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John of Vancouver

March 3,  2001

William Shakespeare wrote in Henry VI, “ We must first kill all the lawyers.”

 In modern Canada today Shakespeare might very well be considered a hatemonger if you could find a lawyer to take offence at his remarks. However, given the following article derived wholly from public newspapers across the country, you might yourself feel some sympathy with Shakespeare if only because lawyers and jurists, so often in the spotlight, make such easy targets of themselves. You judge for yourself.

 Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery (or something like that), goes the old saying. Well maybe yes, maybe no, but at the University of Ontario law school imitating the shenanigans of the Ontario Law Society can land you in a heap of trouble.

 The nub of the problem seems to be that, it is alleged, one of their pious woman-professors encouraged students to falsify their grades as an act of rebellion against the highly competitive hiring practices of Toronto law firms. Thirty of her students took her seriously and did just that.

 Now the faculty of this learned institution is cawing their disapproval and the provost of the university has launched an investigation into the matter. How could this have happened? How can law students involve themselves in such obviously unethical practices? Easy, to a lawyer (or those aspiring to become one) the obvious is NOT obvious. These students were simply aping their peers in the legal establishment.

 The hypocrisy really shines when one remembers that just two years ago an Ontario Law Society task force recommended that some students (Indians) should be allowed to practice law even if they failed their bar-admission exams. Without saying so directly, the law society is basically rewarding incompetence and then foisting it upon an unsuspecting public. I doubt very much that the members of the society would blithely board an airplane if these standards were applied to pilots, yet we are expected to retain lawyers who can bill us at several hundred dollars per hour, on their say so. What cheek!

 One of the trade marks of a Canadian lawyer, it seems to me, is that he can’t tell right from wrong unless it is spelled out for him in large letters in legal texts and has at least five supporting legal opinions from the crackers on the bench.

 For example: Lawyer Ken Murray was accused of hiding video-tapes that showed Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo raping and torturing two teenagers whom they later killed. Lawyer Murray took the tapes from Bernardo’s house on his client’s instructions. He did not turn those tapes over to crown council, which is why Homolka will be free in a few short years rather than spending the rest of her natural life in jail.

 The law society has decided that the public will be better served if it clarified lawyers’ responsibilities in such a case rather than disciplining Murray. Instead, the society said it would set up a special committee to look at how lawyers should handle ethical dilemmas about evidence.

 To which I answer, NO, the public will not be better served thus. Any ten year old would know what to do. Why didn’t Lawyer Murray? Only the most self-serving type of individual would argue that such evidence presented an ethical dilemma. Lawyer Murray said, “It’s a recognition from the law society that there are no guidelines out there, particularly for criminal practitioners.”

 No guidelines? How about common human decency? How about the obvious! Is it too much to ask that lawyers behave like human beings? As for the special committee, anyone who has lived in Canada more than two weeks knows that this is code for “brush the issue under the rug until the public forgets about it.” And the public will.

 Don’t misunderstand me. The majority of barristers practicing in Canada are rational and ethical folk. But that doesn’t excuse the law societies from pandering to those whose obvious moral faults, not to mention lack of common sense, casts a pall across the whole profession. Is it any wonder that lawyers and politicians time and again receive the lowest approval rating from the common man?

 An example of what goes on behind the bench is demonstrated by one B.C. judge who found that a two year old girl was partly to blame for her own sexual assault because she acted in a sexually provocative manner, she being naked in her own home and all. Another esteemed colleague and fellow crack-pot found that murderer David Snow could not be found guilty of attempted murder in a case where he had tied a woman to a chair and then put a bag over her head and tied it fast around her throat. His Honour couldn’t see how this would result in her death and nobody in the courtroom had the gumption to stand up and ask the beak to try it on for himself. More recently the Windsor Star (March 1, 2001) reported on the efforts of Ian Brodie, professor at the University of Western Ontario, to reveal the misspending of public money to support gay-rights, extreme feminism, abortion and the pro-pornography lobby through the Court Challenges Program.

 The Court Challenges Program, funded by the federal government, is intended to support “important court cases that advance language and equality rights guaranteed under Canada’s Constitution.” Instead the disseminating panel is populated by individuals and groups who are generally the same people who get the cash. The Liberal government makes available this money so that these extreme social reformers can fund court challenges and affect changes in public policy. The government then steps aside and whimpers that it must change the law to suit the NEW definition as defined by lawyers, not parliamentarians.

 The root of the problem seems to be (at least here in Canada) that there are too many lawyers and not enough to occupy them all. To compare us to other industrialized nations we need only look at Japan, where there is approximately one lawyer per ten thousand citizens. In the U.S. it is closer to one in five hundred, and Canada’s ratio is even higher. Idle hands do the devils work, and if you don’t believe me, remember, Jean Chretien is a lawyer.

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