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 Upper Canada’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.

  • 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 LSUC website describing the requirement is here.

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

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.

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