No One Expected the Spanish Inquisition

See_no_evil

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.

Related Information:

SCOPE readership up, despite — or perhaps because of — attacks

Election Standings

3 comments

  1. I saw passion and defensiveness in this campaign – common elements of an election process. I think a lot of the apathy was not just “I don’t give a crap” but some would be linked to “it won’t make a difference.”

    At the end of the day it is still only 5 seats out of 53. The Access to Justice Act has failed to provide any one with more access to justice. That Act’s fundamental omissions included its failure to expand scope and find ways for more people to afford legal services. If “our” five can change that, I will be applauding them.

    And let us not forget that we are advocates and therefore can be adversarial. We can ensure – among other things – that both sides of an issue (e.g landlord-tenant) or case are advocated firmly and with conviction. And sometimes the “outs” have to challenge the “ins”. So, within reasonable limits, I see no problem with people being adversarial in an election promise. It certainly was not a Spanish Inquisition.

  2. Frank Mucci · ·

    In keeping with concurrence to this article … I am glad this exercise is over. Inundated with tripe at best, little value from candidates and supporters flooded the blogs, I found the exercise time consuming and mostly useless. The information sessions in manner of questions, meet the candidates, etc. was of some value (see SCOPE). However, the thinly cloaked blogging messages ostensibly to provide information or resourcefulness was often laden with requests for support. I won’t bother to comment as to the ‘tandem team’ requests for support.

  3. I am more surprised that there is any surprise at all. In fact I am far more concerned that only 1,200 voted. Thousands decided not to participate and that is more disappointing. Was it apathy? were they turned off? Did they feel it would just be more of the same?

    As for election itself, personally I expected nothing less than a political dog fight so I was not really surprised by anything. After all, the same behavior has been rampant in the forums for ages, so why should it be any different when the stakes are higher? Innocence was not lost because there was no innocence to lose.

    Even if there were differences of opinion on what the PSC does, for all the talk of public interest and mandates, it is my own observation that human self-interest reigns. Voters, regardless of what is written, were more likely to have chosen their give based on personal relationships and the alignment of interests or perspectives.

    There will, quite understandably, be twenty disappointed people this morning – such is the nature of an election. But in the end, I hope the focus can now turn to this five. The next four years will be contentious, a lot needs to be achieved and the pressure will be a lot higher than it was before.

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