THE ADVOCATE 211
VOL. 79 PART 2 MARCH 2021
SHOULD LAWYERS CARE?
By Manjot Cheema
Worldwide protests in support of many causes and movements,
including #MeToo, Black Lives Matter, the Wet’-
suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs and democracy in Hong Kong,
have been in the public discourse over the last year. Those
who have participated in these protests have been engaged in raising awareness
and condemning harmful laws, policies and processes, many rooted in
As a South Asian woman, I have felt personally affected by many of the
issues raised in this ongoing discourse and have engaged in dialogue with
others about my concerns over systemic discrimination and racial bias.
These discussions can be difficult and are not always successful. As many
issues overlap with political issues, it creates a concern about whether commenting
is even appropriate. Further, when these issues exist outside our
own communities, all too frequently they are easier to ignore.
Most recently, I have seen this occur in relation to the mass protests in
India. These protests have been widely described as the largest labour
protests in human history. People across the world have shown their support
by organizing rallies and protests in their own communities. In
Canada, we have seen this occur in many of our major cities, with most participants
being South Asian.
As an individual whose family is personally affected by these protests, I
have had many conversations with colleagues about a show of support for
this movement. However, many are reluctant to participate due to the perceived
political implications of doing so. I feel compelled to speak up as a
lawyer, as these protests are not just about agriculture; they are about preserving
democracy and maintaining the rule of law. For me, these discussions
have raised the question of whether it is appropriate, as members of
the legal profession, to remain silent. Do we have an obligation to speak out
against violations of the rule of law regardless of the community in which
they are occurring?
WHAT HAS HAPPENED?
In September 2020, the Indian government introduced three bills that sig-