LSUC benchers reject exemption for statement of principles

The Law Society of Upper Canada’s statement of principles requirement will not become optional.

LSUC benchers reject exemption for statement of principles
Joe Groia’s motion to provide an exemption of the statement of principles was defeated at Convocation.
The Law Society of Upper Canada’s statement of principles requirement will not become optional.


LSUC benchers turned down a motion Friday afternoon that would have given conscientious objectors an exemption from the requirement. The obligation requires all lawyers and paralegals to adopt and abide by a statement of principles that acknowledges their obligation to promote equality, diversity and inclusion.

Bencher Joe Groia introduced the motion after backlash from legal scholars and lawyers who argued the requirement was unconstitutional and compelled speech.

“What is clear to me is that a great many men and women of conscience and faith are still troubled by this mandatory requirement,” Groia said to a packed room at the Law Society of Upper Canada in downtown Toronto on Friday.

“I believe that should be enough for us to stop and ask ourselves why do we stubbornly refuse to fix the mess we’ve created?”

Opponents have also argued that there is no evidence that the mandatory statement will advance the goals of diversity and equality.

Groia claimed his motion would advance the goals of diversity and equality “much further” than the statement of principles ever could and said his motion enjoys the support of “many more than just old white men.”

Those who support the statement of principles, however, say the requirement is an important part of a larger initiative to battle systemic racism in the profession. Bencher Raj Anand said the requirement is simply an acknowledgement of obligations lawyers already have.

 “Diversity and inclusion is not a zero-sum game,” said Anand, who was the co-chairman of the law society’s Challenges Faced by Racialized Licensees Working Group.

“The human rights of some are the human rights of all. Inclusion benefits all of us.”

Diversity seeking groups such as the Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers mobilized their members to attend the meeting, where there was standing room only.

Other organizations such as the Ontario Bar Association, the Criminal Lawyers Association, and the Roundtable of Diversity Associations had also expressed their opposition of Groia’s motion in the lead up to the meeting.

In a vote Groia's motion was defeated 38 -16.

The statement of principles requirement was part of 13 recommendations that were passed a year ago to battle the barriers faced by racialized licensees. The recommendations came out of a report that drew from four years of research and consultations.

Under the new obligation this year, lawyers are required to write or adopt a template statement, but will not have to submit it to the law society. The regulator has said there will be no penalty for non-compliance this year, but has not ruled out a possible penalty in the future.

When the recommendations were originally debated last year, bencher Sidney Troister proposed a motion to separate the recommendations so that the statement of principles would be voted on separately.

Troister’s motion failed, the entire package was approved, and the issue did not become a topic of public debate again until the law society started to implement the requirement this fall.

Following some uproar in newspaper editorials and pledges by some lawyers they would not comply with the requirement, the law society recently released a guide to the statement of principles to clarify the obligation.

This said that the statement of principles is about conduct and that it “need not include any statement of thoughts, belief or opinion.”

The requirement is still facing a court challenge by Lakehead University law professor Ryan Alford, in what some benchers feel will become an expensive and drawn out legal fight that will likely end up at the Supreme Court of Canada.

Free newsletter

The Canadian Legal Newswire is a FREE newsletter that keeps you up to date on news and analysis about the Canadian legal scene. A separate InHouse Edition is delivered on a regular basis, providing targeted news and information of interest to in-house counsel.

Please enter your email address below to subscribe.

Recent articles & video

SCC relies on treaty in finding foreign company exempt from paying tax in Canada

Ontario court pilot shows trend toward family dispute resolution: lawyer

COVID-19 and the courts: Nov. 29, 2021 update

Thank you to our Advisory Panel for dedicating their time to the 2021 Lexpert Rising Stars Awards!

B.C.'s bill on electronic wills, remote witnessing to come into force this December

Law Society of B.C. is appealing tribunal decision to ban Richmond Hong Guo lawyer for a year

Most Read Articles

Announcing the 2021 Lexpert Rising Stars

Lawyers' petition protests 'erosion of our free society' through vaccine passports, mandates

COVID-19 has created challenges in completing some deals as potential buyers seek ways to get out

Last chance to take vote for the Top Intellectual Property and Labour & Employment Boutiques