Submissions to LSUC re Ban on Religious Attire During Licensing Exams

The Law Society of Upper Canada’s Lawyer Licensing Examination Rules and Protocol provide:

Prohibited personal items brought to the licensing examination will not be permitted in the Testing Area.

The Law Society of Upper Canada has designated the following items as prohibited in the Licensing Examination Testing Area: […]

vii. Hats, headgear or coats, scarves and gloves and religious attire of any kind unless provision has been made for any specific religious apparel. Hoodies are not allowed in the Testing Area [emphasis in the original].

On September 11, 2014, the Canadian Association of Muslim Women in Law and the Canadian Muslim Lawyers Association wrote to the LSUC regarding its de facto ban on religious attire during the examination process. You can read our letter here.

On September 25, the LSUC replied, stating it would be undertaking a review of its Rules. You can read its letter here.

On October 30, we sent the LSUC a follow-up letter asking about the nature of the review. We were joined in this letter by 21 ally organisations, including clinics, bar associations, student groups, and advocacy organisations. You can download our letter here, or read it below.

We look forward to continuing this conversation with the LSUC and our ally organisations. We thank everyone for their support in bringing this issue to the LSUC’s attention.

—-

October 30, 2014

Dear Treasurer Minor:

Re: Prohibition of “Religious Attire” During Barrister and Solicitor Licensing Examinations

Thank you for your response to CAMWL’s inquiry about the Law Society’s de facto prohibition of “religious attire” during the Licensing Examinations. We appreciate that the Law Society will be reviewing its Examination Rules and Protocol in light of our inquiry.

We also thank you for the background and explanation about the Examination Rules and Protocol. We would note that although the Law Society’s accommodation of religious difference is helpful, a willingness to provide accommodation cannot pre-suppose the need to create different categories of applicants.

We are especially concerned that applicants should not bear additional burdens during the examination process simply because they may wear religious attire. This is particularly so in the absence of any evidence that religious attire poses a threat to the integrity of the examinations.

Accordingly, it is CAMWL’s respectful view that the de facto prohibition of religious attire is both unnecessary and unfair. As a result, CAMWL does not believe that the existence of accommodation should be the focus of this discussion. Rather, the focus must be on ensuring the open and equitable access of all applicants to entrance into the legal profession.

As you know, our organization is allied with and comprised of members of other organizations, who are also directly negatively affected by the Examination Rules and Protocol. It is our respectful view that in order to remain accountable to the legal profession, the Law Society must provide members of these affected groups with a meaningful opportunity to participate in the review and rulemaking process. Please see below for the list of 21 organisations of and for lawyers and law students who join us in our request to you.

Please let us know how we can further contribute our unique expertise, insight, and information to the review process. We also ask to be advised of a timeline by which we can expect this review to be initiated. Once again, we are encouraged by the Law Society’s decision to review its Examination Rules and Protocol.

We look forward to hearing from you shortly regarding next steps.

Thank you for your attention.

Sincerely,
Canadian Association of Muslim Women in Law
camwlaw@gmail.com
http://camwl.wordpress.com

Canadian Muslim Lawyers Association
contactCMLA@gmail.com
http://cmla-acam.ca

cc (LSUC):

  • Equity Dept: equity@suc.on.ca
  • Racialised Licensees Working Group: hgoldblatt@sgmlaw.com, janet.leiper@15bedford.com, julianf@falconers.ca
  • Equity and Aboriginal Issues Committee: susanharelaw@gmail.com, symes@ssmlaw.ca
  • Equity Advisory Group: nishikawasandra@gmail.com

cc (Endorsers):

  1. A2J (University of Ottawa)
  2. Black Law Students Association of Canada
  3. Canadian Association of Black Lawyers
  4. Free Speech Society (Osgoode Hall Law School)
  5. Jewish Law Students’ Association at Osgoode Hall Law School
  6. Jewish Law Students’ Association at the University of Toronto
  7. Law Students’ Society of Ontario
  8. Law Union of Ontario
  9. Law Union at the University of Ottawa
  10. Law Union at the University of Toronto
  11. Law Union at the University of Windsor
  12. Muslim Law Students Association at Osgoode Hall Law School
  13. Muslim Law Students’ Association at the University of Ottawa
  14. Muslim Law Students Association at the University of Toronto
  15. National Muslim Law Students’ Association
  16. Osgoode Society Against Institutional Injustice
  17. South Asian Bar Association
  18. South Asian Law Students Association at the University of Toronto
  19. South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario
  20. Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund
  21. Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund at the University of Ottawa