Statement of Principles obligation

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Rene Larson

I have signed SOP because I believe in it.  I believe that a Statement of Principles is necessary to set out goals and develop programs for equality, diversity, inclusiveness and reconciliation in Ontario’s legal system.  LSO must encourage VOLUNTARY participation by members, and provide appropriate free CPD programming to educate all members.  Members should NOT be forced to sign the SOP if they conscientiously object.  Carrots and incentives and education should be offered, not threats, sticks, beatings and expulsions! 

 

Ryan Alford

Given the serious concerns about how the SoP infringes freedom of conscience and constitutes compelled speech, and as it could serve as a precedent for values tests that might be imposed by the government in many other contexts, this one requirement–alone among the eight EDI proposals Convocation accepted–cannot stand.  Requiring someone to say they agree with the rightness of any law, rather than merely requiring their promise to uphold it, crosses a threshold our Constitution demarcated a very long time ago.  

Every lawyer must retain the freedom to disagree with any law (or even with the Constitution) and to advocate changing it with all legal means (up to and including advocating the abolition of the monarchy or even the rule of law).  That is the essence of an independent legal profession in any free society.  

Howard Goldblatt

As a vice chair of the Task Force on Racialized Licensees, a bencher who voted on the issue and a member of this profession,  I unequivocally support this obligation.

E Patrick Shea, LSM

I support the SoP as a first step.  I do not  think that the debate over whether it is “forced speech” should dominate the Bencher campaign.  While I respect the right of those that take that position to advance their argument, it is distracting us as a profession from the work necessary to make words on paper the reality on the ground going forward.  

 

 

Jerry B. Udell

More aggressive consultation with the profession before changes are implemented;
Having Convocation deal with “real’ issues facing practitioners; and
Creating a more positive perception of lawyers;

 

Andrew Spurgeon

As a Bencher I voted to implement the Statement of Principles. It serves a positive, iterative function of self-reflection on how we interact with and treat others.  We as lawyers have a duty to abide by the Rules of Professional Conduct and the Human Rights Code, to not discriminate and to protect the rights of our fellow citizens to be free from discrimination.  We also have a duty to protect the freedoms of our fellow citizens to think, opine, believe and express themselves as they see fit.    The requirement to have a Statement of Principles while not requiring any member of the Law Society to subject the content of their own personal Statement of Principles to review strikes the right balance between these competing ideals and obligations. 

 

 

Malcolm M. Mercer

I support the Statement of Principles. While history generally shows that our society and our profession ultimately embrace minorities, progress has always been too slow whether one looks at the challenges faced by non-English speaking Europeans, Catholics and Jews in prior generations and the challenges still faced by women and by LGBTQ and racialized peoples in varying ways and degrees. And there are particular challenges now facing Indigenous and black lawyers.

The Statement of Principles allows an annual opportunity for reflection and, for those who choose to do so, an opportunity for voluntary commitment. No belief or expression is compelled although acknowledgement of existing legal obligations is required.

 

Barbara Murchie

I supported the SOP. I see it as a reminder of our obligation to ensure workplaces and professional relationships are fair and respectful. I think we’re better to lead on this issue than to wait for our own “Me Too” moment and the shame it will bring on the profession. I moved the motion to clarify the SOP as it had caused confusion in the profession. We settled on the Guidelines which clarify the requirement. Some lawyers disagree with the SOP which is their right. They see the LSO as exceeding its jurisdiction and acting in a manner that is unconstitutional. The matter is now before the courts which is the best venue for resolving this conflict.

 

Isfahan Merali

I support the Statement of Principles. I was a member of the Working Group on Racialized Licensees and support the SOP. I voted for it, and voted against the motion to roll it back in Convocation. The SOP forms part of a package of 13 interconnected recommendations that are a beginning towards a necessary culture shift in the legal profession. The SOP is comprised of a lawyer’s duties in the Rules of Professional Conduct and obligations under the Human Rights Code. The issue has been voted on, and a very large number of lawyers of reported they have complied with the obligation. The issue is now before the courts, and we must turn to the big issues that face us in the years ahead at the LSO.

 

François Baril

I support the SOP. It’s an important reminder of our professional duties to support diversity and inclusion. This was carefully deliberated by Convocation and I do not think it needs to be revisited. That said, LSO should do more to promote and explain the merits of the SOP and debunk some of the myths around it. It should unify rather than divide the profession.

 

John F. Fagan

The Law Society’s “Statement of Principles” requirement, though no doubt well-intended, is an instance of unjustified compelled speech, is without legal or regulatory foundation (“promoting diversity” is not the same thing as “not permitting discrimination”), and is, in any event, counterproductive, as far as actually helping members of traditionally excluded groups get ahead in the legal profession is concerned. I want the substantive goals of The Law Society’s overall EDI program to succeed, and not be hindered or compromised by the well-founded resentment and uproar which will continue to boil over the “Statement of Principles” requirement as long as such requirement remains on the books. I will work for the prompt repeal of this misguided requirement.

 

Robert Burd

Being a member of the Challenges Facing Racialized Licensees working group, I strongly support the SOP and the other recommendations

 

Jeff Cowan

I support it. This should no longer be an issue in 2019. Instead implementation of EDI initiatives should be the focus.

 

Etienne Esquega

I support the statement of principles. I do not understand why we as professionals cannot adopt principles that support the elimination of racism, discrimination, and barriers to access to justice. The regulator must continue to address these principles and the work as set out in the Challenges Facing Racialized Licensees: Final Report, the Working Together For Change: Strategies to Address Issues of Systemic Racism in the Legal Professions report and the Review Panel on Regulatory and Hearing Processes Affecting Indigenous People report.

 

Jonathan Rosenthal

The Statement of Principles is a very small step in the right direction. In my opinion, the lawyers who oppose this initiative do not understand our profession or our public responsibilities.

 

 

Gerard Paul Charette

SOP, although arguably well-intentioned, has led to serious disunity in the body of members. Many are insulted by the internally generated pretense that the bar is infected with ‘systemic racism’. (See the National Post website for Marni Soupcoff’s February 28th 2019 article eentitled: “Ontario’s ‘racialized law’ debate is based on bad research”. Soupcoff debunks the statistical and survey methodology used by the LSO Study Group to craft its report to Convocation). The consequent action by Convocation has only succeeded in increasing distrust and division among members: Some feel humiliated at being forced to pledge allegiance to anything on pain of discipline. Others still do not feel vindicated and are looking for more LSO intervention. (See Compliance-Based Entity Regulation, above) I will vote to eliminate SOP.

Chi-Kun Shi

I am opposed to the Statement of Principles (“SOP”) requirement and if elected will work to have it lifted. I reject such forced speech and forced thought with my heart and soul. Fundamental freedoms define us as Canadians.

For those who feel that opposition to SOP requirement is a tempest in a teapot, please consider this. Who is to decide what behavior constitutes failure to “promote” equality, diversity and inclusion (“EDI”) and thereby professional misconduct? Down that road is where we find the genesis of thought police.

I spent my childhood in Hong Kong in the 60’s, next door to China where the Chinese Cultural Revolution raged on. It was weaponized by identity politics, inciting families to disown each other, friends to betray friends, young people to murder strangers, all to cleanse anti-social ideas from the Chinese conscience. The perpetrators were possessed by a sense of self-righteousness with no room for dissent or difference. Where is the room for difference of opinion in LSO demanding that all lawyers pledge fealty to EDI? What will happen to any lawyer that questions EDI policy?

LSO’s demonstrated self-righteousness and its SOP dogma has no place in a free and democratic society.

Yavar Hameed

I support the goal of the statement of principles (“SOP”). However, as a purported response to the problems facing racialized lawyers and
licensees, I think there is more that needs to be done. The SOP does not prescribe words, but merely requires us to acknowledge our obligation to promote equality, diversity and inclusiveness generally. This is no different than the legal requirements that are already identified within the Ontario Human Rights Code and our Rules of Professional Conduct.

The SOP was the result of the recommendations from the Final Report of the Challenges Faced by Racialized Lawyers Working Group, which identified that racialized licensees face barriers in all stages of their careers. I am concerned that the SOP remains a purely a symbolic gesture and that there is no evidence that it does anything to advance equity in our profession. However, opposition to it is, in my view, a regressive, reactionary, and misplaced attack against symbolism. It has the unfortunate and counterproductive effect of entrenching institutional racism and deflecting from the more pressing issues facing our profession.

Indeed, I find it curious that those who claim opposition to the LSO
“compelling” speech through the SOP are not, instead, campaigning to end the oath to the Queen which not only actually compels speech but also, unlike the SOP, entrenches colonialism instead of dismantling it. I would urge all of my fellow candidates who oppose the SOP to, instead, commit themselves to strategically responding to the overt and insidious barriers facing equity-seeking licensees, lawyers and clients who continue to find themselves at the margins of our profession and our system of justice in Ontario and to provide a reasoned full and substantive critique of the Report of the Challenges Faced by Racialized Lawyers Working Group.

 

 

 

 

Mirilyn Sharp

I am the daughter of Holocaust survivors. My parents came to Canada at the end of the war, with a limited education and no money. They learned to speak English in their teens, and eventually my father graduated from Osgoode Hall Law School. I grew up hearing harrowing stories of the extreme prejudice that was faced by my parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles during that dark period in history. My upbringing has made me acutely aware of the harm that can come when prejudices are allowed to influence behaviour. I am aware of the recent debate about the SOP. Having now spoken to various lawyers about this issue, and having now read the various positions being taken by those for and against the SOP, I am of the view that the SOP is a positive step in the right direction. As was said by Bob Tarantino “when we swear oaths and affirm principles, we seek to change ourselves and the world for the better. A profession that doesn’t require that of its members probably isn’t worth the name, and certainly isn’t worth the esteem.” But SOP is just a first step.

D. Jared Brown

Repeal it. The Statement of Principles is compelled speech. The SCC clearly states that compelled speech “…is totalitarian and as such alien to the tradition of free nations like Canada even for the repression of the most serious crimes” (Beetz, J). Forcing Licensees to affirm that they will promote certain values and ideologies is a dangerous development regardless of the values and ideology being favoured by the regulator.

 

Geoff Pollock

Opposed.

Tanya Walker

I am in favor of the requirement that licensees adopt and abide by a Statement of Principles

Quinn Ross

This is a small nod to intention and is barely perfunctory.  It is a minimum from which to build, not a threshold to be met.  I see no fundamental problem with it.

 

Robert Shawyer

The Statement of Principles have been debated and duly approved and passed by Convocation. 

 

Michael B Lesage

I have no issues with the LSO regulating certain conduct. I take issue with the LSO regulating thought and belief.

 

Rebecca C Durcan

This is a non-issue. Lawyers are being asked to confirm their ethical commitment to diversity.  I am in full support of this minimal request.

 

Douglas W. Judson

I have been critical of some of the means by which the statement of principles policy was initially implemented. However, I believe that requiring licensees to affirm their respect of difference, to welcome diversity, and to foster equity in their practices is entirely consistent – if not central – to our commitment to the cause of justice itself. This is particularly so in light of the legal profession’s history of excluding some groups in our society and the continuing challenges our justice institutions face as they strive to account for historic wrongs. I am proud to have friends across the bar who have championed this policy. 

 

Deepa Tailor

I support the statement of principles obligation and the equity, diversity and inclusion initiatives of the Law Society generally.  I wish the SOP wasn’t such a controversial topic.  We have bigger problems that we should be addressing as a profession.

 

 

Addison Cameron-Huff

I don’t think this is the most pressing issue facing our profession. Focusing on the SOP is a distraction from the real issues facing lawyers, paralegals, and the public. 

 

Sean Robichaud  

This complex issue simply cannot be discussed in 200 words and therein lies the problem. As lawyers, (as perhaps compared to clergy) we understand that many issues require more than a “”I believe”” or “”I don’t believe”” answer. The interactions of humans, intersectionality of rights and interests, and the balancing of competing interests is rarely a “yes or no” answer. Sadly, it has been framed as that for this election. 
I am saddened to see this excellent and long-overdue initiative for EDI in our profession to turn so divisive and incendiary. 
It has left people name calling, suggesting undertones or explicit assertions of racism, and generally a very ugly look for the profession. I am deeply disappointed with the manner the LSO handled this sensitive issue and the harm it has caused. 
As has been said many times over: everyone in the profession supports EDI. We all welcome it.  However, the manner this is taught and implemented to the profession matters. 
The implementation was a massive failure and the LSO ought to be ashamed in their lack of effort to try and reconcile what are good people trying to reach a consensus on how to reach a common goal: inclusion and fair opportunities for everyone in this profession.

 

Antoine L Collins

As a lawyer, who is also a visible minority and a member of the LGBQT community, I stand whole-heartily behind fostering equality and welcoming diversity in Canada and in the law society. For me, the SOP reflect the principles that we as lawyers/human beings should be upholding anyways. They are principally about conducting ourselves in a manner that recognizes the centrality of the human right to equality which is engendered through a respect for diversity, and inclusion.

I don’t see the SOP as a means for the law society to regulate our thought or speech. As a matter of fact, I think that who you are, what you like, what values you hold in your personal life is your own business. However, when it comes to your conduct as a member of the law society, that is a different story. I will always be a strong voice and advocate for diversity and inclusiveness. To be frank, cannot ignore the very real barriers of race, religion and gender which, historically, faced minorities seeking to practice in our profession. In my view, the SOP takes a step in the right direction to help eliminate these barriers, by bringing greater focus to this issue and establishing a stronger foundation for the future of the law society.

 

Atrisha Lewis

I support the SOP. It is an important first step in addressing systemic discrimination. It is not an infringement on freedom of expression. I am surprised and saddened by the opposition to the SOP. If elected, I will stand up for the SOP requirement. Read my personal reflection on the statement of principles here: https://www.canadianlawyermag.com/author/atrisha-lewis/a-personal-reflection-on-the-statement-of-principles-resistance-15173/

 

David Milosevic

I support it. It is not an onerous requirement but sends an important message about our values as a profession.

Michael Allan Brown

It is a yearly accounting to ourselves and to those around us about EDI. As such, I have no problem putting to paper a commitment to something that I do anyways. I believe that we are a caring understanding profession that abides by these principles.

 

 

Gina Papageorgiou

I support whole heartedly the statement of principles. I am dismayed that this is an election issue and that people feel the need to run on an anti SOP platform. Lawyers should be leaders, setting an example in human rights protections and the rule of law. The SOP is an acknowledgement of obligations already imposed on lawyers by the Human Rights Code and the Rules of Professional Conduct. The fact that some are so vociferous in their dissent makes me think the SOP was very necessary to remind lawyers of their legal obligations.

 

Caryma Sa’d

I am not persuaded by the “compelled speech” argument against the Statement of Principles, seeing as we already take an oath upon being called to the bar. The promotion of equality, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) falls squarely within our existing duties. I find the StopSOP position disingenuous and legally untenable. It is offensive to suggest that EDI are simply “political” beliefs, when in fact they are central to any meaningful definition of “justice.”
Components of the existing lawyer’s oath include “I shall protect and defend the rights and interests of such persons as may employ me… I shall seek to ensure access to justice and access to legal services… I shall seek to improve the administration of justice…I shall champion the rule of law and safeguard the rights and freedoms of all persons…I shall strictly observe and uphold the ethical standards that govern my profession.” The Statement of Principles is merely an acknowledgment of our pre-existing obligations, with a focus on EDI to encourage reflection about systemic discrimination within the profession.

 

Howard Philip Knopf

On the SOP issue, I have an open mind. We’ve all taken an oath to “champion the rule of law and safeguard the rights and freedoms of all persons.” We are all officers of the court. On the one hand, we all presumably embrace equity, equality, diversity and merit in the profession. On the other hand, do we need new procedures and long and difficult reports and potentially even audits and quotas, as some fear? Are individual members being subjected to coerced or compelled speech? It is important to be fully informed. Here are two very learned and contrasting academic analyses from Prof. (now Judge) Alice Woolley https://goo.gl/zxbuLd (2017) & Prof. Arthur Cockfield https://goo.gl/TocmGZ (2018).

Jacqueline Horvat

I support the Statement of Principles.

 

Paul Le Vay

I support the Statement of Principles. The Statement of Principles, at its core, requires licensees to acknowledge existing professional obligations in the Rules of Professional Conduct and the Human Rights Code. It is a step toward an important goal, but more remains to be done if we are to have our bar look like our province. That means a concerted effort to study and understand the barriers to realizing that so that they can be dismantled.
Je soutiens la Déclaration de principes. Elle ne fait que demander aux avocats de reconnaître leurs obligations dans le Code de déontologie et le Code des droits de la personne. C`est un pas vers un but important, mais il reste plus à faire pour que notre Barreau ressemble à notre province. Cela implique un effort concentré pour étudier et comprendre les empêchements à l`égalité afin de les éliminer.

 

James Mays

Support

Sylvie Patenaude

I have said in other platforms that the Statement of Principles is simply a re-affirmation of the Oath that all of us took when we were called to the Bar. Sometimes, some of us need a little more reminding then others to evolve with the times.

 

 

 

Orlando Da Silva, LSM

I support the statement of principles, as far as it goes.  As a tool, it compels lawyers to think about the issues facing racialized lawyers specifically, and about diversity and inclusion more generally. I doubt, however, that the statement alone will change entrenched and old-school legal culture.  For that, we have to wait for students and young lawyers to move up the ranks of the legal profession. It will happen. They will change the culture of the profession, for the better.  But it will take time.

 

Rebecca Bromwich

I don’t find this obligation onerous. Diversity is important. So is equality. 

 

Nathan Baker

This merely pays lip service to the issue without working toward real change. I would rather see better encouragement of diversity than waste time arguing over how or why lawyers should have a statement of principles. Let’s stop talking and start working on solutions.

 

Cathy Corsetti

I believe that the statement of Principles is appropriate. It is a personal decision how and what you state in your Statement of Principles, and I believe it helps us all consider and embrace diversity & inclusion.

 

Cheryl Siran

This was already passed by Convocation so I think it’s time to actually work to implement and encourage diversity, including tackling barriers to entry. 

 

Janis Criger

I suffer discrimination only on the basis of gender. The people who worked on the Challenges Report and recommended the SOP suffer a lot more discrimination that I do, on a lot more intersecting bases. I’m prepared to defer to their better-informed opinions about what to do to accelerate a culture shift in our profession. I support the SOP.

 

Claire Wilkinson

I support creating and abiding by a statement of principles. This is not a matter of “thought police”. This is a situation where certain standards need to be ingrained into the way lawyers think and act. It was not so long ago that it was predominantly men in Ontario’s law schools. Through a commitment on the part of Ontario’s law schools to seek to enrich its enrollment by ensuring that women were part of its student body, Ontario dramatically increased the number of female lawyers in the profession. The same principles apply to the Law Society’s efforts to ensure that its members conduct themselves in a manner that promotes equality, diversity and inclusivity. These are important principles that also need to be ingrained into the way we think and act. It is the lawyers in our society who are tasked with ensuring the rule of law is maintained and applied to ensure a free and democratic society. Freedom, fairness and equality are values that must be treasured and honoured. We need not apologize for reminding our lawyers of these important values.

 

Billeh Hamud

I support the Statement of Principles but I feel it does not go far enough. The fact that some privileged members of profession are vigorously against the Statement of Principles is an embarrassment to our profession. Under the Rules of Professional Conduct, lawyers already have a special responsibility to abide by the Ontario Human Rights Code and not engage in discrimination and harassment. Also, lawyers already wear gowns, bow in Court, and also say “Your Honour/Your Worship” in court. This is not a “compelled speech” issue. The reality is that some compulsion on expression is already tolerated by lawyers yet the far less intrusive requirement to abide by the Statement of Principles is being vigorously opposed by some on academic and theoretical grounds. The Statement of Principles merely reflect the Ontario Human Rights Code and the anti-discrimination provisions of the Rules of Professional Conduct. It’s also unfortunate that these lawyers are offering no solutions to address the systemic racism and discrimination which is plaguing the legal profession. We need benchers who will stand strong against this opposition. Anti-racism in the profession is non-negotiable.

 

Mitchell Kowalski

The SOP was a tactical error by Convocation. I would have started with a much more robust version of Recommendations 3 and 6 of the LSO racialized challenges report akin to the report prepared by Elevate Services on my website.

This annual report would be mandatory for firms of 10 or more lawyers – and made available to the public. Incentives can be created for reaching certain targets.

If the LSO is serious about this issue, and if it wants to do more than just virtue signal, it needs to come up with serious, actionable and measurable solutions. That’s what regulators do.

Only once we see success (however we define success) based on data, can we move toward deciding on the efficacy of an SOP. If Convocation is honest with itself, requiring every lawyer to prepare a secret SOP doesn’t solve any problem. I prefer to focus on real solutions.

Change management is a long-term game. It’s most successful when done by way of incentives, rather than force.

 

M. Steven Rastin

Though I am opposed to the present iteration of the SOP, I cannot agree with the single-issue approach of the STOP SOP bloc. While I sympathize with their concerns, I believe in dialogue, constructive solutions and compromise as a means to effect positive change. I also believe in inclusivity and enhancing the diversity of our bar. My concerns about the SOP relate to the potential it has to infringe upon the rights of free speech, thought and conscience of lawyers throughout Ontario. I am running for Bencher because I want to make our profession better on many levels; not just to undo a single policy choice of the last Bench.

 

 

Jayashree Goswami

I unequivocally support the requirement for all lawyers and paralegals to create and abide by a Statement of Principles.

The Statement of Principles is a curtain raiser. It has been implemented as a first step to addressing longstanding historical and institutional inequity in the legal profession and in society at large. It serves as a firm reminder to members of the profession that:

(1) we serve one of the most diverse communities in the world and our profession does not reflect this diversity;
(2) a homogenous bar cannot properly serve a heterogenous society; and
(3) promoting diversity is essential for the health of our community and efficient delivery of legal services.

Convocation has extensively discussed and debated the propriety of the Statement of Principles and the limits of its jurisdiction twice already. Both times, members of the profession and public were invited to weigh in. Further, the very question is before the courts. Under the circumstances, I am of the view that this should not be made an election issue.

 

Ian Speers

I support its fundamental intention as a call for a self-guided and personal meditation on one’s professional and legal responsibilities relating to equality, diversity and inclusion. I consider this self-directed exploration at its core to be a good learning exercise to help put EDI in perspective, and not an effort to compel orthodoxy of thought, opinion, or belief. That the messaging and dialogue surrounding this purpose has become garbled does not justify abandoning the exercise.

 

Teresa Donnelly

I support the Statement of Principles.

 

Paul M. Cooper

I support the requirement to abide by the statement of principles. It is my position that we need to go further: that every licensee should have a copy of the Statement of Principles posted in their reception area, so that it is not only that other members of the profession feel comfortable and safe, but also clients and the public who we are to serve. Beyond being a part of our role as lawyers and leaders in community, the public and the clients that we serve must have confidence that our offices are a safe place in their quest to obtain access to justice.

 

Megan Shortreed

I support the SOP, along with the other recommendations passed by Convocation arising from the report on Challenges Faced by Racialized Licensees. I will work to ensure their implementation and enhancement.

 

Selwyn A Pieters

Lawyers are governed by the Rules of Professional Conduct, the Human Rights Code, the Solicitors Act and a complete regulatory scheme of which the statement of principles are a part until revoked or repealed.

Peter Wardle

I support it.

Kristin Hutton

If it supports the complete independence of the judiciary, the law society and its members.

 

Joseph Groia

While my motion to allow conscientious objection to the Statement of Principles was unsuccessful, I believe we won the war by making it clear that a lawyer’s SOP did not need to espouse LSO prescribed values – it is enough to say that I am a person of tolerance and respect and I live by my conscience and faith.

Julia Shin Doi

I fully support statement of principles.

John Arkelian

I oppose the imposition of a compulsory Statement of Principles. Lawyers are already rightly bound to abide by specific ethical and behavioral standards. And, as representatives of the justice system, our own sense of personal and professional integrity creates explicit and implicit expectations about our actions and demeanor. To do more is unduly meddlesome – an example of “mission creep” or “empire building” by a regulatory organization that is already far too arbitrary, unaccountable (to its own members), and bureaucratic. As lawyers, we are called upon to respect and support the law of the land, and, in particular, constitutionally entrenched rights and freedoms. Imposing a “political correctness” standard and potentially infringing on our freedom of speech and conscience is needless over-reach by the Law Society.

 

 

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