In my last post, I’d like to reflect on the important role that the legal profession can play in driving social change. It is said that we are an ancient and learned profession, steeped in tradition and slow to change. As a profession we are proud of our time-honoured traditions but lawyers have also been agents of change where change is called for. As lawyers, we should be prepared to identify areas within our profession and the justice system where change is needed and we should support and encourage that change.
Our Law Society is working hard to develop policies and programs that support diversity in the profession. The goal is to ensure the public is well served by a profession which reflects the public it serves. When I consider the progress we have made, I am proud of the evolving composition and complexion of our profession. For example, at a recent call ceremony, the entire front row of the candidates was female. I don’t remember that ever being the case before. But we have not achieved the goal yet, and I encourage you to consider and adopt the Law Society programs that support diversity in the profession.
As lawyers, we are well positioned to identify injustice, and with the Courts, drive changes in the law. All are equal before the law, and entitled to equal treatment under the law. However, it is important to recognize that history is full of examples of bad laws. Apartheid and slavery are two extreme examples, but there are others – right in our backyard. Canada’s immigration policies were at one point racist. And, for more than a century, our policies and laws regarding Aboriginal people have resulted in discriminatory treatment. Women, too, have faced unequal treatment under the law; in the past our property laws have discriminated against women, and of course women, and others, were denied the right to vote.
We’ve come a long way, but there is still much to be done. As lawyers, we are ideally situated to be agents of change. It’s easy to keep our heads down and let our day to day work consume our mental energy. I urge you to seize opportunities now that may lead to creating necessary and positive changes to the justice system. After all, the constant pursuit of justice for all is, I believe, the true work of the legal profession.