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Alberta Law Society embraces politically correct cancel culture

Faced with baseless NDP claims about a "racist" Aboriginal scholar and lawyer who represents people harmed by residential schools, Jason Kenney’s UCP government folded like a cheap tent.

John Carpay Calgary AB

The Law Society of Alberta has jumped on the bandwagon of cancel culture in its politically correct embrace of "equity, diversity and inclusion." Without warning on June 22, 2020, the gatekeeper that controls access to the legal profession informed northern Alberta lawyer Leighton Grey that he had been removed from the Adjudicator Pool of lawyers who review disciplinary complaints. His crime was having publicly expressed libertarian political opinions on various issues of the day, including Black Lives Matter.

Mr. Grey has an impressive list of legal and community achievements. His law practice includes criminal law, child welfare proceedings, personal injury, residential school claims, and other forms of civil litigation. He serves on the Board of Directors of the Alberta Civil Trial Lawyers Association. Mr. Grey, a Status Indian, was the recipient of the Government of Canada Legal Studies for Aboriginal People Scholarship from 1989 to 1992.

He was appointed as Queen's Counsel in 2010. He received his certification in the Harvard University Model of Interest-Based Mediation through the University of Windsor School of Law in 2011. He was a recipient of the Stars of Alberta Volunteer Award in 2013, and the Access to Justice Award for his work with the Legal Aid Society of Alberta in 2015. In 2019, he received the Gary J. Biggs Champion of Justice award from the Alberta Civil Trial Lawyers Association. In 2020, he was nominated by his peers to be recognized as one Canadian Lawyer Magazine’s 25 Most Influential Lawyers. A hockey skills coach and mentor, Leighton is the founder and president of the Lakeland Sports and Learning Academy, a non-profit organization that creates and delivers athletic programs to youth in Cold Lake and surrounding area.

In April of 2020, Mr. Grey was appointed to a three-year term on the Provincial Court Nominating Committee. Consistent with his libertarian philosophy, he stated "I shall consider it my mission to help select the most qualified candidates, regardless of their race, gender, age, religion, sexual orientation or political affiliation… In short, I pledge to have no regard for identity politics of any kind. Lady Justice does wear a blindfold after all." One could only wish that more people in positions of authority were like Mr. Grey, believing in merit rather than quotas.

Mr. Grey has written numerous scholarly articles on a wide range of topics: Aboriginal rights; policing on reserves; privacy law; law governing impaired driving; Aboriginal incarceration rates; censorship; and the history of gun control in Canada. His eclectic knowledge extends to the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, who escaped from Nazi Germany.

None of this matters to the social justice warriors who dominate the ranks of the CBC and the NDP.

Ignoring Mr. Grey’s successful legal career, extensive community contributions and scholarly writings, activists pounced on the lawyer’s public criticism of Black Lives Matter, a radical neo-Marxist group with links to anti-Semitism. The CBC dutifully called in its "experts" (left-wing advocates) to denounce Mr. Grey as "racist" and "backward" (Isaac Saney) and "extreme" (Bernie Farber). Alberta’s NDP Opposition Leader Rachel Notley, who has publicly accused Catholics of condoning rape within marriage, denounced Mr. Grey on her Facebook page as a "racist, sexist, anti-Semitic individual."

As always, these social justice warriors fixate on one or two politically incorrect statements, make no effort to refute or even consider arguments that have been put forward, and then proceed straight to name-calling. With the name-calling come demands that an individual be removed from whatever position she or he may hold. This tactic is often spectacularly effective, but only because we allow it to be effective. A better approach is to ask social justice warriors to use facts, logic and reason to actually explain what is wrong with the argument or opinion that they feel so outraged about. This they will not do. Or perhaps they are simply unable to do it.

Faced with baseless NDP claims about a "racist" Aboriginal scholar and lawyer who represents people harmed by residential schools, Jason Kenney’s UCP (United Conservative Party) government folded like a cheap tent. They pressured Mr. Grey to resign from the Provincial Court Nominating Committee. Sadly, he did.

I’ve come to expect this kind of bullying behaviour from left-wing advocates like the NDP and CBC. I’ve also come to see Jason Kenney as a dangerous authoritarian, based on his government’s Bills 10 and 24. Neither he nor the UCP Government can be trusted to stand up for free speech or other constitutional freedoms.

In contrast to the NDP, CBC and UCP, the Law Society of Alberta should rise above cancel culture. As a government body to which the Charter applies, the Law Society should respect the freedom of expression of all people, including the lawyers who must finance this organization with compulsory membership dues.

Yet the Law Society made no effort to hide its nakedly political motivation in removing Mr. Grey from the Adjudicator Pool, stating it was because of "recent media coverage, as well as [his] decision to resign from the Provincial Court Nomination Committee."

The Law Society has no business policing the speech of its members, or imposing consequences on lawyers who reject left-wing orthodoxy. The Law Society owes Mr. Grey an apology, and should reverse its decision to pander to cancel culture.

Lawyer John Carpay is president of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms.

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