October 23, 2017
Law Society of Upper Canada Benchers
130 Queen Street West
Dear Law Society Benchers:
RE: Opposition to the Motion Requesting that the Law Society of Upper Canada Exempt Conscientious Objectors from Adopting and Abiding by the Statement of Principles to Promote Equality, Diversion and Inclusion
On behalf of the Canadian Hispanic Bar Association (“CHBA”), we are writing to express our disagreement with the proposed motion to be tabled by Bencher Joseph Groia on December 1, 2017 that seeks to exempt licensees from adopting and abiding by a statement of principles (the “statement”) to promote equality, diversity and inclusion if they declare themselves to be conscientious objectors.
The CHBA has been involved with the Challenges Facing Racialized Licensees (“Challenges”) process from the inception of the Law Society of Upper Canada’s (“Law Society”) working group in 2012, through the consultation process in 2015, and the final report in 2016. We supported the adoption of the final report and its recommendations by Convocation in December of 2016 and our members were very pleased when it was passed.
Through the above process, the CHBA met with benchers and made written submissions outlining the systemic barriers faced by our members. There is no doubt that this phenomenon is real, which is why we view requiring licensees to “acknowledge” their pre-existing human rights obligations through the statement as a baseline step in addressing systemic discrimination in the profession.
In our view, this requirement concerns action and conduct, and not thoughts and belief. As such, there are no grounds for this motion. Moreover, we object to the invocation of Charter protection to evade human rights mechanisms that will promote equity, diversity, and inclusion for our members.
In our view, the recommendations contained in the Challenges reports are well-reasoned, well-thought out, and enjoy wide support from equity-seeking groups in the profession. It would be a step backwards for the current motion to pass.
We thus ask you, as our elected representatives, to vote against this motion, and to continue to implement the recommendations contained in the Challenges report in our continued pursuit of equity, diversity and inclusion in the profession.
Yours very truly,
President, Canadian Hispanic Bar Association