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Ontario lawyers vote to stop compelled speech

In December 2016, the LSO required all licensees to “create and abide by an individual Statement of Principles that acknowledges your obligation to promote equality, diversity and inclusion generally, and in your behaviour towards colleagues, employees, clients and the public.”

This article was published more than 1 year ago, information might not be accurate.

Eugene Fernandes Montreal, QC

StopSOP candidates won 55% of the seats on Ontario’s legal governing body, the Law Society of Ontario (LSO), after the election results were released earlier today. All 22 candidates, who ran as a slate, oppose the controversial Statement of Principles which the LSO brought in a few years ago.

In December 2016, the LSO required all licensees to “create and abide by an individual Statement of Principles that acknowledges your obligation to promote equality, diversity and inclusion generally, and in your behaviour towards colleagues, employees, clients, and the public.”

Critics argued that compelling individuals to uphold prescribed personal values went too far and infringed on Charter freedoms. As a result, a slate of candidates ran to stop the Statement of Principles.

StopSOP in a press release said that the requirement “compels speech, infringes freedom of thought and conscience, and imposes a political litmus test for the practice of law in Ontario.” Now, thanks to their recent win, StopSOP’s “newly elected Benchers will get to work to repeal the SOP” and will work with other Benchers to “rein in the Law Society’s ever-expanding mission, bureaucracy and ballooning budgetary expenditures,” according to a press release

New Benchers include D. Jared Brown, an everyday litigator who came to public attention in 2016 when he backed up Dr. Jordan Peterson’s legal views on Bill C-16. The bill ostensibly protected people from discrimination on the basis of gender identity and gender expression. Brown later went on to testify against that bill in front of a Senate committee for its threat to freedom of expression.

In an email to The Post Millennial, Brown said that the StopSOP group was gratified to have won.

“The profession has clearly voted in favour of freedom of expression, thought and conscience. We believe the result is consistent with the public interest that lawyers remain independent in a free society. Any initiative of the legal regulator, including diversity initiatives, should be consistent with liberal democratic principles. The compelled speech Statement of Principles is not.”

30% of eligible lawyers and 17% of paralegals voted in this year’s election.

The Bencher-elects will meet on May 23, 2019 for Convocation.

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Eugene Fernandes
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