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What’s at stake at June 27 Convocation | Michael Menear

Thursday, June 20, 2019 @ 3:02 PM | By Michael Menear


Michael Menear %>
Michael Menear
The June 27, 2019, Law Society of Ontario (LSO) bencher Convocation will be the first business meeting of the five newly elected paralegal benchers, eight recently appointed lay benchers, and 40 lawyer benchers (including the incumbents and the StopSOP slate). As such, this Convocation will be no “business as usual” meeting.
           
What is at stake? There are two important business items on the agenda. First is the election of the treasurer of the LSO for the next year. The second is the motion to repeal the Statement of Principles (SOP). But, more fundamentally, the decisions made on this occasion will either be the start of real reform or the continuation of the status quo. Will enough benchers demonstrate that they have heard the voice of the profession which spoke loudly and clearly in the recent bencher election that the current direction and practices of the society need to change?

Since the bencher election, there have been organized and concerted measures by the ideologically committed members of the pro-SOP contingent to resist efforts to initiate a process of real reform, including the repeal of the SOP. This opposition has not been advanced with reasoned argument and debate as one would expect of lawyers, but rather it has been expressed in ways that have become all too typical of progressives.

First, by fallaciously characterizing the entire group of reform lawyers as extremists, fanatics and zealots (See May 3 Toronto Sun article, Law Society of Ontario taken over by ‘right wing, fundamentalist religious zealots?’). In fact, the StopSOP website and the individual platforms of the StopSOP lawyers show no political or ideological statements or expressions of that nature. The StopSOP slate is comprised of ordinary lawyers from across Ontario, largely unknown to one another before the election, but united in their concern about the direction and management of the Society.

Secondly, by unfairly assailing the candidate for treasurer, Chi-Kun Shi, put forward by the slate to devise and improve a reform plan. The attack was not made on any actual statements or conduct of Ms. Shi in her personal or professional life, but instead by inference and innuendo from her having represented some disagreeable public figures and unpopular causes (See June 7 Globe and Mail article, Lawyer making a bid for Ontario law society’s top job defends her record).

To impugn her character and credibility in this way was to undermine one of the noblest ideals and finest traditions of our professions, that everyone is deserving of a fearless advocate and courageous defence.

Thirdly, by trying to redirect the Convocation agenda from its focus on repealing the SOP and starting reform measures to a general discussion about racism (See June 12 Globe and Mail article, Repealing Ontario lawyer’s statement of principles is not a principled stand).

Certainly, the issue whether there is systemic racism in the professions is important, but the new benchers will need time to understand and consider the Stratcom Report on racism and the elements of the Equity, Diversity, Inclusion (EDI) Initiative which will need to be revisited. A review is warranted because only 6.4 per cent of the professions participated in the survey resulting in the report. The motion to repeal the SOP at this Convocation is about freedom of conscience, thought, belief, and expression, not racism per se.

Fourthly, by bringing a counter-motion to direct, distract and confuse the clear, simple and unambiguous motion of the StopSOP slate to repeal the SOP. The counter-motion still demands that members “advance” these goals (a synonym of “promote”) and, although it says it’s voluntary, it will still be keeping track of compliance. The consequences may not be overt (like losing your licence), but they are insidious (you may get passed over for a judicial appointment and never know the reason why).
           
Finally, by denying that the election of the StopSOP slate represents the democratic will of the professions because only 30 per cent of the professions voted in the election. The progressives have made it known that the election results will not stand in the way of “business as usual” at the LSO, including the entire EDI Initiative.
           
So what’s at stake on June 27, 2019? Nothing less than reaffirming our fundamental freedoms; breaking the grip of the progressive ideology of identity; and the restoration of common sense and balance to the direction and deliberations of the law society for the next four years.

Michael Menear is a senior associate with the law firm Menear Worrad & Associates in London, Ont. He carried on a litigation practice with a speciality in family law and estate litigation. Since 2015 he has focused his attention and expertise in the area of wills, estates administration and trusts. Dispute resolution and advocacy continue to be part of his practice.

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