On February 27, 2020, the Law Society of Ontario had Convocation. Convocation is called to discuss business at the Law Society of Ontario, this business can range from setting a budget for the Law Society of Ontario to making amendments to the By-laws.
Today, two motions were moved by Lawyer Bencher John Fagan and seconded by Lawyer Bencher Jared Brown to be discussed and voted on at Convocation.
Motion #1 was to have Convocation censure a Member of the Equality Advisory Group and a representative from the Department of Discrimination and Harassment Counsel.
This motion was brought forth as a Bencher had been alleged to have said a racist comment to a Member of the Equality Advisory Group. This happened after an Indigenous Elder preformed a healing circle and was asking other attendees to speak. No Bencher was asked to speak.
The Member from the Equality Advisory Group made the decision to post their experience on Twitter while keeping the Bencher’s name anonymous.
The Bencher decided to write article about how their comments were misconstrued.
The Law Society of Ontario’s Department of Discrimination and Harassment Counsel and at least one Bencher retweeted the original tweet.
Motion #2 was to have to all Benchers to be allowed to attend and speak at any Equity & Indigenous Affairs Committee meetings, that non-Benchers be banned from an Equity & Indigenous Affairs Committee meeting unless to present a report or submissions, and finally to study if there is a need for the groups such as the Equality Advisory Group.
This motion was tabled indefinitely. You can view the original motion here.
The Ontario Paralegal Association has two issues with these motions.
The first issue is that these motions were presented Convocation with such limited time to conduct a proper investigation. As legal professions; we evaluate our arguments based on facts, we make decisions based on facts, and we live by facts. In this case, there was no chance to get facts in order to have a proper discussion nor was proper procedure followed. The motion was rushed through in order silence legitimate complaints, to shut out people from the conversation, and set the clock back on progress.
The second issue is that these motions are being used to silence legitimate concerns. While the world has made some progress in equality. It is a fact, that people will experience discrimination in both their professional and personal lives. In this day and age, that is unacceptable.
The Ontario Paralegal Association is proud of it’s diverse membership.
The Ontario Paralegal Association is proud to be on the Equality Advisory Group.
The Ontario Paralegal Association is proud to take a stance on this issue.
Using Convocation to silence people is wrong. Our profession was borne out of giving the voiceless a voice. We should never silence someone when they are speaking out against discrimination. Diversity is not the boogeyman. We should celebrate diversity.
The citizens of Ontario have the right to have a diverse legal community. Having a diverse legal community protects the people of Ontario. Our neighbours should feel secure knowing that their legal representative does not care about someone’s skin colour or religion or gender or anything else. The only thing a legal representative should care about is protecting their Clients’ rights.
The Ontario Paralegal Association believes it’s time for Benchers to hear from those in the profession. You can find a list of the Toronto Lawyer Benchers, outside of Toronto Lawyer Benchers, and the Paralegal Benchers. We elect Benchers, they are accountable to us. This was so generously implied in the second motion.