No law school in the country may be more frank about producing social justice warriors than the University of Victoria, where Dean Jeremy Webber says in his welcoming message the following: “…this faculty has prided itself on its commitment to social justice.
“That’s an elusive aim, one that everyone claims to pursue. At UVic, it means all members of faculty accept that legal education ought to speak to all members of society, including those who are marginalized.
“Our focus on Indigenous legal traditions, for example, has been second to none.
“Different faculty members define their particular focus differently, but all share the general objective…”
Aside from the unsettling suggestion that all the law professors at UVic think the same (surely an odd bragging point) or at least agree on the larger goals – this after all is not so different from the Law Society of Ontario’s insistence that its members acknowledge their obligation to promote progressive values — Webber has it pretty much right too.
With a few exceptions, Canada’s law schools are increasingly determined not to be left behind by other faculties, such as education studies and social work, where SJWs, as they’re often called, make no bones about being all about anti-racism, gender equity and wholesale reform to the institutions of the country.
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That’s what social justice means, as Queen’s University law prof Bruce Pardy noted a couple of weeks ago in the National Post.
He was writing about the verdict in the Colten Boushie case and the University of Windsor’s law school statement about it, in which the school pronounced the legal system as oppressive and said “a reinvention of our legal system is necessary.”
Now for as long as there have been lawyers, there have been lawyers fighting for the progressive values of their day, and against injustice, in a range of ways — representing poor clients pro bono (short for pro bono publico, which is Latin meaning a service provided free and for the public good), taking on unpopular causes or clients, even focussing their practices in areas they believe are under-served, and working for peanuts in legal aid clinics or on legal aid certificates.
(I know many who fit that bill, but the one I always think of when I hear the pro bono phrase is Peter Rosenthal of Toronto, a University of Toronto math professor and a lawyer who for decades has doggedly represented those who cannot afford even the cheapest lawyer.)
That’s all good, of course, even noble. And the same holds true for law professors and law students: As Pardy said in an email Tuesday, it’s perfectly legitimate for prof and student to “pick apart judgments as they see fit and articulate the values that they believe the law should reflect.”
It’s qualitatively different, though, when law schools get into the muck of things, espouse …read more