What is StopSOP?
We are a group of lawyers and paralegals in Ontario who are concerned about the directive by the Law Society of Ontario (LSO) that each legal professional must abide by a Statement of Principles (SOP) that acknowledges an obligation to promote equality, diversity and inclusion generally, in our behaviour towards colleagues, employees, clients and the public.
We believe that the LSO has no business telling legal professionals what principles they must profess, value or promote, and that this is an encroachment on freedom of conscience, thought, opinion, expression and belief under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It does not matter whether you agree with the spirit or intent of the values which you are asked to promote; the fact that an arm of the state can dictate your beliefs to you, on pain of the loss of your livelihood, is deeply troubling.
Shakespeare didn't write, "First we kill all the lawyers" because they were over-billing. As the famous remark in King Henry VI shows, lawyers have always stood as the last line of defence against tyranny, and as guardians of independent thought. The public is watching us to see if this still holds true.
We are putting forward a slate of candidates for the upcoming Bencher election (for governance of the Law Society) in April 2019. Each candidate undertakes to use best efforts to revoke the Statement of Principles upon election.
Isn't the SOP just requiring us to acknowledge reasonable duties that we are already expected to uphold, namely not to discriminate?
It is correct that we have a duty not to discriminate on prohibited grounds, but there is no positive legal duty to promote equality, diversity and inclusion. The LSO is effectively forcing lawyers to do something which it has no legal authority to require.
Given that 'equality' can mean different things, and that its pursuit is often ideologically driven, this is not merely about ridding the profession of any lingering racial discrimination – a goal with which we think reasonable people would not take issue. Since the Law Society has already voted to extend its Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) recommendations to "other equality-seeking groups" without bothering with the pretense of requiring evidence of discrimination, or without even defining those groups, we might be forgiven for thinking that we are dealing more with ideology than with the solving of actual problems. Indeed, the LSO's own website defines equality as "equality of outcome," NOT equal opportunity for all without discrimination.
What do you recommend that I do, as a concerned legal professional in Ontario?
- Refuse to prepare the mandated Statement of Principles. Push back while you can do so with little consequence.
- Let your colleagues know you are doing so by joining our list of supporters on the website. There is strength and courage in numbers – no one wants to feel like they are going against the grain, and particularly not alone.
- Spread the word and add your name to our mailing list by clicking on the button above.
- Make a donation to the campaign (click on the Donation tab above).
- Most importantly, VOTE for the StopSOP slate (and only the slate) in the upcoming election. Voting begins in mid-April.
What can non-lawyers do to support the cause?
- Ask lawyers you know whether they are standing up to this incursion against fundamental freedoms in Ontario.
- Spread the word.
- If you can, donate to the cause (all contributions will go toward the StopSOP slate's campaign expenses).