Voting is now underway at the Law Society of Upper Canada as benchers decide to consider a motion to implement an ability for conscientious objectors to opt-out of signing on to the LSUC’s controversial new statement of principles.
Recently in response to critics and in an attempt to set the record straight, the Law Society of Upper Canada is releasing a guide to help clarify the purpose of its controversial new requirement for lawyers to comply with its controversial new “Statement of Principles”.
Every lawyer and paralegal in Ontario will be required to agree that they will promote equality, diversity and inclusion. It’s part of the LSUC’s “Cuture Shift” program.
Since the release of the Statement of Principles, numerous academics and lawyers have sounded off, claiming it’s an encroachment on freedom of expression. Critics also say it is tantamount to compelled speech.
According to the newly released guide, lawyers “ned not include any statement of thought, belief or opinion”.
More than one bencher has declared the Statement of Principles an example of compelled speech, but in recent days it appears detractors to the policy have backed off since the guide was released in November.
Nevertheless, Lakehead university professor Ryan Alford is challenging the controversial new requirement in court in a bid for it to be ruled unconstitutional.
Supporters, such as Treasurer Paul Schabas, see things differently.
“The statement is one piece of a much larger strategy, but it’s an important piece in hopefully accelerating change and accelerating a culture shift by causing all lawyers and paralegals to reflect periodically on the obligations that they have,” says Schabas.
For 2017, the law society has already waived punishments for lawyers who don’t want to fill out the template. But in future years penalties might be involved if the motion to allow consciousness objectors is struck down on Dec. 1
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