NEWS & VIEWS
Report from the Benches - January 20, 2020
A Critical Review of the Law Society's Challenges Report: Representations to the Law Society's Equity and Indigenous Affairs Committee and Benchers, dated January 8, 2020
by EIAC & Slate member, Murray Klippenstein
Allow me to wish you all the best in the New Year.
Some of you may recall that since (and before) I was elected Bencher of the Law Society in May of 2019 I have expressed comments critical of the Challenges Facing Racialized Licensees Report (the Stratcom Report), which forms the key foundation for various current EDI initiatives at the Law Society. I raised some of those concerns at the Oct 8, 2019 meeting of the Equity and Aboriginal Initiatives Committee, of which I am a member, and it was suggested that I put my concerns in writing. I have therefore prepared the attached Critical Review of the Challenges Report. I invite you to give it your consideration.
The Review is 15 pages long, and would take 20 - 30 minutes to read, although the Introduction and Summary at the beginning would take only a few minutes. For your convenience, I reproduce the Conclusion here:
Given the extent and nature of my critical comments, I have decided to forward my concerns to all Benchers, in addition to members of the Committee, and to relevant Law Society staff. In addition, as a courtesy, I am forwarding the Review to past members of the EIAC Committee and the Working Group who may have an interest in the matter (except for now members of the judiciary), to the extent that I have been able to ascertain their current email addresses. Although I am now of course a Bencher, the Review is not based on any confidential information, and does not contain any confidential information, related to my position as a Bencher.
Report from the Benches - October 24, 2019
Budget News from Audit Committee Co-Chair & Slate member, Lubomir Poliacik
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.
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