiance to some other ideological doctrine.
I believe in treating people as equals. I have always tried to be colour-blind. That does not mean ignoring a person’s background or disrespecting it. It can mean trying to help to offset any disadvantage they may have faced. But that is not what the Law Society means by “equality.” According to the new lexicon, treating people as humans of equal worth is considered unequal. Instead, they must be treated as numbers in a ledger, contributors to a quota.
To many Quillette readers, this perversion of language may not come as a surprise. I have been late to this party, and perhaps I have been naïve about how ideology has corrupted the ideal of social justice and the words we use to describe it. The Law Society’s working group declared that one of its objectives was to ensure “better representation of racialized licensees, in proportion to the representation in the Ontario population, in the professions, in all legal workplaces and at all levels of seniority.” Note the specificity of this objective. Every lawyer and paralegal is now expected to adopt and promote racial representation according to proportion in the general population “in all legal workplaces” and “at all levels of seniority”—an enforced mosaic or grid of de facto quotas in vertical and lateral compartments based, essentially, on skin colour.
But if the proportion of some skin colours and ethnicities is too low, then the proportion of others must be too high. And while the authors of these rules no doubt would be quick to deny this plain corollary, the arithmetic truth is plain as a matter of simple logic. Without having the nerve to say so directly, the Law Society is telling us that there are, in effect, too many white Jewish lawyers—for there is no single group that has had more success, on a per capita basis, in gaining representation in the Ontario legal market. (The Law Society also has determined that the same rule shall apply to “all equality-seeking groups,” but shrewdly avoided the awkward step of explaining what these are. And it may be assumed that the list of such groups will expand continually according to ideological fashion.)
As an egalitarian and progressive, I always have been favourably inclined toward “diversity and inclusion.” But I thought those ideas meant a spirit of open-mindedness and respect toward others regardless of their personal characteristics. In fact, that is the opposite of what the Law Society means and intends. In this context, “diversity and inclusion” is code for identity politics—by which we are all slotted into factions defined by appearance, ethnicity and gender (usually through “self-identification”), supposed antagonists in an altogether imaginary and endless zero-sum game of dominance and oppression.
That is a world I do not recognize. I know well that Canadian society includes many people who are disadvantaged and require help. In some cases, these disadvantages do indeed have some connection to group identity. I have dedicated my career to such causes. That does not mean that we are defined by our ethnicities or that we are locked in a group-on-group struggle for power.
When it became clear that the diversity faction had captured my profession’s regulators, I felt I had no choice. My first step was to tell the Law Society to, in effect, go to hell. I did so in a long letter, to which I have not yet received a reply. The second step was to refuse to comply with the new requirement. (The Law Society announced that there would be penalties for such failure, though not during the first year—so, thus far, I still have my license.) The third was to wind down my law firm, because I no longer feel that my legal practice is viable in this climate. The fourth was to join in a court challenge to the compulsory Statement of Principles, which is ongoing. Finally, I have joined a group of other lawyers and paralegals who oppose the Statement of Principles and who are organizing a campaign in the upcoming Law Society elections in April. In a surprising development, I will be running for “Bencher” (the somewhat quaint term used to describe the Law Society’s directors), with the goal of changing the Law Society from the inside.
I realized that all of these steps would have reputational consequences for my firm. My opposition to the new rules would create serious internal conflict with my younger associates, who might either agree with the new policy or seek to avoid the notoriety associated with opposing it. My conflict with the Law Society also would become known to my clients, my professional contacts, potential recruits who are still in law school, and my wider circle of progressive friends and supporters. I feared that the principled nature of my stance would be lost on many of these people, who would simply see my efforts as being aimed at undermining the goals of “equality, diversity and inclusion.” Given all this, I believed that I had no choice but to wind down the firm.
Had I tried to keep the firm going, I would face years of increasingly bewildering and dubious claims based on race, sex and other forms of “identity,” all of which could be based on nothing more than “self-identification,” and all of which would now have the official imprimatur of the Law Society. As noted, the required Statement of Principles is just one of 13 measures adopted by the Law Society designed to force identity politics on law firms. Instead of being encouraged to promote an ethos of high professional competence, hard work and teamwork, I would be called on to play the role of full-time equity officer, conscripted to implement an ideology and a system I considered to be intellectually and morally wrong, not to mention, in some ways, simply ridiculous.
I have now largely completed the wind-down of my firm.
[Yet Klippenstein continued then to withhold from Ernst her website and access to it, and still did not tell her his real reason for quitting her lawsuit. He yammers publicly on about why he wants to keep racism intact, but will not appropriately close a case he quit and ignores correspondence from his client?]
My associates have formally transferred to other firms, and my firm now consists only of me. I have had a good run, and I can, with sacrifice and deep regret, say goodbye to both the business I built and the vision I had for the remainder of my career. Unlike me, unfortunately, most younger lawyers and paralegals have no realistic option for resisting the Law Society’s authoritarianism. As the new rules make plain, they will increasingly be judged more on the basis of ideology, skin colour and sex chromosomes than by their competence, skills, effort and professional contributions. That is not a career that I would wish upon anyone—including those individuals who are nominally considered as potential beneficiaries of these new rules
My constitutional challenge to the Law Society’s rules—which I have undertaken with law professor Ryan Alford of Lakehead University, and with the support of the Canadian Constitution Foundation—argues that the Statement of Principles abridges freedom of speech, thought and conscience, as such freedoms are guaranteed in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (which is part of our Constitution).
The case may sound like an easy case to win, but unfortunately it isn’t. The Canadian approach to judicial review is messy and unpredictable. Our resilient team of lawyers, headed by lead counsel Asher Honickman, has difficult work ahead. But we have found a number of supporters, and we invite more to join our cause.
In the coming Bencher elections, I will campaign with a diverse group of lawyers and paralegals, organized collectively as StopSOP, and led by London, Ont.-based lawyer Lisa Bildy. We hope to elect enough like-minded candidates to reverse the policy inside Convocation, or at least begin to turn the ship around. We seek to return the Law Society to its proper role as a regulator of professional competence rather than an activist body dictating political values and championing fashionable ideological causes.
It’s an uphill battle. Social justice mantras, in their newly mutated form, are everywhere. “Diversity and Inclusion” has taken on the character of an unquestionable orthodoxy within governments, regulators, universities, corporations, schools, unions, political parties, advocacy groups and the media—not only in Ontario but across North America, Europe and beyond. Yet despite their co-option by clannish ideologues, these institutions are supposed to serve the broad citizenry. They belong to the people. Though they have been infiltrated by social justice mobs, there is no reason why we cannot reverse the process.
The directors of the Law Society are democratically elected—which offers us some hope and opportunity. This pushback has to start somewhere. If lawyers, of all people, cannot defend themselves against tyranny, then what use are we to anyone?
Murray Klippenstein is a litigation lawyer based in Toronto, Canada.
Bruce Pardy is Professor of Law at Queen’s University. You can follow him on Twitter at @PardyBruce
OPEN LETTER TO THE TREASURER AND BENCHERS OF THE [Ontario] LAW SOCIETY by Murray Klippenstein, November 2, 2017
… I suppose I should maybe apologize for the grim and somewhat forced jocularity of that last comment. I guess that that is my attempt at what I believe is known as “gallows humour”. As you can tell, I’m not so good at humour.
Watch this, it’s great humour (remember, judges are hatched from lawyers, including racist misogynistic ones):
Refer also to:
Harper government appoints two far right law profs as judges to Ontario courts; One is Grant Huscroft, reportedly “anti-Charter [of Rights] and basically, anti-equality rights”
This post is for Robin.