Is challenging the new pronoun policy in British Columbia courts acceptable or does it amount to hate speech?

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“The right to freedom of expression and open debate are not without limits”: resolution ahead of Bar’s annual general meeting poised to subject contentious issue to a gender mix

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In a profession that still uses M’Lord and M’Lady, some lawyers in British Columbia have balked at new court rules that ask participants in court proceedings which pronouns they prefer.

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But the bushfire of controversy sparked earlier this year by the changes ignited with a resolution before the Law Society of British Columbia annual general meeting calling for a debate on guidelines for gender mainstreaming.

In a world of gay pride and respect for transgender people, the Canadian Bar Association – British Columbia Division denounced the motion as amounting to hate speech.

“This is not a benign resolution,” said President Clare Jennings in a message to some 7,000 provincial members of the lobby group.

“This is an attack on the principles underlying the practice guidelines: that transgender and non-binary people exist and deserve the same respect and dignity when they interact with our justice system,” she said. writing.

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“The right to freedom of expression and open debate is not without limits… Not all topics are open to debate in modern society, and they shouldn’t be.

victoria lawyer Jim heller, one of those behind the resolution, was stunned by the vitriol.

He highlighted many critical posts on a professional discussion site – dozens of them.

“All these young WOKE lawyers, two and three year old calls, they’re all the same, they’re all singing the same hymnbook,” he said. “I no longer know what they teach in law school; this is not the law school that I attended. It just got so awake, it’s kinda crazy. It’s like a cult sight.

“I no longer know what they teach in law school;  this is not the law school I went to, ”said Victoria's lawyer Jim Heller, who supports the resolution to debate the new gender titles policy in British Columbia court proceedings. .
“I no longer know what they teach in law school; this is not the law school I went to, ”said Victoria’s lawyer Jim Heller, who supports the resolution to debate the new gender titles policy in British Columbia court proceedings. . “It just got so AWAKEN, it’s kinda crazy.” It’s like a cult sight. Photo from jimheller.com

In December, the British Columbia Supreme Court issued the Practice Direction with an almost identical provincial court opinion after the usual discussion with judges and registry staff as well as consultation with the community of the British Columbia Canadian Bar Association’s Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGIC). Plugged.

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The instructions (which ask lawyers and others who come forward to provide the “correct pronouns” they would like the court to use) are not laws, but expectations of good behavior.

They aimed to improve the legal system for participants of various genders.

“Without any discussion with anyone other than SOGIC, out of the blue, the Supreme Court and Provincial Court gave this direction,” Heller said.

“I think it’s a crazy assumption (the judges) operate: you can’t safely know how to call someone by their face, voice and appearance.”

He wrote to the court to complain “about a small fragment of a special interest group: how could you let them wrap you around their finger?”

The judges said they were happy with the process.

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“I have a problem with them forcing me to recite this catechism every time I go to court… it’s intrusive,” Heller insisted.

He said the Justice Center for Constitutional Freedoms, a Calgary-based conservative rights group, helped connect him with other lawyers who opposed the changes.

Although measures to eliminate discriminatory processes and language have been adopted in Europe since the turn of the century, the debate in Canada has lagged behind.

In 2017, Alberta-born psychology professor and contrarian conservative cultural warrior Jordan Peterson opposed adding “gender identity or expression” to the Canadian Human Rights Act. anybody.

He argued that the change could cause people to be forced to use prescribed pronouns – the thin edge of the wedge in a legal, political and philosophical dispute.

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Since then, it has been smoldering.

Heller traced the notion of the police pronoun back to the 1920s and to the theory of cultural hegemony of Italian communist Antonio Gramschi and the use of institutions to maintain order and control.

His partner in proposing the resolution, the lawyer from Kelowna Shahdin Farsai, believes that the instructions are “potentially a forced speech in court, a violation of the right to privacy and undermine the perception of judicial impartiality”.

She wrote an article for the provincial legal magazine, The Advocate, but it was rejected after other lawyers heard and complained.

Canadian Lawyer originally posted a version, but it was later removed from its website and a message was posted saying it did not reflect the views of the magazine.

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That’s the problem, Heller laments.

“They don’t want to engage rationally. It’s my overall take on their mentality, ”he said. “They are not in a rational discussion, which ironically is the very point of our resolution, to reiterate that this is what lawyers do. Instead of saying that there are not two sides to this, let’s vigorously discuss this.

In fact, the Bar meeting on October 5 will also consider two motions that would make it almost impossible in the future to pass inflammatory resolutions: the first, requiring the support of at least 50 members in good standing; and the second, giving the President a veto over whether a resolution “is in good standing, being reasonably related to the mandate or responsibilities of the Law Society or the Benchers, or to the regulation of the legal profession”.

imulgrew@postmedia.com

twitter.com/ianmulgrew

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