English Articles

Censorship through “Wordsmithing”
and turning grammar on its head

The Federation of Law Societies in Canada’ Annual Report (2017) indicated 127,707 licensed lawyers in the country, 82% of them, 104,497, still classified as “active”.

When combined with approximately 37,000 paralegals (Census 2006), that represents a ratio of one “legal expert” for every 218 Canadians. Their services keep societies “civil” and the marketplace “free”.

But what happens when lawyers seek to silence, repress contrary opinion to favour their client and the Courts allow it to take place, direct – in layman’s terms, order – certain usage of vocabulary/pronouns in a Court environment?

The BC Supreme and Provincial courts issued “practice directions” requiring parties to a litigation, and/or their lawyers, to state their preferred gender pronouns at the beginning of all court proceedings. Moreover, all participants before the courts –including judges – in those are required to use those preferred pronouns.

Forget the English language, rules of grammar or biology. Or, for that matter, the societal significance of the case before the judge. Or indeed the perception that a balanced decision might be pre-empted in the process.

Lawyer Shahdin Farsai authored an opinion to this effect, titled: British Columbia’s practice directions on preferred gender pronouns in court are problematic. The Canadian Lawyer Magazine published it on February 5.

She wrote: “My antennas naturally went up as a lawyer. I see these practice directions as problematic for three central reasons. They are potentially compelled speech in court, a breach of privacy rights, and damage the perception of judicial impartiality.”

What prompted her observation? A seventeen-year-old girl (a minor) was pleading her case before the judge that she be allowed to surgically remove her breasts because she felt herself to be male. Her father seemed to agree. Her mother was opposed. Hence the Court.

The child’s lawyers wanted everyone to use the pronouns him/her. Tactically, the repetition would re-enforce the premise that the mother’s child might in fact be male, biology notwithstanding.

A howl of protest from “offended” lawyers – some including members of firms promoting themselves as specializing in “diversity” issues. The number of “aggrieved” started at 60 and grew online to 216 – that would be out of a total of 174,000 professionals available. The magazine removed the article.

Phone calls and email messages to the editor and publisher from the Corriere Canadese went unanswered. An online publication called the Canadian Gender Report reposted the article. Its administrator is in court with the Ottawa District School Board over instructional material and teaching practices in respect of her six-year-old daughter whose teacher apparently said little girls do not exist and that there are 58 genders.

At the time, Kenneth Zucker, a professor of developmental psychology who specializes in gender dysphoria, said the school board’s foray into gender education amounts to “a pedagogical social experiment”

Zucker said. “What is it exactly that they would like the kids to come to understand? How is that evaluated? And also are they evaluating any indicators of let’s call them adverse side-effects of this type of pedagogy?”

There is very little empirical evidence to see how these types of educational lessons affect children, Zucker said.

Canadian Gender Report is adamantly opposed to the use of forced and coercive practices that attempt to change how people identify themselves and others. (emphasis are theirs).

As if in response to the backtracking by the Canadian Lawyer Magazine, the Canadian Gender Report posted a lengthy letter by a trans-man and healthcare professional stating: “I’ve come to understand those conceptualizations as distortions, fictions and political rhetoric which actually harms those it’s meant to help”.

Bruce Pardy, Professor of Law at Queen’s University and member of the Advisory Board at the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, entered the debate with an article published in the National Post (Feb 9), and reposted on the JCCF website.

He pointed out that the “practice direction”… applicable to B.C. provincial courts, was the product of consultation with the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Community (SOGIC) of the Canadian Bar Association (B.C. chapter). He left the distinct impression that it amounted to state-mandated identity politics.

Corriere Canadese sides with those who agree that “Safeguarding of children needs to take priority over political activism”.

By the way, several lawyers from the firm that advises the Toronto Catholic District School Board were signators to the petition that resulted in the removal of the article authored by Shahdin Farsai. The metaphor of the Fox guarding the Hen House comes to mind.

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