A Charter challenge to the Law Society's mandatory Statement of Principles

On November 6, 2017, with the support of the Canadian Constitution Foundation (CCF), Prof. Ryan Alford of Lakehead University’s Bora Laskin Law Faculty, filed an application challenging the Law Society of Ontario’s new requirement that all lawyers and paralegals draft a personal Statement of Principles demonstrating their "personal valuing" of equality, diversity, and inclusion and accepting an obligation to promote those values in their professional context and generally.

On Oct 25, 2018 the Notice of Application was amended to add Toronto lawyer Murray Klippenstein as a co-applicant. Read the release here.

  • A copy of the latest amended Notice of Application can be found here (Oct 25, 2018).
  • A copy of the original Notice of Application is here.
  • A copy of the CCF’s Press Release is here.
  • A link to the Law Society website describing the requirement is here.

If you’re concerned about over-regulation and compelled speech, please help us defend your Charter rights!

Update 7 (May 6, 2019)

Lawyers opposed to Statement of Principles requirement sweep bencher election in Ontario

After last week's election, a majority of the benchers on the Law Society of Ontario's board of directors are now opposed to the Society's Statement of Principles requirement. This requirement compelled all lawyers and paralegals to draft a personal statement demonstrating their "personal valuing" of equality, diversity, and inclusion and accepting an obligation to promote those values in their professional context and generally.

Read more about this recent election in Canadian Lawyer.

Lawyer Murray Klippenstein and Law Prof. Ryan Alford, with the support of the CCF, are currently challenging this requirement on the basis that it violates sections 2(a) and 2(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Supreme Court of Canada has previously said that requiring people to sign statements of this sort – even well-intentioned statements, with which they may agree – is unconstitutional and “totalitarian”.

Watch co-applicant Murray Klippenstein, discuss the case below on Bridge City News here.

Update 6 (Feb 13, 2019)

How Social Justice Ideologues Hijacked a Legal Regulator

On Monday, Quillette published an excellent article by Murray Klippenstein about the case against the Law Society of Ontario's new "Statement of Principles" requirement. Mr. Klippenstein is a lawyer, self-described progressive, and most importantly, a co-applicant in this case with support by the Canadian Constitution Foundation. We are supporting this important case to fight against compelled speech and regulatory overreach. If lawyers won't stand up for Charter rights when they are threatened in
their own profession, how can we expect others to stand up for Charter rights elsewhere in Canadian society?

Update 5 (Feb 6, 2019):

Update on CCF case against compelled speech for Ontario lawyers

We have filed our affidavits and expert report in the case against the Law Society of Ontario’s requirement that licensees draft a personal statement demonstrating their personal valuing of inclusivity, diversity, and equality. Now we are waiting for the Law Society to respond with its evidence.

In the coming weeks, we look forward to sharing the strong affidavits from our applicants, Professor Dr. Ryan Alford and lawyer Mr. Murray Klippenstein, and by Chi-Kun-Shi, a Chinese Canadian lawyer, whose opposition to compelled statements of belief draws on her experience living under a repressive political regime and practicing law as a visible minority member of the Ontario bar.

In the meantime, check our Leonid Sirota’s excellent blog post on why he thinks the statement of principles is, in his words, “…wrong in principle, illegal, and unconstitutional.”


Update 4 (Oct 25, 2018):

Celebrated Toronto Attorney Murray Klippenstein joins Charter challenge against the Law Society of Ontario as a co-applicant

The Notice of Application has now been amended to add Mr. Klippenstein as a co-applicant. The Fresh as Amended Notice of Application can be found here.

Mr. Klippenstein believes the new Statement of Principles requirement is blatantly unconstitutional and contrary to the values he has championed and fought for his entire professional career in defence of fundamental rights. Mr. Klippenstein said:

“The Law Society’s attempt by force of law to compel myself and tens of thousands of lawyers to individually adopt a compulsory personal Statement of Principles, which advances a specific political viewpoint, is one of the most regressive developments I have seen in the profession of law and in Canada in my lifetime, because it attempts to force me to say and even to think things that they choose.  I never imagined that such a deep invasion of personal freedom would happen here in Canada.”

Read the full release here.

Update 3 (Feb 5, 2018):

The Law Society of Upper Canada has filed a motion to have the application of law professor Dr. Ryan Alford challenging the new “Statement of Principles” requirement transferred to Divisional Court from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. The motion will be heard on March 8, 2018.

This procedural delay is extremely disappointing, as Dr. Alford and the Canadian Constitution Foundation have taken pains to be accommodating in dealing with the LSUC, and given the March 31, 2018 deadline for licensees to complete their Annual Report.

The Notice of Application was also amended again and a copy is available here.

Read our full release here.

Update 2:

On December 1, 2017, the Law Society of Upper Canada soundly rejected a motion proposed by Joseph Groia, a prominent Toronto lawyer and bencher of the Law Society, to create an exemption to the new mandatory Statement of Principles for persons who believe the requirement violates their freedom of conscience.

This leaves Dr. Ryan Alford’s legal and constitutional challenge to the requirement, which is supported by the Canadian Constitution Foundation, as the last defence of the rights and freedoms of lawyers and paralegals in Ontario. Read the full release here.

Update 1:

On November 21, 2017, the Law Society issued a new "Guide" purporting to clarify what the Statement of Principles means. They have backed off some of the most controversial parts and now say that:

  • it does not require lawyers to say they believe or agree with any specific principles (including any ideological interpretations of "diversity, equality, and inclusion");
  • it merely affirms the requirement that lawyers follow existing human rights laws and the Code of Professional Conduct; and 
  • that lawyers will not be required to show their Statements to the Law Society. 

Unfortunately, guidelines posted on a website do not have the force of law, and the text of the recommendation approved by the benchers remains the official, operative requirement.

We have filed an Amended Application seeking a judicial declaration, which would read the Statement of Principles down to comply with the constitutional right to be free from compelled speech. We hope that, consistent with the new "Guidelines," the Law Society will consent to this Amended Application.

A copy of our November 22, 2017 news release is here.