Canadian Lawyer

August 2019

The most widely read magazine for Canadian lawyers

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Page 8 of 63 9 ONTARIO UPDATE UPFRONT DESPITE HOURS of passionate debate over the past three years, Ontario's lawyers are still grappling with the impacts of a diversity and inclusion initiative called the statement of principles. The statement of principles, a manda- tory written statement promoting equality and diversity, initially approved by previous bencher board members in 2016, has re-ex- posed a divide that dates back 20 years, equity-seeking groups said. "To those who think this debate is about freedom of expression, don't be fooled. This is about the denial of racism," Bencher Atrisha Lewis, a senior associate New benchers stir up statement-of- principles fervour The Law Society of Ontario is again embroiled in a fight over diversity and inclusion at McCarthy Tétrault, said at the June law society meeting. Bencher Cheryl Lean, a sole practi- tioner, opposed the statement-of-principles requirement and was one of the top candi- dates in the spring LSO election. "To claim that everyone associated with the Law Society of Ontario is a racist and in need of re-education is appalling," Lean said at the LSO meeting. Lawyers opposing the statement of prin- ciples scored a seemingly decisive victory in an election this past spring. But while the slate of opponents secured 22 of 40 regulatory board seats for elected lawyers "If the governed withdraw their consent there will be no one there to defend self- regulation." in April, the StopSOP group did not repeal the statement of principles requirement in a June Convocation meeting. Statement-of- principles supporter Malcolm Mercer was also elected for a second year as treasurer at the June meeting. Several motions brought before the law society this summer — including a motion to repeal the statement of principles and one to make it voluntary. But opponents of the statement of principles said that, whether the document is required or voluntary, it's outside the law society's mandate to be "monitoring and shaping the political atti- tudes of its licensees." The LSO was set to vote on the state- ment of principles requirement in June, but the meeting was adjourned amid pushback against parliamentary procedure maneu- vers used by both pro- and anti-statement of principles benchers. Mercer called the statement of princi- ples "a difficult issue that genuinely divides people." Bencher Andrew Spurgeon said he would be willing to accept a voluntary statement of principles in the name of preserving self-regulation. "The concern about losing self-regula- tion is very strong in my mind. . . . [I]f the governed withdraw their consent, there will be no one there to defend self-regulation. And I see consent ebbing," he said. But other supporters of the statement of principles said they could not support a compromise to make the statement of princi- ples optional, amid concerns about racism in the profession. Bencher Jack Braithwaite said diluting the mandatory statement of principles was a "continued slap in the face" to racialized groups and "amounts to saying nothing."

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