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.