Ontario Bar Requires Lawyer Pledge To “Promote Equality”

The Ontario bar association has adopted a rule under which all lawyers “must prepare and submit a personal ‘Statement of Principles’ attesting that we value and promote equality, diversity and inclusion,” according to Bruce Pardy in the National Post, who says it’s a bad idea:

In free countries, law governs actions rather than expressions of beliefs. People can be required to obey the speed limit and pay taxes, but they may not be compelled to declare that the speed limits are properly set or that taxes are a good thing. The Supreme Court of Canada has said that forcing someone to express opinions that they do not have “is totalitarian and as such alien to the tradition of free nations like Canada, even for the repression of the most serious crimes.”

The rule and resulting suggested Statements of Principles have been the subject of numerous criticismsdebate, and defenses in Ontario and throughout Canada. According to No Forced Speech, an effort of the Canadian Constitution Foundation, the society rejected a proposal “to create an exemption to the new mandatory Statement of Principles for persons who believe the requirement violates their freedom of conscience.”

Now, per the CBC,

Ryan Alford, an associate professor with the faculty of law at Lakehead University, filed an application in Ontario Superior Court on Monday that seeks an injunction to block the requirement.

“We need to have an understanding about whether or not this is within the law society’s powers under the Law Society Act and whether or not it’s constitutional. I think a lot of people just want clarity on this,” Alford said in an interview.

Good luck to Prof. Alford and the CCF. But the U.S. is not so far behind. In 2016 the ABA adopted Model Rule 8.4 (g), which makes it “professional misconduct” for an attorney to engage in “conduct,” including verbal “conduct,” that “the lawyer knows or reasonably should know is harassment or discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status or socioeconomic status in conduct related to the practice of law.”

Aside from its many other problems — lawyers “discriminate” on the basis of “socioeconomic status” every time they turn down a client they adjudge unlikely to pay their fee — UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh has argued that the ABA rule’s scope “is broad and vague enough to potentially apply to a wide range of political speech, and thus violate the First Amendment.” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has declared in an advisory opinion that if his state adopted the ABA model rule, the courts would probably strike it down as an unconstitutional restriction on “freedom of speech, free exercise of religion, and freedom of association.”

The “Test Acts” were a series of enactments in England that excluded from public office and penalized in other ways those who would not swear allegiance to the prevailing religious tenets of the day. There is no good reason to bring back their principles.