Better late than too late: How are law societies to respond to #TWU?

A decade from now, after the dust of court challenges has settled, a Canadian law society president near you may be calling to the bar a graduate from the Trinity Western University Faculty of Law (TWU).  TWU is a faith-based private college requiring its students to sign a “Community Covenant Agreement” banning “sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman.”  Considered a thinly veiled exclusion of members of the LGBT community, the document’s previously litigated antecedent required students to refrain from “biblically condemned” conduct, including “homosexual behaviour.”  The prospect of law societies conferring licences on TWU graduates frightens and angers many in the legal community.

The outcry represents a broadly-based—although not unanimous—negative reaction to TWU’s application to the Federation of Law Societies of Canada (FLSC) to have its law program accredited for students applying to become lawyers.  The TWU contract offends the constitutional and quasi-constitutional Canadian values expressed in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Bill of Rights and human rights codes, but those statutes do not reach the academic policies of a private school.  The TWU application therefore challenges the resolve of the Canadian bar as the legal sector stumbles to catch up with the rest of society on the diversity file.  (Lawyers are far away from being able to claim a moral high ground.)

Not all lawyers oppose the TWU bid for a law school.  The dissenting camp falls into two general groups.

The first group express a desire to absent the bar from the debate.  They preface their comments saying they disagree with the discriminatory conduct.  Their message is that bar regulators are ultra vires of their statutory mandates to refuse to admit TWU graduates to the bar if the graduates (1) are competent to practice law and (2) do not violate the human rights of clients and others once they enter legal practice.

The second group of dissenters argue that a significant sector of higher education in Canada has been founded by religious orders.  They say TWU is no different, say, from Trinity College, the Anglican school founded by Bishop Strachan where I studied for my B.A. and next to which I attended law school at the University of Toronto.  (Strachan, a Loyalist believer in political influence through education rooted in Church of England doctrine, founded Canada’s other university named Trinity, in 1851, after King’s College was secularized as the University of Toronto.)

What is still missing from the discourse, especially on the side of the majority reaction to TWU’s application for accreditation, is a jurisprudential response to the grounds the university has raised.  This is a problem for the majority because lawyers and law societies must uphold the law.  If the bar is to debate the issue constructively, its members must do so qua jurists, not as an ad hoc protest party.

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Choisissez le ‘nouveau’ professionnalisme juridique

Le droit et le combat

(For English version, click here or click on the image – right)

Les outils de notre métier sont-ils les insultes et les arguments ad hominem? Est-ce que nous allons collaborer à la suppression des puissances des avocats plaideurs?  Suivrons-nous le « mouvement de civilité » en droit canadien?  Ou devons-nous continuer avec les clichés de notre passé, comme le juge Riddell a capturé dans l’arrêt de 1915 dans Dale v Toronto Co. RW: « Le procès devant un jury est un combat et non un thé anglais » ? Ce n’est pas un argument nouveau. Au contraire, il faut remonter dans les siècles pour voir d’où notre profession est venue. Prenons, par exemple, ce passage de Henry VI, 2e partie, de Shakespeare:

N’est-ce pas une chose déplorable, que
de la peau d’un agneau innocent doit être faite parchemin,
lequel parchemin, étant couvert d’écrits, devrait annuler un homme?

Avez-vous l’identifié? Il était, en effet, l’introduction à cette condamnation célèbre de notre métier: « La première chose que nous ferons, nous allons tuer tous les avocats. » Certains apologistes des avocats ont commenté que ce passage de Shakespeare soit vraiment une louange pour le rôle des avocats.  Le discours était, plutôt, ce qui témoigne le rôle historique des ur-avocats avant le Moyen âge – des fonctionnaires du roi infligeant des brutalités arbitraires de la dictature. Dans une époque où les monarques avaient du mal à maintenir leur pouvoir absolu, le parchemin portant le sceau du roi portait la puissance de son armée et de la police. Les ur-avocats, à cette époque, ne représentait pas un barreau indépendant. Continue reading

My Choice for “Best New Blog” in the #clawbies2012 Awards

My Choice for CLawBies 2012 Best New Blog?  The Law Society of Upper Canada’s Treasurer’s Blog.

Not because the idea of a Treasurer’s blog is “cool.”  (Do we even want that?  No one outside of Ontario know he is actually the President of the Law Society, and we cling on to the misnomer to prevent the leader from being described with such epithets.)

Not because the Law Society under Tom Conway has embraced social media.  (He’s still a one-man-band.  We’ll wait for the chorus of  “lifer” benchers to sign up on Twitter.)

Not because it reaches out to a new generation of lawyers, who must become engaged.  (I don’t think that generation logs on to the Law Society site, except to record their CPD hours – at least they do that.) Continue reading

Law Society of Upper Canada – What’s in the name?

Call it what it is, instead of what it is not. Call it: Ontario Independent Regulator of Lawyers and Paralegals.

(le résumé en français suit)

The Law Society of  Upper Canada‘s name is a millstone around our necks in the battle to preserve self-regulation. Continue reading

An academy of criminal law for Ontario

This is my final post on the Law Society of Upper Canada’s articling consultation.  During the last few months, some interesting ideas have emerged from various quarters.

(la version française suit)

First, the “articling” crisis is perceived to be a Toronto-centric problem.  It has long been known to be a predominantly Ontario problem, probably because Toronto is a magnet for would-be lawyers not only from Ontario but also from the rest of Canada and some common-law jurisdictions abroad.  Anecdotal accounts of small-town firms unsuccessfully seeking articling students to fill jobs may suggest that it is not, ultimately, the Toronto bar’s problem alone. Continue reading