NEWS & VIEWS
Budget News from Audit Committee Co-Chair & StopSOP Slate member, Lubomir Poliacik
Report from the Benches - October 24, 2019
The Audit and Finance Committee, of which I am vice-chair, completed the Law Society’s 2020 budget and submitted it to Convocation, which approved it today.
I am pleased to advise that the budget reduces the Law Society 2020 annual fee payable by lawyers by $135.00, from $2,201 in 2019 to $2,066 in 2020. This is a decrease of 6.1 per cent. Paralegal fees will be reduced by $109.00.
The total budgeted expenditures are down $2.8 million from the 2019 budget. This was accomplished by scrapping, inter alia, the $600,000.00 planned expenditure on the LSO’s “awareness campaign” (you know, those nice subway, cinema and billboard adverts telling the public that “LSO - We Are Your Society”).
The total workforce at the LSO was reduced by 6 Full Time Equivalents.
As you know, the new benchers came on board in May and the committees, including the Audit and Finance Committee, which oversees the drafting of the budget, were not constituted until August. Our input into the budgeting process was therefore extremely time-limited.
I am nevertheless pleased that the 2020 budget reverses the historical trend of ever increasing expenditures by the Law Society and the corresponding increases in the LSO annual fees.
While I am pleased with these modest reductions, our work has only just begun.
September 5 - New Article by Thomas Mathews in the National Post: There's No Room For Unacceptable Behaviour Like This In the Legal Profession
June 28 - Update:
After a long day of procedural wrangling, filibustering, and an unsuccessful (but 2 hour-long) attempt by Julian Falconer to remove Benchers Klippenstein and Alford from the debate on the SOP on the basis of a "conflict of interest" with their constitutional challenge against the SOP, the main motion for a clean repeal was never voted upon. The matter has been adjourned to a special convocation in July.
For those wondering why the StopSOP team did not vote for bencher Groia's "compromise" motion, it is this:
The LSO’s regulatory mandate does not include monitoring and shaping the political attitudes of its licensees. The SOP does exactly this, whether it is explicitly mandatory or formally “encouraged”. The rule of law requires that lawyers and paralegals be independent in thought and speech. The Groia proposal wants them to engage in groupthink and virtue signalling. It would keep the box on the Annual Report (and thus collect data on who has complied or not) and would publish a tally of how many have properly signalled their fealty to the LSO’s preferred values.
Our position has always been that the SOP needed to be repealed, not modified and kept on life support. It was obvious yesterday that other members of Convocation were doing everything they could to avoid voting on our very simple and clean motion to repeal.
On June 27, Convocation will vote on a motion to repeal the Law Society’s statement of principles requirement. A competing motion seeks to make the SOP voluntary but keep a record of who declines to comply.
On June 12, the Globe and Mail published an op-ed by Bencher Atrisha Lewis entitled ”Repealing Ontario lawyers’ statement of principles is not a principled stand”, in which she rejected the argument that the SOP is a threat to free speech and argued that it combats systemic discrimination in the legal profession, including unconscious bias and microaggressions. Many readers posted comments before the Globe closed the comment section. The following are representative samples of responses before they were removed, edited for concision.
“Repealing Ontario lawyers' SOP is not a principled stand? Yes it is. It's a very principled stand.”
“The LSO is requiring members to virtue signal and excusing it by saying "but you can use your own words." What’s next must plumbers come up with a SOP? Why don’t we just cut to the chase and have daily oaths. “Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party? We’ll go easier on you if you give us names.”
“I'm not a lawyer, but I’d object to the requirement if it was demanded of me. That's not because I disagree with the sentiments. They're fine, just like love thy neighbour is fine. What I’d object to is that I must promote those sentiments.”
“I believe the author when she states there are racist lawyers in Ontario. No doubt they exist. However, I don't see them changing their stripes over a voluntary SOP they keep to themselves. Pardon me for saying so, but even to make the SOP voluntary is lame.”
“I hire summer and articling students. I can tell you that any minority student who has decent grades will receive a job offer. Large law firms are keen to hire minority candidates.”
“The most accurate indicator of privilege is the education level and socio-economic class of one's parents. If you’re a female visible minority with one parent a doctor and the other a lawyer, then you’re far more likely to succeed in society than the white male whose father is a laid off factory worker and his mother a cashier at Walmart.”
“The author talks of principles - but what principle could be more important, central and hard-won than that the government has no right to compel thought or speech.”
“Compelled speech is Orwellian. It’s the requirement of dictatorships that send their citizens to “re-education camps”. The only SOP the LSO should adhere to, is the promise to uphold the law -including a solemn vow never to strong-arm its members into making ideologically driven social justice pronouncements.”
“I'll be sure not to vote for you in the next bencher election. If the group had run 53 candidates rather than 22, there would be 53 benchers opposed. And here's the reason: the Statement of Principles was the last straw. The silent majority were fed up with the Law Society's gargantuan budget and regulatory over-reach. … This group came along and said, like in "Network", "we're mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore." It was time for a change.”
“Most of my lawyer colleagues are sick and tired of being told what to think and what to say. I’m a member of a religious minority. I’m all for inclusion and diversity, but I object to compelled speech. Also, who exactly is "racialized"? I’m "racialized" by virtue of being a descendant of great-great grandparents who were killed in a genocide 80 years ago? This word is thrown around all the time, yet I’ve never seen a definition of who is and is not "racialized." I can’t stand the attitude of entitlement that some lawyers have that they deserve a Bay Street job and the only reason they don't work there is because of their race. I’ve never worked on Bay Street. I have zero interest. I enjoy working in suburbia. Open your own firm. Create a business plan. Drum up business. Stop blaming everyone else.”
“Thanks for highlighting Murray Klippenstein's Quillette article: ”How social justice ideologues hijacked a legal regulator” It’s worth reading in full.
“This LSO member hopes the SOP will be repealed. The notion of a SOP is odious to people who believe in freedom of thought, expression, and speech. You think those who oppose you lack a plan to address discrimination. How about "Equal rights for all, special privileges for none."
“It is wrong to assume that the under representation of any group can only be explained by racism. Culture plays a large part in who chooses certain professions. It is time to stop making everything about race.”
“Racialized? Racist is more like it. A frightening and dangerous totalitarian op-ed.”
“There is a difference between not discriminating, and being required to promote equality, diversity and inclusion.”
“This form of argument is becoming all too common. Base your position on poorly defined but grand sounding principles and expect everyone to obviously agree without question. Just don't ask what the words mean or how they’d be put into practise.”
“You don't have to go far to find evidence to support her views that racism and misogyny are alive and well than the comments in this article. As a female lawyer I am shocked to witness such ignorance, hatred and venom directed at someone expressing her opinion. Who’re you to even begin to suggest she didn’t achieve her career on merit and hard work? Who’re you to sit in judgment of a person trying to help others succeed? I believe that she knows what she’s talking about. Look around your law firm and count the non-white lawyers? Go count the female partners. She is entitled to express her opinion in safety without this venomous crap. This paper needs to shut down the ignorant comments now.”
That was the last entry before the Globe closed its comment section.
Congratulations to our new Benchers!
September 11, 2019
The StopSOP slate of Benchers is pleased to report that on September 11, 2019, Convocation approved a motion to repeal the Law Society of Ontario’s “Statement of Principles” (SOP) requirement by a vote of 28 to 20. The motion was proposed and seconded by StopSOP Benchers and all 22 members of the slate voted in favour of the repeal. The SOP requirement, adopted in December 2016, compelled speech and created an ideological litmus test for the practice of law. It obligated every licensee “to adopt and to abide by a statement of principles acknowledging their obligation to promote equality, diversity and inclusion generally, and in their behaviour towards colleagues, employees, clients and the public.” In the Bencher election held this past spring, StopSOP’s 22 Benchers ran as candidates on a platform of repealing the SOP and reining in the Law Society’s ever-expanding mission, sprawling bureaucracy and ballooning budgetary expenditures. The repeal of the SOP is one step towards returning the regulator to its core mandate of governing competence of the profession in the public interest.
Treasurer candidate Chi-Kun Shi is a champion of the rule of law
May 27, 2019
The StopSOP benchers hold a conviction that individual freedoms of thought, belief, conscience and expression are the core of an open and tolerant society. The Law Society of Ontario’s Statement of Principles policy compelled lawyers and paralegals to embrace a particular set of ideological values - substantive equality, diversity and inclusion – as a requirement of their licence. The benchers elected on the StopSOP slate are united in their conviction that such a policy cannot stand. Of all institutions, the regulator of the legal profession should be at the forefront of protecting such fundamental freedoms, which are fragile and frequently under threat. It requires commitment and constant vigilance to protect liberty, including the freedom to express views with which powerful interests disagree.
We are proud to support our colleague Chi-Kun Shi for Treasurer. Chi-Kun is an accomplished, experienced, gracious and forthright lawyer and mediator. She is also a courageous champion of freedom. Chi-Kun began her legal career at Lang, Michener in 1991 and in 1994 opened her own practice focused on civil litigation and later also on mediation. Like many litigators, Chi-Kun is unflinching in her commitment to the principle that everyone deserves able and committed legal representation no matter how unpopular the client or the cause. Among other cases, she was counsel to the family of Steven Chau, a schizophrenic who suffered a psychotic episode during which he killed his wife and two young children; to grocer David Chen in the Lucky Moose citizen’s arrest case; and to notorious holocaust denier Ernst Zundel when he was being deported from Canada on the then newly created security certificate, which the Supreme Court of Canada, in a later case, struck down as unconstitutional.
It is easy to say but difficult to do: everyone deserves the counsel of an independent lawyer whether they are accused of murder, tax evasion or hate speech. We admire Chi-Kun’s ability to maintain her commitment to this noble ideal and to be a fearless advocate in the finest traditions of the profession, regardless of her views about her clients’ actions and opinions. In the current environment, where some ideologues take the ridiculous view that a lawyer should be tainted by the clients he or she represents, we need strong and principled leaders to stand up for fundamental tenets of the rule of law. It is one of many reasons Chi-Kun is an ideal candidate for Treasurer at this particular moment in the life of the Law Society.
The StopSOP Benchers
May 1, 2019
StopSOP is pleased to announce that all 22 of its lawyer candidates for Bencher have been elected to Convocation. Thank you to our many donors, volunteers, supporters (public and private), and of course voters from around the province for their steadfast and enthusiastic support. Our platform promised to end the Law Society’s Statement of Principles policy, adopted in December 2016, which requires all licensees “to adopt and to abide by a statement of principles acknowledging their obligation to promote equality, diversity and inclusion generally, and in their behaviour towards colleagues, employees, clients and the public.” The requirement compels speech, infringes freedom of thought and conscience, and imposes a political litmus test for the practice of law in Ontario. Our newly elected Benchers will get to work to repeal the SOP.
We congratulate all candidates on their campaigns and look forward to working with other elected Benchers to rein in the Law Society’s ever-expanding mission, bureaucracy and ballooning budgetary expenditures.
StopSOP Campaign Chair