Twelve Angry (White) Men: The Constitutionality of the Statement of Principles

62 Pages Posted: 20 Apr 2020

See all articles by Joshua Sealy-Harrington

Joshua Sealy-Harrington

Lincoln Alexander School of Law; Columbia Law School

Date Written: March 24, 2020


This paper analyzes the constitutionality of the Law Society of Ontario’s (now repealed) Statement of Principles requirement. First, this paper conducts a statutory analysis of the requirement. It explains how the requirement merely obligated that licensees acknowledge extant professional and human rights obligations, rather than creating novel obligations. Second, this paper conducts a theoretical analysis of the requirement. It applies a critical race theory lens to unveil the ways in which liberty claims relating to free speech obscured how significant resistance to the requirement’s modest obligation was galvanized by opposition to diversity and denial of systemic racism. Third, this paper conducts a constitutional analysis of the requirement. It explains why the requirement did not violate freedom of conscience or freedom of expression. In contrast with prior scholarship, this paper argues that the Statement of Principles requirement failed every stage of the legal test that designates state activity as compelled speech. Specifically, the requirement failed to compel an expression with non-trivial meaning (Step 1) and failed to control free expression in Canada, when such control is properly construed through a purposive rather than colloquial lens (Step 2). This paper concludes by noting how the requirement’s self-drafted structure provided an innovative opportunity for licensees to reflect on their perhaps unwitting participation in systemic racism.

Suggested Citation

Sealy-Harrington, Joshua, Twelve Angry (White) Men: The Constitutionality of the Statement of Principles (March 24, 2020). Ottawa Law Review, Vol. 51, No. 1, 2020, Available at SSRN:

Joshua Sealy-Harrington (Contact Author)

Lincoln Alexander School of Law ( email )

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