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Cheryl Lean

East Electoral Region (E)
Cheryl Lean

Candidate bio description

I am a sole practitioner practicing family and child protection law in Prince Edward County since 2004. My clients reside in Hastings, Northumberland, Lennox and Addington counties as well as Prince Edward. I work regularly in the Belleville, Picton, Cobourg and Napanee courts. I practiced in Ottawa for twelve years before moving to rural Ontario. Many of my clients are low income and vulnerable. I have demonstrated in my practice a commitment to facilitating access to justice. I graduated from Dalhousie Law School (now Schulich School of Law) in 1989, was called to the bar of Ontario in Ottawa in 1991, in 2003 I was granted an LLM by Osgoode Hall Law School. I served for several years on the Board of the Hastings County Law Association and served as its president from 2007 until 2009. Prior to entering law I had a successful career in photography, film, publishing and radio broadcasting. I was an active feminist in the 1970s and joined a feminist advocacy group where I developed my photography skills. I was part of an activist feminist organization promoting women's films and fighting for equal rights for women.

What inspired you to run for bencher this year?

In 1981, I participated in a national campaign to secure equality rights for women in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Charter negotiations were ongoing. Thousands of women from across Canada joined together, participating through their local organizations, in a national campaign to secure equality rights for women in the Charter. We sought equality rights that could not be restricted by a notwithstanding clause. Canadian women secured s.28 of the Charter through this mass movement. It was a very important achievement. When I first sought employment there were two minimum wages, one for men and one for women; the help wanted ads specified males or females. I am inspired by the Charter we Canadians created. I especially treasure the fundamental rights acknowledged in s. 2 and the equality rights found in ss. 15 and 28. Fast forward to the fall of 2017, I received an email from the Law Society directing me to adopt and abide by a statement of principles acknowledging my "obligation to promote equality, diversity and inclusion generally, and my behaviour towards colleagues, employees clients and the public." I was shocked that the Law Society, governed by lawyers, had issued this directive. I believe the mandatory Statement of Principles offends my fundamental rights under s.2 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I also noticed that the equality principle the law society is advocating under the EDI initiative is not the equality of opportunity that I fought for, but equality of outcome. Achieving equality of outcome will require curtailment of individual rights (including equality rights) and devaluing merit, achievement, talent and hard work. The “inclusion” questions on our annual report suggest the LSO will also be intruding into personal relationships and friendships. I am very concerned about the direction of the Law Society. I believe the Society needs to be turned around. The Law Society has no business demanding a mandatory Statement of Principles. The right to “equality of opportunity” needs to be protected for all of us. It is in the greater public interest to protect the independence of the profession.

What do you believe is the biggest issue facing the legal profession?

Professional Independence is the biggest issue facing the legal profession. The independence of the profession is at stake in this election. The mandatory Statement of Principles seeks to restrict speech, conscience, thought and expression rights of those who practice law in Ontario. These measures threaten to undermine public confidence in the rule of law and the ability of lawyers to defend the rights and freedoms of their clients. An independent profession fosters access to justice and is vital to the public interest.

What would be your first priority upon election?

I hope to achieve a Law Society that focuses on its core function; " to ensure that all persons who practice law in Ontario or provide legal services in Ontario meet standards of learning, professional competence and professional conduct that are appropriate for the legal services they provide". I hope to reduce the number of LSO initiatives and bring the budget under control. The Law Society now has over 600 full time employees . It is important that Convocation reclaim its control over the policies and operation of the Law Society.

What do you hope to achieve over the next four years as a member of Convocation?

I hope to achieve a Law Society that focuses on its core function; " to ensure that all persons who practice law in Ontario or provide legal services in Ontario meet standards of learning, professional competence and professional conduct that are appropriate for the legal services they provide". I hope to reduce the number of LSO initiatives and bring the budget under control. The Law Society now has over 600 full time employees . It is important that Convocation reclaim its control over the policies and operation of the Law Society.

What's the most pressing concern for the profession in your region of the province?

Court functioning and administration is the main concern: It appears that our courts are understaffed. It is now taking months (typically 2-3 months) for the court to issue orders in family and child protection matters. These orders are often seen as extremely important by the clients, but court staff do not or can not give them sufficient priority. (At one time Orders could be issued on a same day basis.) Similarly in estate law there have been complaints concerning lengthy delays in getting paperwork approved. It takes far too long to get into family court in cases that urgently need temporary child custody and support orders to stabilize a post separation crisis. Child Protection cases are not being completed in accordance with the time-tables set out in legislation. Other pressing concerns relate to rising annual fees and CPD obligations; the inadequacy of legal aid (more options need to be available for people of moderate income); and the need to protect our court libraries, which are vital to the profession outside of metropolitan urban areas.

Do you support the requirement to create and abide by a statement of principles?

No. I am running as a member of the StopSOP slate of candidates committed to revoking the mandatory statement of principles.

Poll Question


What do you see as the top issue that prospective benchers need to address if they are elected?