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Opinion

Time for Ontario lawyers to scrap rule that violates their freedom of expression

By Arthur Cockfield      

While I teach the values of equality and diversity, I oppose forcing all lawyers to promote these or any other government-prescribed values.

Lawyers chat in the Supreme Court of Canada building in Ottawa. Ontario lawyers are divided about whether to support a law society commitment that they ‘abide by a statement of principles acknowledging their obligation to promote equality, diversity, and inclusion generally.’ The Hill Times file photograph

Beginning in mid-April, Ontario lawyers have started voting to elect their representative leaders (called “benchers”) and have a chance to revisit a strange new rule that binds all of the more than 58,000 lawyers and paralegals of the Law Society of Ontario, whether working or retired. Under this new mandatory “statement of principles” (SOP), lawyers must “abide by a statement of principles acknowledging their obligation to promote equality, diversity, and inclusion generally” to colleagues, employees, clients, and the public. After a grace period, if a lawyer fails to adopt a SOP, they can lose their licence to practise, and their ability to earn a living.

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