Ontario’s Law Society repeals “anti-free speech” Statement of Principles

Lawyers opposing the statement called it an infringement on their fundamental right to free speech and claimed that it was ideologically biased.

Cosmin Dzsurdzsa Montreal QC

This morning the Law Society of Ontario convened to repeal the so-called “Statement of Principles.”

The original Statement of Principles was introduced by the society in 2018 which required practicing lawyers in the province “to create and abide by an individual Statement of Principles that acknowledges your obligation to promote equality, diversity and inclusion…”

The statement was part of the society’s greater “Equality, Diversity and Inclusion” initiative which sought to combat apparent racism and discrimination within the profession.

Lawyers opposing the statement called it an infringement on their fundamental right to free speech and claimed that it was ideologically biased. On the other hand, supporters argued that it was necessary to uphold Canadian human rights laws and promote equality in the profession.

“The SOP was not only compelled speech but an ideological litmus test for the practice of law. It required all lawyers and paralegals to  “adopt” and “abide by” a statement that acknowledged obligations that do not exist – namely, to “promote” progressive values including equality of outcome,” said Queen’s University Professor of Law Bruce Pardy.

Earlier this year, a collective of 23 practicing lawyers and paralegals banded together to form “StopSOP,” with the sole purpose of repealing the statement and ensuring that the society “gets out of the business of controlling the thoughts and speech of its members.”

“The SOP requirement threatened the independence of lawyers. It infringed upon their right to think and speak for themselves. Instead of focusing on its regulatory mandate to oversee competence, the Law Society took upon itself the role of supervising the political attitudes of its licensees,” echoed Pardy.

The group was able to successfully rally lawyers across the province to elect 22 out of 23 candidates to the Law Society’s bench.

On September 11, a majority of benchers successfully repealed the statement.

“Convocation approved a motion to repeal the Law Society of Ontario’s “Statement of Principles” (SOP) requirement by a vote of 28 to 20,” wrote a statement sent to The Post Millennial by lawyer and bencher, D. Jared Brown.

Several lawyers took to Twitter to speak out against the decision and to lament the statement’s repeal. One lawyer, Anthony N. Morgan suggested that the struggle was a racial conflict between white and racialized members of the profession.

“The repeal of the SOP is a victory for freedom of thought and speech, for the rule of law, for the independence of lawyers and paralegals and for the future of the Law Society. However, the SOP is just one symptom of the Law Society’s ever-expanding mission, sprawling bureaucracy and ballooning budgetary expenditures,” said Professor Pardy.

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