For the Record: Open Letter to the President of the CBC

Letter to the CBC from the Treasurer, Thomas Conway 

I am writing because of my concerns with your recent CBC TV News story about disbarred lawyer Richard Chojnacki. The story is neither balanced nor accurate.

I am disappointed and dismayed that where the program's producers had access to additional facts that did not fit their storyline, they chose not to use them. There were opportunities to provide the viewer with more recent facts that bear significantly on the Law Society's role in the protection of the public interest.

The Law Society of Upper Canada takes very seriously its responsibility to protect the public interest, and to do so in an open and transparent manner. The events at the centre of your story began in 2004. Since then the Law Society has sought, and obtained, increased statutory authority in the managing of cases where a lawyer or paralegal is being investigated for professional misconduct. This significant fact, as I explained in my interview with the CBC, was ignored. Similarly, the Law Society has sought, and obtained, increased statutory authority permitting us to alert authorities in cases of imminent risk. Again, you failed to balance your story by letting your viewers know about these important developments.

Your story relies on things as they were several years ago, without the counterpoint of what has been done since then, and continues to be done, to enhance the protection of the public interest. The Law Society has, for many years now, published disciplinary information openly and in the most accessible channel available. Decisions and penalties, and their reasons, are on our public website and on the free legal database we support known as CanLII. We have a professional and proactive relationship with police forces all across the province. The Law Society meets regularly with representatives from law enforcement agencies to ensure that they understand our investigative and discipline processes and how to access that information. Last year alone, in addition to case related meetings, the Law Society presented at 17 different conferences and courses involving the RCMP, the OPP, police colleges and the Ontario and Federal Crown Attorneys. Where there is evidence of criminal activity, we actively support complainants and encourage them to report to the police.

The public deserves to be protected on those rare occasions when a lawyer or a paralegal breaks the rules of professional conduct. We will continue to do all that we can to fulfill that obligation.

Viewers of Canada's public broadcaster deserve balanced programming that fairly and accurately reflects matters of public interest. They deserve better than this.

Thomas Conway, Treasurer,
The Law Society of Upper Canada