In the background materials posted on the Law Society website for Convocation in December of 2017, a brief of supportive letters was included. None of the many letters written by lawyers and legal associations which expressed concern about the Statement of Principles, or the EDI initiative generally, were included.
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Mar23FriOriginally dated November 8, 2017 March 23, 2018 Michael A. Menear
November 8, 2017
Equity and Diversity Initiative
The Law Society of Upper Canada/The Law Society of Ontario
130 Queen Street West Toronto, Ontario, M5H 2N6
RE: EDI Initiative of the Law Society of Ontario
Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its members may be the most oppressive. To be cured against one’s will and cured of ‘states’ [biases, prejudices] which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason, or those who never will. C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock: Essays on Theology (abridged)
I do not agree with, nor can I support, the EDI (Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion) Initiative of the Law Society of Ontario (LSO). Let me explain my reasons.
First, by this Initiative, the LSO requires me to become part of a "Culture Shift":
"All lawyers and paralegals play a vital role in accelerating Culture Shift (Statement of Principles on EDI)."
I never became a lawyer to be part of a "Culture Shift." I became a lawyer to practice law using my knowledge and skills to meet the legal needs of clients. I resent being made part of such an Initiative that will be defined, monitored, and enforced by the Society.
What is this "Culture Shift?" It appears to be part of a "progressive agenda," but the agenda itself, its nature and content, is hidden. The very motivating cause and dynamic for this Initiative remains undisclosed. Surely, the Law Society has a duty to explain the ideology, the entire social philosophy, of which the proposed principles of the EDI Initiative are a part.
As a citizen, I understand I have a duty to abide by the laws of our land, which require me to refrain from discrimination and to comply with Human Rights legislation. The EDI Initiative goes far beyond these legal duties by requiring me to "get on board" with the Society's social agenda and to actively promote principles mandated by it. I am not being asked and encouraged to volunteer. I am being conscripted.
This brings me to my second point: The EDI Initiative is coercive. To practice law in Ontario, I am required to be a member of the LSO. There is no choice. This puts a heavy responsibility on the Society to be very careful what further "coercive measures" it requires of its members.
Lawyers are not teachers, social workers, or government agents (which appear to be the groups the LSO looked to in its studies). Accordingly, the Law Society should not cast itself into a mould resembling a Teachers' Federation, Government Watchdog, or a type of Union. Lawyers have a tradition of independence that bristles at authoritarian measures, and this new Initiative of the LSO is certainly that. Apart from being wrong, history teaches that coercion does not bring about real change. It produces behavioural conformity, but does not change the individual. A lawyer who signs onto the prescribed Statement of Principles (in order to practice law and to retain professional privileges) is fundamentally the same person (with the same outlook, values, and biases) after signing it. Education and persuasion are the proper prescriptions for human improvement, not mandated behaviour and group-think.
Lastly, the stated purpose of the Statement of Principles is the promotion of EDI, but there are indications in the printed materials that the real purpose of the Statement is much more than, and substantially different from, its stated purpose. The Law Society is being less than candid with its members as to what this Initiative is really all about. What do I mean? If you read the "Principles" in Template 1 suggested for adoption, it requires "an acknowledgment of my obligation to promote EDI generally, and in my behaviour towards colleagues, employees, clients, and the public." Apart from very vague definitions of Equality (in the Schedule of Definitions) and in the Royal Bank of Canada definitions of Inclusivity and Diversity in the materials provided, these vital concepts are not clear. What is clear is that the meanings of these concepts will undergo continuing revision and explanation by the Society in the future. Also, the materials are largely silent on how the Law Society expects its members to promote these Principles. Do you not think it is incumbent on the Society to tell us these things before requiring us to "sign on?" I submit that what the LSO is putting forward is a Trojan horse: forced conformity to very general but vague and ill-defined concepts is required today, leaving it to later pronouncements to reveal what this is really all about.
Can a member see what this is leading to? There are glimpses in the materials. In Template 2, the "Principles" suggested for adoption include this:
"[That a member] cooperate and engage in any efforts of the Law Society....to advance EDI in the legal profession and in the broader community."
Do you not see how inappropriate it is to ask members to give the Society such loyalty and obeisance?
In conclusion, this Initiative by the LSO is profoundly disturbing. Fundamentally, it lacks the transparency and integrity one would expect of one's governing body. It has certainly awoken the spirit of vigilance in me. In my view, it requires all lawyers of conscience to oppose this initiative in order to maintain and protect the cherished independence and liberties lawyers have inherited and to which they have been entrusted.
Yours Very Truly,
MENEAR WORRAD & ASSOCIATES
Michael A. Menear