Diversity group says it supports voluntary statement of principles for Law Society of Ontario

Compromise in light of ‘concern over erasing the progress made’

Diversity group says it supports voluntary statement of principles for Law Society of Ontario
Law Society of Ontario (iStock)

A group of supporters of the Law Society of Ontario’s equity, diversity and inclusion initiatives says it would back benchers who vote to make the statement of principles voluntary.

The statement of principles — which for the past two years has been a mandatory document that all lawyers must write professing support for diversity and inclusion — is at risk of being repealed entirely next month.

When the law society board of directors meets on Sept. 11, it will examine an effort to repeal the statement of principles requirement. The effort has been put forward by a slate of 22 recently elected lawyers, who call their group StopSOP. A different option — put forth by benchers Teresa Donnelly and Joseph Groia — would make the statement of principles optional for Ontario’s lawyers.

Both options — a so-called clean repeal and a voluntary statement of principles — struggled to get through the needed voting process at the LSO’s last public board meeting in June. Some supporters of the statement of principles, such as bencher Isfahan Merali, said in June they would not accept a voluntary statement of principles.

“I believe a strong dissent is critical to maintain on the record…. I cannot, unfortunately, in good conscience support any fracturing or regression,” she said of repealing the statement of principles requirement.

However, a pro-SOP group of lawyers now say that they support Groia and Donnelly’s voluntary statement of principles idea.

“To be clear, our collective supports a mandatory SOP first and foremost. The mandatory SOP was only a small first step towards a much larger task of developing a Law Society where all members are included and valued, where greater numbers of racialized folks become lawyers, and where members of society at large feel represented and heard by the legal professionals who serve them,” the group said in an open letter addressed to benchers. “However, in the spirit of compromise and concern over erasing the progress made, Demand Inclusion encouraged Benchers to support the motion moved by Joseph Groia and seconded by Teresa Donnelly.”

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