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    • Mar4Sun

      Motion to Allow Conscientious Objection & Remarks to Convocation, Dec. 1, 2017

      March 4, 2018 Joseph Groia, Bencher of the Law Society


      Notice of Motion made pursuant to section 93 of By-Law 3

      (Benchers Convocation and Committees)


      Notice is hereby given of the following motion

      to be made at Convocation on December 1, 2017


      WHEREAS on December 2, 2016, Convocation approved the recommendations contained in the Final Report of the Challenges Faced by Racialized Licensees Working Group.

      AND WHEREAS Recommendation 3(1) of that Report provided as follows:

      "Require every licensee to adopt and 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"

      AND WHEREAS a number of lawyers, academics and commentators have criticized the effect of Recommendation 3(1).

      AND WHEREAS Convocation is being asked to reconsider Recommendation 3(1).


      MOVED that Convocation approve that no licensee who has a conscientious objection to the adoption of a statement of principles shall be required to comply with Recommendation 3{1) and they shall be exempted from the requirements of Recommendation 3(1) to adopt and abide by a statement of principles.

      Mover:                  Joseph Groia

      Seconder:             Anne Vespry

      Date:                    October 19, 2017  

      Remarks to Convocation in support of Motion, by Joseph Groia:

      Thank you Treasurer Schabas

      At the last Convocation you spoke forcefully about the need for this Society to play a leadership role in advancing equality and diversity in the legal profession. There is no doubt in my mind that all lawyers and paralegals agree with your comments. The motion before you today asks us to consider how we can best do that. Is it through education and leadership or is it through compelled speech and beliefs is the choice we need to make.

      I only have 3 small points to make before Ms. Vespry makes her comments in support of our motion.

      1.) The issue before us today engages fundamental matters of conscience and faith. As a result I do not intend to try to persuade you to do anything other than what your hearts and your minds tells you is the right thing to do. The heartfelt letter from Paul Lepsoe clearly shows us that there are many good men and women who are deeply troubled by Recommendation 3 (1). Their voices need to be listened to carefully because each one of us is democratically accountable to all of our members.

      2.) I asked many of the supporters of 3 (1) to show me any evidence that it might actually help move us towards our equality and diversity goals. No one referred me to any. I looked carefully at the material assembled by the Committees. You will have seen my paper. Again there was no evidence. Indeed the history of 3 (1) suggests that the Committee was strongly urged to stay away from compulsory or punitive measures. They did not follow that advice. So today you need to decide whether what we approved last year was a well-meaning but misguided social science experiment from the school of “There’s a problem, we have to do something, so let’s try this.” And in doing so we have offended many men and women of conscience and faith. That is not how to regulate in the Public Interest.

      3.) Finally there is the spirited debate about whether 3 (1) is compelled speech or beliefs, whether promote means promote or something else and after the clarification from last week, exactly what we intended in 3 (1). What is clear however is that a great many men and women of conscience and faith are troubled by this new requirement. And that should be enough for us to stop and say why are we stubbornly refusing to fix the mess we have created? Did becoming a bencher make us infallible? Are we too arrogant to admit that we made a mistake?

      My motion is both narrow and principled. It in no way encourages less commitment to the goals of equality and diversity. Indeed it will advance them much farther than 3 (1) ever could. It enjoys the support of many more than just old white men - a comment which can only be described as regrettable or worse. What it does is that it says that if you support equality and diversity, but, your conscience or your faith does not allow you to sign a Statement of Principles imposed on you by others, you will be exempted from that requirement and you will find other and better ways to advance these same goals.

      Thank you


      I will cede the floor to Ms. Vespry.