I resigned as a member of the Law Society of Alberta yesterday. I actually had to apply for permission to quit.
Now, that’s not really news — I haven’t worked at a law firm in 13 years. I’m a journalist and activist. But for some reason, there were more than 100 news stories about my resignation.
I’ll tell you the reason: because it was a matter of freedom of speech.
You see, even though I was a non-practicing lawyer, I was still governed by the Law Society’s code of professional conduct. That’s supposed to discipline lawyers who do things like steal money from their clients — serious, professional malpractice. But there’s also a catch-all provision to discipline lawyers who engage in “unbecoming” conduct.
Well, over the last eight years, left-wing political extremists have abused that provision to file 26 nuisance complaints against me, claiming my journalism and political activism was “unbecoming”.
I had been a lawyer for almost sixteen years. So why did all these nuisance complaints start eight years ago? Because that’s when I launched my campaign against Canada’s corrupt human rights commissions, and their censorship powers.
Not a single one of these complaints against me was ever upheld. I resigned with a perfect record. But each time I’d beat one complaint, leftist activists would simply file a new one. Because it cost them nothing — and it cost me thousands of dollars to fight each complaint.
The process itself became the punishment. So I applied to get out. But not before I gave the Law Society a piece of my mind.
Here’s the statement that I read out at the Law Society’s headquarters:
Statement by Ezra Levant to the Law Society of Alberta
March 2, 2016
I’ve been a member of the Law Society of Alberta for sixteen years but I only worked for a law firm for just over one year: after I briefly ran for Parliament in Calgary Southwest in 2002, until I started the Western Standard news magazine in 2003. Those two things – politics and journalism – are what I do. I don’t practice law.
I’m glad I went to law school and I use my legal training almost every day, but I use it to do politics or journalism, not as a lawyer. I haven’t had a client in years.
While I was at the firm, I received no complaints about my professional work. After I stopped practicing law, I kept renewing my Law Society membership and paying my dues, out of habit and sentimentality. Trouble is, by remaining a member of the Law Society, even as a non-practicing lawyer, I gave my political opponents free shots at me through the profession’s complaints procedure.
Starting in 2008, weeks after I launched my political and journalistic campaign to reform Canada’s human rights commissions, I became the target of a series of nuisance complaints to the Law Society. None of the complaints had anything to do with my work as a lawyer – I wasn’t working as a lawyer then. None of the complaints were filed by clients – I didn’t have any clients then. And almost all of the complaints were made by people with no connection to Alberta.
They were filed by political activists who had found a free way to take a run at me because of my politics and journalism. I don’t believe that’s what the Law Societies are about, or what the Code of Professional Conduct is about. But those nuisance complaints were jammed into the catch-all heading of “conduct unbecoming” a lawyer.
I acknowledge that there are some things that could amount to conduct unbecoming for a lawyer, even a non-practicing lawyer. Being convicted of a crime might be one example. But having strong opinions shouldn’t be. Nor should expressing them. Which is good, considering how many opinionated politicians are non-practicing members of the Law Society. Like Premiers Alison Redford, Jim Prentice and Rachel Notley.
It’s been eight years since the first nuisance complaint was filed against me. And as of today, fully 26 complaints have been filed against me, all by political activists. They prefer a Law Society complaint to a letter to the editor, because Law Society complaints compel me to hire a lawyer to defend myself, and to go through a meticulous process, consuming my time and money. And they prefer a Law Society complaint to a civil lawsuit against me, because when their complaints are eventually thrown out, as the 24 resolved complaints have been, they aren’t on the hook for my legal costs. The Law Society of Alberta has become a magnet for every nuisance litigant, crank and shakedown artist in the country. One Ontario left-wing activist – probably living not too far from where I live in Toronto – actually published an online template for how to file complaints against me here in Alberta. Just like me, the Law Society is forced to deal with these tactics.
Every complaint against me has been dismissed so far. But the trouble is, by the time each complaint had been dismissed, another one had been filed. So there has been no free moment to resign from the Law Society in eight years, and I wasn’t going to resign in the face of a complaint. That’s my one complaint: the Law Society has been fair in their dealings with me, and they’ve obviously supported my freedom of speech every single time. But they’ve been slow about it, usually taking more than a year to throw out political complaints.
To my surprise, after eight years of dismissing nuisance complaints without even a hearing, a panel of Benchers recently decided to refer the last two complaints against me to a prosecutor. I really couldn’t believe it – at first I thought it was a typo. The complaints, as you can see, center around a newspaper column in which I called the Alberta human rights commission “crazy”. In a newspaper’s editorial section. We were going to have a full hearing about that.
The Alberta human rights commission is crazy. I know, because I lived through one of their crazier prosecutions – a 900-day blasphemy case against me for the grave sin of publishing the Danish cartoons of Mohammed in a news magazine. But there is no such thing as the counterfeit human right not to be offended. That’s a crazy idea.
I should mention that Syed Soharwardy, one of the imams who filed that human rights commission complaint against me, also filed a Law Society complaint against me too. Both were dismissed.
I believe these last Law Society complaints are a violation of my Charter rights of freedom of expression, freedom of the press and freedom of conscience. I am confident that they would be dismissed, either by a Law Society panel or a court of appeal. The law in this area is well developed.
It was strange to me that after eight years of standing up for my freedom of speech, a panel of Benchers wanted a hearing. I’ve skimmed through the other disciplinary hearings at the Law Society – lawyers stealing money from client trust funds; lawyers making legal settlements without their client’s permission; lawyers too drunk to do their jobs. Real cases of professional conduct issues. And in the middle of that, a hearing because I called the human rights commission crazy.
Well, look. I’d love to have that hearing, and win, and set a strong precedent for freedom of speech – not just for myself, but so that in the future, no lawyer, either on the right or the left, has to go through the expensive hassle of a multi-year investigation of their political opinions.
I just stared down Premier Notley, whose office directed the sheriff to kick my reporters out of the Legislature. The Premier has backed down. This was an important freedom of speech issue, that we fought on behalf of TheRebel.media, but also for the benefit of all journalists. Yet I have no doubt that a Law Society complaint against me is coming, alleging that my comments during this latest fight with the Premier weren’t lawyerly. This merry go round is not going to stop.
To be frank, the cost and inconvenience aside – I was looking forward to a freedom of speech fight with the Law Society. But a few weeks ago the Law Society raised the idea of resolution without the necessity of a hearing. I was pretty suspicious – what was the catch? Would I be asked to say that the Alberta human rights commission is a great bunch of guys, totally not crazy, really really sane? Or maybe that I shouldn’t have written my newspaper column about it? But that’s not the proposal. It appears all counsel want resolution without a contested hearing which, on their advice, I am prepared to accept.
I haven’t lived in Alberta for years, and I haven’t been at a law firm in over a decade. I actually submitted an application to resign from the Law Society years ago – but on the condition that there are no complaints outstanding against me. So, I’ve been waiting.
I’m a 16-year member of the Law Society without a single disciplinary action on my record. I’d prefer to remain an inactive lawyer, but I accept, that in this situation, it makes little sense for me to remain a member of the Law Society, knowing that the political harassment will continue.
I’ll miss the collegiality of being a lawyer – a little bit. But I won’t miss the nuisance complaints. And I promise I’ll keep fighting for freedom of speech every day in my real job as a journalist and political activist.
I think I know what the Law Society staff wants to do after eight years of nuisance complaints. They want to stop being forced to read my newspaper columns and watch my videos as part of their job. But you’re the deciders here. Let me know what you think is in the interests of the profession, the province, and the Constitution.
Or should I have pulled the plug — so I can spend time on the projects I choose, not those chosen by my political enemies?
In the end, the Law Society granted me my resignation, with a perfect disciplinary record. They know the complaints were bogus.
Finally, the bleeding from the legal bills is over — at least in this forum. But unfortunately, I’ve still got plenty of nuisance suits being filed against me in other courts, by many of the same activists. In fact, my next court date is coming up in May.
I hate these vexatious suits against me. But I know one thing: people never shoot at a dead duck. The fact that 26 nuisance complaints were filed against me is a grim compliment. These leftists know I’m making a difference, or they wouldn’t be trying so hard to bankrupt me.
P.S. Believe it or not, I had to hire lawyers to apply for me to resign from the Law Society. They prepared for weeks, and in the end it was a three-hour hearing. I know, it’s crazy. If you are in a position to help me cover those legal costs, I’d be very grateful. Please click here, if you can.
P.P.S. It’s a small consolation, but here is confirmation from the Law Society that I leave the profession with a perfect ethical record — despite 26 attempts by left-wing activists to smear me.