Limiting Lawyer Liberty: How the Statement of Principles Coerces Speech
(Queen's Law Research Paper Series no. 2018-100, 2018)
37 Pages Posted: 20 Mar 2018 Last revised: 1 Apr 2018
Date Written: March 15, 2018
In December 2016, the benchers (‘governors’) of the Law Society of Ontario adopted a series of Equity and Diversity Initiatives (“EDIs”), including requiring a mandatory Statement of Principles (the “SOP”). Under the new rule, the “Law Society will require every licensee [that is, lawyer or paralegal] to adopt and to abide by a statement of principles acknowledging their obligation to promote equality, diversity, and inclusion generally, and in their behavior towards colleagues, employees, clients and the public.” Lawyers and paralegals who do not follow this approach will first receive warnings, followed by sanctions, including the potential loss of license to practice. While I agree with the values of equality, diversity and social inclusion, in this Article I claim that the SOP coerces a licensee’s speech, thought and conscience in harmful ways and makes it harder for lawyers to fulfill their duty of loyalty to their client. Accordingly, the SOP seems to infringe or violate, among other things, Charter-protected rights to freedom of expression and conscience. By doing so, the SOP encourages anti-democratic outcomes such as chilling dissent, and harms the pursuit of greater equality.
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