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Inappropriate for LSUC to impose values on licensees: Rotfleisch

While it may be simple for legal professionals to adopt the Law Society of Upper Canada’s (LSUC) new requirement to sign a statement of principles on diversity, Canadian tax lawyer David J. Rotfleisch tells The Lawyer’s Daily that it is inappropriate for the regulator to impose values on its members.

As the article explains, the statement of principles requirement was brought forward by the LSUC after a study it conducted on the legal profession revealed systemic racism. The law society says the statement is meant to encourage licensees to acknowledge their responsibility to promote equality in the profession. It is also now part of the regulator's annual reporting requirements.

The Lawyer’s Daily reports that there has been some pushback over the issue, which will be brought to Convocation on Dec. 1 by way of a notice of motion filed by an LSUC bencher.

“I can’t imagine how it could be more negative. There are so many analogies: the Thought Police comes to mind from 1984, McCarthyism and catch-22 loyalty oaths. This really is a Big Brother imposing thought requirements on its members," Rotfleisch, founding tax lawyer at Rotfleisch & Samulovitch Professional Corporation, says in the article.

“The Big Brother in this case, the law society, has the ability to pull my licence and prevent me from earning a living if I don’t adhere to their concepts and their thoughts. I find it quite outrageous,” he adds.

Although a statement of principles might be simple to adopt, Rotfleisch says he takes issue with some of the language in the law society template that suggests licensees should prioritize diversity.

“So instead of prioritizing, like I do right now, tax knowledge I’m now expected to prioritize diversity and inclusion. So I should hire someone who doesn’t know tax just because they are racialized in a form that I don’t have? Is that what this means? Presumably not, but on the face of it that’s what it says,” he says.

The pretext of the statement of principles, says Rotfleisch, is that it’s in accordance with the Human Rights Code.

“Why do I need to sign a loyalty oath that says I’m going to adhere to the Human Rights Code as opposed to the Income Tax Act? Am I not required to pay income taxes? But I am required to adhere to the Human Rights Code. How is this law different than other laws that bind me as a professional and me as a citizen?” he adds.

Ultimately, Rotfleisch tells The Lawyer’s Daily that he thinks it is inappropriate for the law society to impose values on its members and he is concerned about possible disciplinary action for those who might refuse to adhere to the statement of principles.

The article notes that the law society has stated that, this year, no disciplinary measures will be taken and non-compliant members will receive a letter encouraging them to comply.

“Where do they [the law society] get off doing this? I understand the concerns about racialized members of the profession, but this is not the way to handle it,” says Rotfleisch.

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