I always thought young Bill Shakespeare was being harsh and unkind when he penned that line in Henry VI. I mean we all need lawyers at some time in our lives whether to unburden our sins, seek a defence for unwise actions, or draft a last will and testament.
We expect, and trust, that whether male or female our guide through the intricacies of law will be of the highest moral standards, without malice or greed. But even as we expect those high standards we remember humorist Will Rogers once said in his skitHob Nobbing With Leaders of the Bar: “Went down and spoke at some lawyers’ meeting last night. They didn’t seem to think much about my little squib yesterday about driving the shysters out of their profession. They seemed to kinder (cct) doubt just who would have to leave.”
Given our needs for legal guidance, usually when we are nervously, maybe fearfully, passing through troubled waters, it is understandable that we seek that guidance from a lawyer imbued with “honesty. civility, truthfulness, generosity and integrity.”
If those words seems familiar it’s probably because you read them recently as part of the Community Covenant Agreement students – not just law students – are asked to sign if they wish to become a member of the Trinity Western University.
They are among the words the Law Society of Upper Canada found so unpalatable that it voted against permitting any future Trinity University graduates in law to become eligible for admission to the Ontario bar. Seems that the ruling body of Ontario lawyers was more than a trifle upset about a University declaring itself a Christian Institute and calling for its student body to “cultivate Christian virtues such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, self-control, compassion, humility, forgiveness, peace-making, mercy and justice.”
Easy to see why some lawyers might be uneasy to find men and women with such high ideals in their midst. To be fair the “goodness and mercy” aspect of TWU’s Covenant Agreement wasn’t the most upsetting for Upper Canada’s Law Society. What really turned them off was a clause requiring all students (again not just law students) to refrain from gossip, obscene language, prejudice, harassment, drunkenness and “sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman.”
Ah, the old too often bitter same-sex marriage debate that has split church organizations around the world now raising its emotional debating head in legal circles. Lawyers in Ontario and Nova Scotia have already voiced their displeasure while others, like those in BC are still pondering which side they want to be on – although a BC petition with 1,777 signatures has been forwarded to the appropriate authorities to clarify and possibly change BC’s earlier decision to allow a faculty of law to be established under existing WTU rules.
The Law Society of Upper Canada voted 28-21 with one abstention to refuse admission to the Ontario bar to WTU graduates. The Canadian Press reported the Society’s Treasurer saying the decision had not been an easy one “(but) as members of the legal profession, we recognize the entrenched values of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and Ontario’s Human Rights Code, including the right of equality and the right to freedom of religion, and the foundational nature of those rights to our democracy.
WTU President Bob Kuhn used much the same rights of freedom argument in his reply to the Law Society of Upper Canada which, he is reported as saying, is sending a signal to millions of sincere Christians that their beliefs would preclude them from practicing if, in five or six years time they graduated in Law from WTU.
Confused? You’re not alone – and it isn’t much use asking a lawyer for guidance. If, as now seems likely, the less than Christian-quality debate ends up in Supreme Court, who will present WTU’s case? A high priced Toronto lawyer, maybe? One who voted against the right of WTU law graduates to practice but will argue brilliantly for their right to do just that – for a fee. We are, after all, all entitled to the best legal minds we can afford and as Ogden Nash said so aptly back in the 1930’s: “Professional men, they have no cares; whatever happens, they get theirs.”
(You can find the full text of WTU’s Community Covenant with a quick Google. It’s inspiring and frightening, whichever side of the fence you’re on)