Paralegal Standing Committee Election 2014 was an eye-opening experience.
As a profession, a certain lingering innocence is now lost. None of us who paid attention will ever again feel the same way about many of our colleagues.
The election could have been a shining moment for paralegals. We could have demonstrated that we have “come into our own” and are well on the road to self-governance. Instead, the campaign, and our professional image, were held hostage for months by a handful of rogues who clearly have no regard for the Rules of Professional Conduct, for the profession, or for plain decency.
Professional relationships have been threatened. Cracks became chasms, fault lines reached a critical stress. Strange allegiances formed — and then sundered. The campaign made strange bedfellows, whose “pillow-talk” sent them to opposing corners once again.
Who Needs Truth, When a Rumour Will Spread Faster?
Forgotten in the whole mess were the facts. Facts such as the difference between the PSC and the associations. Facts about who really dropped the ball, on legislative change and public awareness, over the past four years. Facts about the outcome of court cases, lobbying efforts, and policy paper-writing.
Myths became embedded to such an extent that some paralegals have been inculcated in a conspiracy bubble, feeding on their own strange ideas, refusing to listen to anything that does not fit their theories about stolen honours and collusion behind closed doors.
In the unrelenting cavalcade of nastiness that began even before the official candidates’ list was published, up became down. Anyone with facts was seen as a threat. But then, the first casualty of war is truth. And this campaign felt too often like a war — a civil war in an infant profession having a tantrum.
Bury the Chains
For me, as one of the few active parties without a conflict of interest, this election felt more like a Dark Ages ordeal than a democratic process.
Now that it is over, I feel that my Charter rights have been restored. The shackles, and gloves, are off. I can again write freely and publish facts, with less chance of attack.
Let’s put an end to Spanish Inquisition-style PSC campaigning.
Here are some specific suggestions to prevent a repetition of this ordeal in four years:
Ensure Civility, By Enforcing the Rules
Put mechanisms in place for dealing with civility issues as they arise during the election.
Too many paralegals were pressured into staying quiet about underhanded tactics, flat-out lies, bullying, intimidation and other misbehaviour they witnessed during the election. Too many voters were admonished to “keep it quiet until after” the election.
People outside the profession got to see the worst of the worst that paralegals have to offer; and the misbehaviour escalated, the longer it went unchallenged. Appeasement emboldens trouble-makers — in this case, a few candidates and their avid, yet undeclared, supporters.
Vetting Process for Candidates
This election should be a wake-up call, that simply having a licence does not qualify any licensee to hold a position of authority and esteem. At a minimum, candidates should undergo a practice review before their candidacy can be approved.
Candidates should be able to articulate what the Paralegal Standing Committee is, what it does, and why it exists. And voters themselves should be able to tell whether the candidate truly understands the position.
No Association Interference
One of the most painful election moments came with the March 1 event. Among the lessons learned: association executive-candidates should not be calling the shots at an “All-Candidates” event. Find a third-party organizer. Otherwise, it looks shady.
One association applied dictator-like censorship to its own members. At social media sites, certain executive candidates banned and censored, deleting questions and comments that strayed from the carefully crafted impression they wanted to create.
Again and again, misstatements of fact and irresponsible rumour-mongering were allowed at the organization-controlled sites; benign and legitimate questions were removed. Anyone who questioned the practice, was banned. This was shameful.
If an association chooses to support a candidate, fine. But it should not be done without a mandate from the people who paid a fee to join, with the expectation that their votes and opinions count. It should never be hidden from the very people who paid a fee to have their voices heard.
SCOPE readership up, despite — or perhaps because of — attacks