‘I see men as trees, walking around.’
Jonathan Kay: The Upper Canada Law society's inflated view of lawyers' importance leads it to compel speech
In one of Jesus’ miraculous healings, Jesus gives a blind man at Bethsaida partial sight at first, before he fully restores his sight. The man describes the experience of his partial-sightedness as being able to ‘see people, but they look like trees, walking around.’ (Mark 8:24).
It is an extraordinary passage for numerous reasons, but the purpose of citing it here is to prompt some reflections on the law, lawyers, and the state of jurisprudence in Canada.
The dominant legal hermeneutic in the Canadian legal profession is called the living tree doctrine. The lens of this hermeneutic leads the legal profession to see the body of common law as an organic entity that must be read in a broad and progressive manner so as to adapt it to the changing times.
I think the problems with this view are legion. In addition to the fact that words can thus effectively mean whatever its current practitioners say that they mean, employing a nominalism that radically severs the law from any truth, it encourages the legal profession to act as if it were above the law rather than under it.
The whole legal profession thus empowers itself as an identity group over the rest of the populace. Of course, the radical discontinuity brought into the realm of law and meaning is chaotic, and needs to retain the permanence of structure to restrain the ensuing chaos.
Otherwise, every lawyer and judge can interpret the law autonomously, and we are back in the time described in the book of Judges, when ‘everyone did what was right in his own eyes.’
The Law Society has sought to restrain the plenitude of interpretation by creating, as Jonathan Kay rightly observes, something like a ‘shadow human rights tribunal’ among themselves.
For my part, they are clearly in the wrong, as the preamble to the 1982 Constitution Act asserts ‘Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law’.
The Society is doing what is right in its own eyes. They are however like trees, walking around, acting with the totalitarian power of God without any stable sense of justice and mercy.
God help the people of Ontario.
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