October 26, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — The Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC) is mandating that its members abide by strict new reporting requirements in the name of promoting “diversity” and “inclusivity.”
Specifically, the society is ordering all of its licensed lawyers and paralegals in Ontario to prepare a so-called “Statement of Principles” wherein they demonstrate their “obligation to promote equality, diversity and inclusion generally, and in their behavior towards colleagues, employees, clients and the public.”
The move is one of a number of recommendations the organization is implementing based on a report it started in 2012, investigating claims of “systemic racism” in the legal profession. The Law Society expects compliance as members file their 2017 annual reports.
Those who support the measure see it as a way of breaking down barriers.
“We want to turn the page and be a profession that truly reflects the population of the province and makes sure that legal workplaces are inclusive of all Ontarians,” said LSUC treasurer Paul Schabas in an interview with The Lawyer’s Daily website.
Schabas also explains why he thinks the society’s members should fully embrace the new requirements:
“This is about doing the right thing for everybody. It’s also doing the right thing for them for business because I think this is something that the business community and the broader population are all recognizing that it’s important for us to remain a progressive, inclusive society.”
Not everyone sees it that way, however, with some critics describing the requirements as “Orwellian” and even dictatorial.
Dr. Jordan Peterson, a psychology professor at the University of Toronto and an outspoken free speech advocate, believes the LSUC is taking an “unprecedented” step in requiring its members to “give up their right to private political and philosophical thought and to their own principles, accepting as alternatives the new ethical trinity of equality, diversity and inclusion (defined solely by race, sex, sexual identity, and ethnicity).”
In a statement on his website, Dr. Peterson writes that, in his opinion, what the Law Society is doing might be, perhaps, unconstitutional, and suggests individuals may feel coerced into submission.
“Individual lawyers,” he said, “facing this demand may feel compelled to comply, as a consequence of the potential negative consequences of failure to comply (including potential loss of reputation, license and livelihood).”
Peterson is asking practicing legal professionals to communicate their concerns, in private, via a submission form on his website. He also hopes to expose what he calls the “dangers” in the LSUC’s new demands with a lengthy interview he posted on his YouTube channel.
In the video, he speaks with Jared Brown, a practicing lawyer, and Bruce Pardy, who is a professor of Law at Queen’s University (he also happens to be member of the LSUC). Both men appeared with Peterson before a Senate committee earlier this year in Ottawa, warning against the “compelled speech” they said would come about under the radical transgender rights legislation known as Bill C-16.
Sounding the alarm
Pardy, in particular, has been busy voicing his objections to the Law Society’s latest requirements in the mainstream media. In addition to his online critique with Dr. Peterson, the professor was recently interviewed by CBC Radio, he also wrote a column in the National Post, saying the mandatory policy “crosses a line that should not be crossed.”
“My first instinct was to check my passport,” he stated. “Was I still in Canada, or had someone whisked me away to North Korea, where people must say what officials want to hear?”
Pardy thinks this new “Statement of Principles” is flawed, submitting that “forced speech” is a serious violation of the rights every Canadian is supposed to have protected under section 2(b) in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms:
In free countries, law governs actions rather than expressions of beliefs. People can be required to obey the speed limit and pay taxes, but they may not be compelled to declare that the speed limits are properly set or that taxes are a good thing. The Supreme Court of Canada has said that forcing someone to express opinions that they do not have “is totalitarian and as such alien to the tradition of free nations like Canada, even for the repression of the most serious crimes.”
His sentiments are shared by a fellow professor from the law faculty at Queen’s University. Arthur Cockfield, author of Introduction to Legal Ethics, wrote in the Globe and Mail that the Law Society’s directive is spelled out in “Orwellian language” and he views it as a threat to liberty that should be challenged:
Forcing lawyers to subscribe to a particular worldview for regulatory purposes is an unacceptable intrusion into a lawyer's liberty and promotes significant harm to the public.
First, the new mandatory obligation is technically “illegal” because, under the Law Society's own rules of professional conduct, which I edited into a book, there is no such obligation to promote the values of equality, diversity and “inclusion generally” (whatever that means) – to pretty much every person who crosses a lawyer's path.
LifeSiteNews reached out to the LSUC for comment, looking for a response to the criticism and an explanation on what sanctions might be carried out against lawyers and paralegals who fail to comply with the new guidelines. Representatives from the organization, though, did not respond before this article was published.
It’s unclear as to what specific penalties members could face if they fail to adhere to the new requirements. For the moment, the society’s website only states that those individuals “will be advised of their obligations in writing.”