Why I’m running for office | Jerry Levitan
Thursday, December 03, 2020 @ 11:53 AM | By Jerry Levitan
“I’ve been around ya know.”Al Pacino as Lt. Col. Frank Slade in Scent of a Woman
There was a time when there were way too many lawyers in politics. The percentage of lawyer MPs and MPPs is not really that high anymore. That is a good thing. Our representatives need to be broad based culturally, occupationally and spiritually to properly reflect our local, provincial and national makeup. In the COVID-19 era and aftermath, access to justice will need to apply to more than just the courts.
I am a lawyer. To this day I feel the need to say that humbly to people because of the stereotype of lawyers and the, how should I put this respectfully, bad experiences many people have had with lawyers and the legal system. But I am more than a lawyer and always wanted to be more than a lawyer.
I have strived from the beginning of my career to help people. That was always my motivation and always what I tried to do. All kinds of people. I represented Ontario teachers in the 1990s when they were the objects of scorn. I represented an important Indigenous organization in its quest to be structurally Indigenous in its makeup and in its expansion efforts to help homeless people in Toronto. I proudly represented Ontario’s public trustee for people with mental health issues in need of an advocate. I represented students and student organizations for issues ranging from institutional challenges to abuse. I represented cultural communities and individuals who were discriminated against, defamed and oppressed.
I was an advocate for free speech in defending people and pursuing others in media cases. I sued police for people of colour in cases of discrimination and unreasonable force. I was no stranger to human rights commissions as the lawyer for people who were discriminated against. I relentlessly sued doctors and clinics in cases where women were damaged by cosmetic surgery. I represented artists and artist organizations of all kinds in the pursuit of artistic rights and uplifting people by experiencing the healing nature of the arts. I took on these cases, many times on a pro bono basis, because I wanted to make the world a better place. Sometimes, I did these things at the cost of my neurological system. Those lawyers who are like me know exactly what I mean.
Never before in my extensive lifetime have I and others my age seen such tumult on every single level of human existence, individual and collective. Can I and others like me bring our experience and skills to bear to make this world a better place on a grander scale than in the courts and before tribunals? If we succeeded case by case, forum to forum, clash by clash, why cannot we up the challenge and try to right wrongs in our communities local and beyond? The stakes are higher than ever before on every level. Education. Health care. Climate change. Systemic race, gender and disability discrimination. Doing the right thing, the good fight for fairness, equality, inclusiveness and diversity.
We as lawyers have a professional duty to be at the vanguard of righting wrongs and changing the status quo. And so, I have decided to seek the Ontario provincial Liberal nomination in Spadina-Fort York in Toronto to be its candidate in the next provincial election. Not an easy task at any age or stage in life. But it is why I became a lawyer and what motivated me all these years in this difficult profession. Amidst this fog of hardship I see a coming storm of reactionary measures, fiscal and humanistic. For the sake of my kids and grandkids, I want to be part of this growing movement seeking to make this world a better place. History, whether personal or collective, knocks on everybody’s door from time to time. I am opening the door.
Jerry Levitan is a Toronto lawyer who practised litigation, administrative and liquor licensing law. He as well is the producer of the Academy Award nominated and Emmy winning short animated film I Met The Walrus about the day he spent at age 14 with John Lennon and author of the Canadian bestselling book with the same title.To find out more about his campaign, go to jerrylevitan.ca.
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