Accelerating Culture Shift
Under the banner of "Accelerating Culture Shift," the Law Society has set out several recommendations designed to “reinforce the obligations to recognize, acknowledge and promote principles of equality, diversity and inclusion.” What, precisely, ‘culture shift’ entails and why it must be accelerated is, however, left undefined.
The Law Society isn’t the first to introduce such an initiative; indeed, there has been a flurry of similar ‘shifts’ throughout academia, government and the private sector in recent times, but although they share a morally-worthy outward appearance, there are other motivations at play that have recently come under scrutiny, particularly on university campuses. What has become clear is that there is a large ideological component to this shift, which lawyers are now required to endorse and promote.
There are two important aspects to this ideological component: i) equality of outcome; and ii) the use of “Critical Theory” as a tool for redressing perceived oppression.
Equality of Outcome
As Globe and Mail columnist Margaret Wente noted in a recent column, "[E]xcellence is not the point of universities these days. Diversity is the point – not diversity of thought or intellect, but diversity of race, gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation." She notes that old goal of equity programs was to ensure that everyone had an equal opportunity to succeed, but the goal has now switched to equality of outcome.
Given that the report supporting the EDI initiative speaks of quantifying and measuring outcomes mathematically, it is evident that equality of outcome is the goal, rather than simply equality of opportunity which we have already substantially achieved in Canada. (The definition of equality on the Law Society's own website confirms this.) Indeed, as Wente notes: "The report begins by asserting that systemic racism runs rampant in the legal profession. This racism can only be overcome by a massive program of re-education, statistics-keeping and a commitment to equality of outcomes in every aspect of the law. (Never mind that the number of "racialized" lawyers in Ontario rose from 9 per cent in 2001 to nearly 20 per cent in 2014)."
In order to control the environment to ensure equality of outcome, authorities have to severely curtail individual rights. Equality of outcome means that notions of merit, achievement, hard work and talent are disparaged in order to ensure that everyone ends up in the same place in society. This is inimical to the fundamental freedoms on which Western society is based. As Milton Friedman is quoted as saying, "A society that puts equality before freedom will get neither. A society that puts freedom before equality will get a high degree of both."
Critical Theory and Oppression
The Law Society's EDI initiative espouses a worldview based on collectivism (as opposed to more classically-liberal individualism) by attributing privilege to one group and victimhood to another group, regardless of the individual circumstances of any member of that group (like the 'evil bourgeoisie' and the 'virtuous proletariat').
On page 45 of the Report to Convocation, one participant was quoted as saying the Law Society should "utilize an anti-discrimination, anti-racism and anti-oppression framework focused on deconstructing power structures and privilege – not on cultural competency." This sort of language (including later references to "white privilege" and the Black Lives Matter movement) indicates that, as much as this is being billed as a virtuous initiative, it has very strong political underpinnings. This is the language of Critical Theory.
The terminology and approach in the EDI initiative are clearly influenced by Critical Theory, a methodology developed by Marxian social scientists during the early-to-mid twentieth century, and which is currently prevalent in many university disciplines, particularly the social sciences. It distinguishes itself from traditional scientific methodology through its focus on power and oppression, and through a belief that all theory is political. Consequently, it sees its task as highlighting social domination and liberating people from it. While this may seem unobjectionable on the surface, it's important to note that almost all Critical Theorists are on the political left, many on the authoritarian far-left, which when combined with its self-professed activist approach makes Critical Theory controversial.
Critical Theory also posits that the classical liberal view of thinkers like John Stuart Mill - namely that democratic society should allow for virtually unrestricted speech so that the best arguments might prevail - should be limited exclusively to left-wing movements which are intent on freeing people from oppression. Suppressing right-wing speech (or any speech to the right of the authoritarian left) is therefore justified by the proponents of Critical Theory. Requiring people to swear, in effect, a loyalty pledge to this particular political view – or any other – is unsettling at best, and totalitarian at worst.
In reality, it is perfectly appropriate to have a political view that is not in keeping with what the Equity Committee has presented, and that is in no way 'racist'; but diversity of opinion is increasingly becoming verboten among the chattering classes (journalism, professions, academia and government), as has been quite shockingly evident in the recent controversy at Wilfrid Laurier University. For anyone wishing to understand Critical Theory and its increasing prevalence at universities and beyond, we recommend reading "Wilfrid Laurier and the Creep of Critical Theory."
Culture shift, it would seem, means shifting left. Very far left.
By Lisa D.S. Bildy
P.S. For an additional examination of the social justice movement, of which this initiative is a part, see also "Thinking Critically About Social Justice" by the same author.