On February 7, Canadian Lawyer Magazine unpublished a February 5 opinion article critical of a BC policy that directs lawyers to state their gender pronouns at the beginning of court proceedings.

The article, written by commercial lawyer Shahdin Farsai, argued that the practice constituted compelled speech and violated the privacy rights of individuals. 

“On December 16, 2020, both the BC Supreme and Provincial courts issued practice directions to lawyers that require parties and/or lawyers to state their preferred gender pronouns at the beginning of all court proceedings, which are ‘to be used’ by all participants appearing before the courts including judges,” Farsai recounted in her op-ed, which has since been archived online.  

“Practice directions do not have the force of law as do formal enactments and court rules, but they express the view of the court regarding matters of practice and procedure…the directive employs mandatory language that implies that other court participants must employ someone’s preferred pronoun when referring to them in the third person in court.”

The day after the article was published, over 150 lawyers penned an open letter to the magazine’s editors demanding that the magazine remove the article. 

The letter signatories also threatened the magazine by declining to write any future articles or take any interviews with the publication. 

True North spoke to Jared Brown, who is a litigator in Toronto and a Bencher of the Law Society of Ontario about the article and how censorship and political correctness threaten the integrity of the legal profession. 

“I can’t say I’m surprised, the Canadian legal landscape is quickly becoming a political and ideological monoculture where independence and courage are in short supply and opinions even moderately outside of extreme leftist orthodoxy are not tolerated,” said Brown. 

“The ideological capture of the legal profession and its liberal institutions by a certain brand of activist leftist politics openly hostile to liberalism and liberal democracy is now being enforced with the authoritarian toolkit of censorship, political correctness and denunciation.”

According to Brown, lawyers have a duty as the “last independent bulwark against oppression and tyranny” and must stand up “against efforts to co-opt the profession into the service of a particular ideology or politics.” 

“We refuse to be pulled into a debate about the worth of trans and non-binary lives. The human rights of our colleagues are not something that should be debated. Put simply, this is not a ‘two-sides’ issue,” read the letter. 

“We request that Canadian Lawyer remove the article, issue a retraction and apology, and outline the steps it will take in the future to ensure that its articles are both legally correct and respect the human rights of all of our community members, particularly members of the LGBTQ2S+ community.”

An editor’s note now appears on the page in place of Farsai’s piece. 

“An article posted on our website titled ‘British Columbia’s practice directions on preferred gender pronouns in court are problematic’ has been removed,” wrote Canadian Lawyer Magazine Editor Tim Wilbur. 

“The article did not reflect the views of Canadian Lawyer Magazine, Key Media and its related entities.”

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