Time for Independent Oversight of Canada’s legal profession
“It is time to bring Canada’s legal profession into compliance with modern standards of independent oversight and external accountability.”
In a previous article, I told how Ontario’s Law Society of Upper Canada licensed a known pedophile to practice Child Protection Law – with predictable results. (You can read that article right here.)
What were the Law Society’s senior benchers thinking to do such a thing? Have they lost touch with reality? How did they suppose ordinary Canadians would perceive this? Did they not consider the welfare of the children who would be exposed to this pedophile lawyer?
Or… was the Law Society of Upper Canada so completely embraced with a sense of entitlement and superiority that duty to the public trust simply never entered the equation? I suspect that was the case – and remains so today.
I’ve expanded upon that theme in my first ‘op-ed’ video production to call for independent oversight of Canada’s legal profession. In the video I contrast how Canadians impose independent oversight and external accountability upon the police (with good reason) – yet we continue to allow our legal profession to regulate itself in the face of mounting evidence that this arrangement is not working out – to put it mildly.
Now don’t get me wrong here… the vast majority of Canada’s lawyers and judges do their best every day to deliver the best justice they can within the rules, laws and system that we have. And thank g*d that they do, because we have all the examples we need in some other countries to see what an entirely corrupt system does to individuals.
To borrow a phrase from Winston Churchill… Canada’s justice system is the worst – except for all the others.
And yet; increasingly, ordinary Canadians see that the power and authority (two entirely different concepts) conferred upon our lawyers and judges is too often abused or in the least, misapplied for reasons that range from overwhelmed, under-resourced courts to disturbing incidents of corruption and coverups at all levels.
Among the the rank and file of Canada’s legal profession, there has developed a distinct lack of courage to do the right thing.
Ordinary Canadians see a legal profession that once was the champion of Rule of Law now reduced to padding time dockets to meet Bay Street rents.
Canadian lawyers acknowledge that Ontario has a special problem
In the last two years as I expanded my advocacy for Self-Represented Litigants, I’ve spoken to many lawyers, Crown Attorneys and even a few judges/retired judges across Canada – right from Newfoundland through the Maritimes, into Quebec, onto the prairies and to our West Coast.
It is a fair comment to say that the general reputation of Ontario’s lawyers and the Law Society of Upper Canada is not exactly stellar in the eyes of many legal professionals outside of the province. In a phrase, the major Toronto law firms’ culture of ‘big money and big politics’ is viewed with disdain even in small Ontario communities.
But the systemic faults of the legal profession that are magnified in Big Law Ontario are not absent from other provinces.
Throughout Canada, lawyers are regulated, investigated and disciplined by the same people they went to law school with, the same people they work with and the same people they attend office parties and BBQs with.
Across Canada, when it comes to the legal profession, there is…
- No independent oversight.
- No independent investigations of lawyer misconduct.
- No external accountability.
- No transparency.
A growing legacy of scandals, cover-ups and whitewash means that it is time for independent investigations of lawyer misconduct in the short term – with the long term goal of bringing modern concepts of independent oversight to legal professionals who, like the police, have tremendous individual and group authority and power, with the attendant potential for abuse.
It is time to bring Canada’s legal profession into compliance with modern standards of independent oversight and external accountability.