At issue is a new mandatory requirement by the Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC) compelling all its members to “create and abide by” a statement of principles which promotes equality, diversity and inclusion. Montrealais/Wikimedia Commons

Christian lawyers threatened by new law society requirement

By  Deborah Gyapong, Canadian Catholic News
  • October 17, 2017

OTTAWA – The Ontario law society has gone too far by compelling lawyers to submit a “politically correct” statement of principles that may “override core Christian beliefs,” said the president of the Catholic Civil Rights League.

“The law society is moving in a direction to oversee what we believe or think, which is an overreach of its governance role,” said Phil Horgan, a constitutional lawyer.

At issue is a new mandatory requirement by the Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC) compelling all its members to “create and abide by” a statement of principles which promotes equality, diversity and inclusion.

While that may sound harmless on the surface, Horgan fears the law society’s definition of diversity will be used against lawyers whose Christian beliefs run counter to popular culture. He cited the example of future law school graduates from Trinity Western University who could be denied career opportunities due to religious beliefs.

At three levels of court, the law society has objected to TWU’s community covenant that requires faculty, staff and students to abstain from sex outside of a traditional marriage.

Asked what this says about the law society’s attitude towards current lawyers who support traditional marriage, Horgan said the new mandatory policy contradicts a 2005 policy statement that upholds “respect for religious diversity” and condemns any form of religious discrimination.

“The law society is clearly engaged in a campaign to promote what we recognize are politically correct preferred words in the 21st century,” Horgan said.

“Diversity is not a charter principle,” he said. “We’ve argued the proper framework to address that is pluralism. We are not one-minded, we are many-minded. That’s what civil discourse engages.”

Don Hutchinson, former vice president and chief legal counsel to the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, said lawyers are already required to abide by the law. He said there is a difference between abiding by the law and this “new obligation of promotion.”

The terms equality, diversity and inclusion are not defined, he said, nor has the law society outlined penalties for failing to comply.

The new policy has also raised concerns about freedom of speech.

Derek Ross executive director of the Christian Legal Fellowship that represents 700 lawyers, law students, academics and retired judges across Canada, said they are “closely examining the new requirements.

“Certainly, based on our initial review, aspects of the law society’s requirements raise concerns,” he said. “At the same time, we recognize that the law society is trying to combat identified barriers and discrimination faced by members of the profession. But the question remains whether these particular requirements are the appropriate way to address those concerns.”

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