NEWSLETTER – April 2021
Editors – Allen Mendelsohn & Larry Markowitz
Andrew Kliger, President
Dear Colleagues, Honourable Judges, and Friends of the Society,
In the midst of Passover, I am pleased to inform our members about a flurry of activity for Lord Reading this spring.
On March 10th, we hosted our Annual Student Event, featuring Professor Frederick Schauer as our keynote speaker. The event began with a new twist – the use of Zoom “breakout rooms”. This feature allowed our members and guests, including our guest speaker, and professors and students from various law faculties, to interact and share a virtual cocktail in small groups, prior to the main event. Although nothing can replace our in-person dinners, this feature allows us to have some semblance of the collegiality and discussions that our members look forward to at our in-person events. We will continue with this practice going forward for our evening events.
During the March 10th event, we also presented awards to deserving students from the law faculties of the Université de Montréal, University of Ottawa, Université de Sherbrooke and UQAM. We were glad to help make it a special evening for the winners and for them to get to know our Society, and vice versa.
Professor Schauer captivated our audience with his insight on the shifting politics of freedom of expression, and provided hypotheses on why free speech is being championed more and more by those to the right side of the political spectrum. The Q&A period allowed our members to press Professor Schauer on this topic, including on former President Trump’s ban from Twitter, as well as his alleged incitement of the January 6, 2021 insurrection on the Capitol. The evening was also made special by opening remarks from Professor Martine Valois of the Université de Montréal, who was Professor Schauer’s student at Harvard. And to bookend the evening, Dean Robert Leckey of the McGill Faculty of law thanked our speaker.
On Tuesday, April 6th (exceptionally at 12:00 noon), Lord Reading is pleased to welcome outgoing Member of the Knesset Michal Cotler Wunsh – live from Israel! A graduate of the law faculties of both Hebrew University and McGill, Ms. Cotler-Wunsh is an engaging speaker, just like her father, Irwin. Her talk entitled “Legislating in Israel: Language and Equality Rights and the Need for ICC Reform” will cover two broad topics: First, her legislative proposals in the Knesset on language and equality rights, themes that are also relevant in Quebec law and politics. Second, MK Cotler-Wunsh will provide a briefing on the recent International Criminal Court judgment against Israel and will discuss how this decision represents an affront to the Court’s foundational principles.
We are pleased to announce that Anthony Housefather, MP and newly appointed Chair of the Canada-Israel Inter-Parliamentary Friendship Group, will be introducing our speaker. Furthermore, the speaker will be thanked by David Levy, Consul General of Israel for Quebec and the Atlantic Provinces.
On May 5th, our Young Bar Committee is hosting an event on alternative careers in law that is open to all members. An official title and invitation will be sent shortly, but the evening will feature a panel of three speakers – all lawyers – who have forged unique careers away from the conventional law firm setting:
- Bonnie Frank, Vice-President, Enterprise Risk and Crisis Management, at the Public Sector Pension Investment Board (PSP Investments),
- Catherine McKenzie, former litigator turned best-selling author, and
- Larry Markowitz, corporate lawyer turned entrepreneur and Senior Advisor, Financial Communications and Investor Relations at NATIONAL, Canada’s largest public relations firm (and Past President of the Society).
In the next couple of weeks, we will be announcing another event, and perhaps two, for late spring, so please stay tuned. As usual, all of these events will be CLE-accredited by the Barreau du Québec and the Chambre des Notaires.
I look forward to seeing you all (virtually) on April 6th (at 12:00 noon!) and I encourage you to register if you have not already done so, which you can do on our website.
I wish everyone a Happy Passover and a Happy Easter and the best of health, and hope that you remain in good spirits during these challenging times.
Andrew Kliger, President
Lord Reading Law Society
The (Shifting) Politics of Freedom of Expression
On March 10th, we held our Annual Student Event, at which we were delighted to welcome Professor Frederick Schauer, the David and Mary Harrison Distinguished Professor of Law of the University of Virginia, and former professor of the First Amendment at Harvard Law School.
Professor Schauer’s talk documented the shift in the politics of freedom of expression. He presented a series of hypotheses about freedom of expression and modern politics explaining why long-familiar alignments surrounding freedom of expression have shifted dramatically in recent years.
While free speech advocacy once came primarily from the left flank of the political spectrum, our guest speaker posited that nowadays the loudest advocates for free speech tend to come from right of centre.
In the United States, the First Amendment prevents the government from making laws that would abridge the freedom of speech. In the 1950s and 1960s, the First Amendment was often cited in defence of socialists and pacifists, and the excluded and dispossessed. Indeed, many free-speech claims of that era involved civil rights and anti-Vietnam War protests, where it was easy for the left to sympathize with the speakers or believe that speech in general was harmless.
As the 1970s rolled around, there was a shift and the First Amendment started to become a weapon of the powerful and tyrannical, providing a shield for Nazis, Klansmen and other racists, and in a less extreme context, for corporations trying to influence elections.
Our guest speaker cited a 1978 Illinois decision permitting neo-Nazis to march through the Village of Skokie, where many Holocaust survivors resided. The concept of freedom of speech that had once been used to defend political dissenters was effectively hijacked by Neo-Nazis in this example.
“I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”
Admittedly, the United States has always been somewhat of an outlier in the extent to which freedom of speech arguments can be taken. In the US, process-driven arguments are more likely to prevail in the defence of morally objectionable content than in Canada.
However, according to Professor Schauer, even in Canada, defenders of free speech once tended to come from the left, but are now more likely to come from the right of centre. One can think of those who are fighting against cancel culture, political correctness, and other examples of what they perceive to be limitations on free speech propagated by the left.
Why this shift? Why are the greatest defenders of freedom of speech now more likely to come from the right?
Intellectual conservatism has shifted from communitarian values to libertarian values.
The Irving Kristols and William F. Buckleys of the 1950s and 1960s stood for community values and advocated a role for government in enforcing collective morality. In contrast, today’s libertarians wish to minimize the government’s role. Libertarians advocate a free market for ideas and the freedom of businesses to do as they please with minimal government oversight.
Also, modern communication tools have illuminated the importance of having the loudest voice. The corporation that buys the most advertising to influence elections has the most effect.
“People now realize that, in the marketplace of ideas, it helps to own the store!”
There is now an alignment of economic libertarianism and free speech libertarianism.
Freedom of speech is a second-order value. It is not a matter of good versus bad. In the past, arguments around freedom of expression tended to be about process rather than substance. However, nowadays, we are less likely to hear process-based arguments in defence of the freedom to spew questionable content.
Many on the left have traded an absolutist commitment to free speech for one sensitive to the harms it can inflict. In 1977, many liberals supported the right of the American Nazi Party to march among Holocaust survivors in Skokie, Illinois. Far fewer supported the free-speech rights of the white nationalists who marched in 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia.
In thanking Professor Schauer, McGill Dean of Law Robert Leckey remarked that he envied our guest speaker’s students who have the good fortune of hearing from him about the fascinating and ever-shifting concepts surrounding freedom of speech on a regular basis.
We were indeed fortunate to have the opportunity to get a taste of Professor Schauer’s high level of scholarship and his engaging manner, if only for an hour.
A set of photos from the evening can be found on our Facebook page
Comings and Goings at the Barreau – Get involved!
The Society urges all of our members and friends to get involved in both the Barreau du Québec and Barreau de Montréal in the following ways:
- You will be able to vote in the Barreau du Québec elections beginning May 4. Here is the list of candidates currently running. We encourage everyone to vote!
- The Barreau de Montréal is currently accepting nominations for various positions on its Council. The deadline is today at 4:00 P.M., however, so act fast!
- The Barreau de Montréal also offers numerous possibilities for volunteering on a variety of committees. Here is the form to fill out if you are interested, and we encourage you to do so!
Events of Interest
- Our sister society in Ottawa, the Bora Laskin Law Society, is pleased to host Mr. Anthony Julius in online Conversation with University of Ottawa Law Dean of Common Law Adam Dodek on April 29, 2021 at 12:30 PM. Mr. Julius is a UK lawyer and the Deputy Chairman of the global law firm Mishcon de Reya, based in London. He is a noted author and academic. Among other things, he is known for representing the late Princess Diana as well as Prof. Deborah Lipstadt in Irving v. Penguin Books inc.. You can RSVP by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org;
- Liberation75, the world’s largest international event to mark the 75th anniversary of liberation from the Holocaust, will take place online May 4th through May 9th. Featured speakers include past speakers and friends of the Society such as Justice Rosalie Abella, Professor Payam Akhavan, and Professor Irwin Cotler, O.C., as well as our April 6th speaker Michal Cotler-Wunsh and MP Anthony Housefather, among numerous other dignitaries. Registration is free and open to all.
News from the Mispocha
- To Society Board member Judge Carol Cohen on the birth of her grandson, Lenox Duncan Dawson;
- To Past President Sharon Druker Ad. E., lifetime member Irwin Cotler O.C., Ad. E., and friend of the Society Professor Hugo Cyr, Ad. E. on being named Avocat émérite (Ad.E.) by the Barreau du Québec;
- To friend of the Society Anthony Housefather, M.P., on being named Chair of the Canada-Israel Inter-Parliamentary Friendship Group.