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Ontario law society divided over rule requiring commitment to promoting diversity

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TORONTO — A heated debate that has divided the Law Society of Ontario for months is expected to continue Wednesday as the organization’s board of directors considers scrapping a rule that requires its members to spell out their commitment to promoting diversity.

The board is meeting in Toronto to discuss — and potentially vote on — a motion to repeal the rule that calls for lawyers to create and abide by a so-called “statement of principles” acknowledging their obligation to advocate for equality and inclusion.

The measure was one of 13 recommendations issued in 2016 by an internal working group on tackling systemic racism in the legal profession.

But some argue the requirement goes too far and, earlier this year, a slate of candidates was elected to the board after campaigning on a promise to revoke it.

They argue the rule imposes values on lawyers and amounts to unconstitutional, compelled speech.

Supporters of the measure, meanwhile, say it is a small but important step towards eradicating systemic barriers and builds on lawyers’ existing obligations without encroaching on their rights.

The issue was first debated at a meeting in June, along with a second motion to amend the rule so that participation becomes voluntary.

Many of those who oppose the rule also condemn the voluntary option, saying it flouts the results of the election and raising concerns that the law society would keep records of those who opted in or out.

“This remains a political litmus test and a symbol of submission to ensure lawyers and paralegals are in conformance with the currently fashionable ideology of (equality, diversity and inclusion), which has become almost a religion in some circles,” lawyer Lisa Bildy wrote in a letter to the society before the June meeting.

“The law society has no authority in its governing statute or otherwise to dictate its members’ political values, regardless of how laudable or seemingly uncontroversial they might be.”

Some argued the law society should focus on regulation and discipline instead of these types of measures.

“(The law society) should stop trying to tell lawyers what to think. It has been suffering from ‘mission creep’ for decades,” tax lawyer David Sherman wrote. 

Others wrote in to support the rule, arguing members aren’t required to make their statement of principles public or even share it with the law society, nor are they penalized for failing to comply.

They noted the law society received legal advice before implementing the measure that found it constitutional and within the organization’s jurisdiction, and stressed the importance of working towards a more inclusive profession.

“In order to move forward as a profession we must try to address the barriers that affect racialized licensees instead of overturning the progress that had has been made to date,” wrote Aaron Bains, president of the South Asian Bar Association of Toronto.

“We urge you to reflect on these issues and to resist undoing the progress of the past several years.”

Lori Anne Thomas, president of the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers, wrote that “equity, diversity and inclusion is not controversial to strive for as a profession that serves a diverse public.”

Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press

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Trudeau was only one in dark makeup at 2001 party but nobody took offence: attendee

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VANCOUVER — A man who attended an “Arabian Nights” gala held by a private school in Vancouver says no one besides Justin Trudeau attended in skin-darkening makeup, but no one else there was dressed as Aladdin.

Wayne Hamill, who is white, says he doesn’t recall anyone expressing any offence over Trudeau’s costume or “brownface” makeup at the time.

Hamill went to the 2001 party because his kids were West Point Grey Academy students and he says the future Liberal leader’s costume was in keeping with the theme and others were dressed as belly dancers or wearing saris or veils.

He says he’s not a Trudeau supporter but he believes the uproar over a photograph showing Trudeau made up in brownface is unfair because it’s applying today’s standards to yesterday’s context.

Trudeau has apologized for the image and others that have emerged of him wearing skin-darkening makeup, saying he had a blind spot because of his privilege and he deeply regrets behaviour he now recognizes as racist.

He says in his 2014 book, “Common Ground,” that teaching at West Point Grey Academy gave him new insights into the “privileged lives” of private-school students that he didn’t glean from his own advantaged upbringing.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 20, 2019.

The Canadian Press

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Ontario Human Rights Commission unveils new policy to tackle racial profiling

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VAUGHAN, Ont. — Ontario’s Human Rights Commission says racial profiling in law enforcement is profoundly harmful.

It says the police practice hurts black, Indigenous and other racialized communities.

The commission today released a new policy on eliminating racial profiling called Under Suspicion.

It says it’s the first such policy in the country.

Recommendations include acknowledging the problem, collecting data on police stops and independent accountability.

It also calls for officers to wear body cameras.

 

The Canadian Press

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september, 2019

tue06augAll Daysun29sepHot Mess - Erin Boake featured at Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery(All Day)

sun22sep2:00 pm4:00 pmVinyasa with a View2:00 pm - 4:00 pm MT Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre, 120 College Circle Event Organized By: Lululemon Red Deer

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