The following is an open letter I sent earlier today to the Benchers of the Law Society of Upper Canada (the “LSUC”) with respect to its Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Initiative. The letter more or less speaks for itself. If you agree, I would encourage you to contact the Benchers to share your concerns.
I’ll provide a longer post when I have time, but I figured I’d give an update on the ongoing legal battles between Trinity Western University, an evangelical Christian university located in BC, and certain of Canada’s law societies, including those in BC, Ontario and Nova Scotia.
As I’ve written about ad nauseum before, here, here, and here ,the law societies of Nova Scotia, BC and Ontario have refused to accredit TWU over its covenant of community (i.e., Christian) values which refuses to recognize same-sex marriage. As I’ve noted previously, the arguments put forward by opponents of TWU have generally been high on rhetoric but light on legal analysis (i.e., wrong). Apparently, Justice Campbell of the Nova Scotia Supreme Court agrees, because he concluded, in a judgement released earlier today, that the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society’s refusal to accredit TWU was illegal on the bassis that the decision (i) was unfounded in any legal authority of the NSBS and (ii) violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It’s a long decision (though a pretty well-written one), but for casual readers the first 10-20 pages or so have a nice pithy summary of Justice Campbell’s reasons.
This was an obvious decision which anyone with even a passing familiarity with the NSBS’s statutory authority and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (and the jurisprudence around TWU thereunder) would have seen coming. Apparently this group excludes a majority of the benchers of the law societies of Ontario, BC and Nova Scotia, and a majority of the members of the BC bar who voted not to accredit TWU. This is a sad commentary on either the intellect or integrity of the legal profession in Canada.
Two stories caught my attention recently and got me thinking about the effectiveness of the Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC), the body in charge of regulating lawyers. As will be clear from other posts, I have a fairly low regard for the LSUC, but I think these two stories give a good illustration as to why.
I guess being the Law Society of Upper Canada (the “LSUC“) means you aren’t compelled to comply with silly little rules… like the law. How else can one explain the appalling decision of the LSUC to refuse to accredit the proposed new law school at Trinity Western University (“TWU“)?
Before I start, I’m going to stake out my bias here. I hate the Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC), the organization responsible for regulating lawyers in Ontario. Not because I’ve had any problems with them, but because, in my experience, there are
few no public organizations as inept, incompetent and clueless as the LSUC. Everything they do, they do badly. They are the living embodiment of the old maxim that: “Those who can, do. Those who can’t do, regulate”. When I went through the bar admissions program, they handed around material that was outdated and wrong (badly, badly wrong). The bar admissions exam was a fiasco – the exam itself was filled with typos and spelling errors, and the organization was so poor it ran twice as long as it was scheduled to run and almost resulted in a riot. Every year I have to fill out to two separate annual reports at two different times, rather than filing a single report at the same time (ok, this is a petty complaint, but you know, even the tax man doesn’t make me file two tax returns). Even in their principal role of protecting the public from unscrupulous lawyers, it’s not clear that it is particularly competent (witness the recent Heydary fiasco, where the LSUC stepped in only after a lawyer allegedly disappeared with $3 million of his client’s money).
So, against that background, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to me that the LSUC would do something to completely fuck this year’s class of law school graduates. And yet… even as jaded I am, I was shocked by the announcement that the LSUC was DOUBLING licensing fees for students to become lawyers in the province of Ontario to almost $5000.
A big issue among Ontario lawyers these days is the paucity of articling jobs for law students looking to become lawyers (generally, to become licensed as a lawyer you have to work for another lawyer as an “articling student”, basically a glorified apprenticeship, for 10 months). Between a sharp drop-off in activity in the legal community, and increases in enrollment at Ontario law schools and in the number of Canadians law students who couldn’t get into a respectable Canadian school attending law school abroad (hello, Bond University, I’m looking at you), we’ve reached a crisis point with hundreds of students graduating from law school (often with 6-figure student loans) with no realistic possibility of ever becoming lawyers.
To the Law Society of Upper Canada (the “LSUC”), this is a problem to be addressed. Since lawyers can’t be persuaded to hire more articling students then they need, the LSUC is proposing to create a new parallel licensing arrangement (the “PLA”), consisting of a 4-month long “Law Practice Program” and a 4-month co-op placement.
Personally, I don’t think the current excess supply of law students is a problem, over time it will decrease if gradates can’t find jobs. And the PLA is a non-solution to this non-problem that, if it achieves anything, it will be to increase the amount of disciplinary complaints about new lawyers.
A few years ago, in response to the imposition of emergency rule in Pakistan by the Musharraf government, the Ontario Bar Association (OBA) and the Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC) issued press releases, organized rallies and circulated petitions urging Ontario’s lawyers to support the efforts of their counterparts in Pakistan to restore the rule of law in that country. All very noble and honourable.
I was thinking about that when I read this story, in today’s Globe, about a group of 500 Pakistani lawyers storming the diplomatic enclave in Islamabad wearing headbands inscribed with “Lovers of Prophet, Death to the blasphemer”. Meanwhile the Pakistan Bar Council called for a day of protest against “Innocence of Muslims” and condemned the US for failing to take action against it. Nice to see the people charged with defending the rule of law in Pakistan are so reasonable.
I wonder if the OBA and LSUC will be circulating petitions calling for our “counterparts” in Pakistan to respect religious freedom and freedom of expression. Why do I suspect they’ll remain curiously quiet on the subject.