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Cultural Socialism In The Law

A progressive Canadian lawyer called it social injustice. He had to shut down his firm
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You want to talk about “social justice”? Here’s what the identity politics mentality is doing to the law in Canada. Take a look at this Quillette essay by Murray Klippenstein, a progressive Toronto lawyer who started his own firm years ago to serve disadvantaged and minority clients. He writes:

For all of my adult life, I have worked to advance social justice. Now I am horrified by what my own professional regulator is doing in the name of that same cause.

In Canada, the legal profession is regulated provincially. Seven years ago, the Law Society of Ontario (which then was still called the Law Society of Upper Canada) created a working group to address “challenges faced by racialized licensees” in Ontario’s legal profession. The working group reported in 2016 that it had discovered “systemic racism” in the profession. While no one will dispute that elements of racism can be found in parts of Canadian society, the collected survey data did not support the conclusion that racism in my profession is widespread and serious. Nevertheless, in December, 2016, Convocation (the legislative body that governs the Law Society) adopted a set of 13 recommendations on the topic. Times being what they are, no one felt comfortable putting the brakes on this process, despite misgivings. The idea that racism was rampant, and that heavy-handed measures were required to address it, took on a life of its own.

One of the listed recommendations was that the Law Society should “require every licensee to adopt and to abide by a statement of principles acknowledging their obligation to promote equality, diversity and inclusion generally, and in their behaviour towards colleagues, employees, clients and the public.” When the Law Society announced this new requirement the following September, its advisory also stated that we Ontario lawyers should “demonstrate a personal valuing” of these principles.

Despite the fact that I always have been a strong advocate for “equality,” this development left me flabbergasted: Our regulator was demanding that lawyers and paralegals draft and then obey a set of specific political ideas—both in their personal and professional lives—as a condition of their license.

Though he is himself a self-described progressive who has spent the last 20 years suing governments and corporations on behalf of indigenous peoples and other minorities, Klippenstein refused on principle to cooperate with this regulation. In his essay, Klippenstein explains why he felt he had no choice but to close his firm’s doors, because it’s impossible to work in this climate. He goes on:

Unlike me, unfortunately, most younger lawyers and paralegals have no realistic option for resisting the Law Society’s authoritarianism. As the new rules make plain, they will increasingly be judged more on the basis of ideology, skin colour and sex chromosomes than by their competence, skills, effort and professional contributions. That is not a career that I would wish upon anyone—including those individuals who are nominally considered as potential beneficiaries of these new rules.

I strongly urge you to read the whole thing. Note well that this is not the Ontario government imposing this on lawyers; this is the profession imposing it on its practitioners. If you cannot practice law unless you agree with the regulatory regime’s politics, does it really matter if it’s the state doing it, or the profession’s guardians?

I have heard American lawyers tell me privately that this kind of thing is coming to America. This is what cultural socialism is. 

Republicans in Congress should bring forth legislation banning licensing associations and private regulators from imposing what amount to political litmus tests on doctors, lawyers, and other professionals.



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