LSO requests anonymous group backing FullStop to ‘cease’ emails suggesting regulator affiliation

By Amanda Jerome

Law360 Canada (April 27, 2023, 11:19 AM EDT) -- An anonymous group claiming to be citizens of Ontario who are “deeply concerned about identity politics” and its “influence within public institutions,” has sprung up in the last leg of the Law Society of Ontario (LSO) bencher election to support the FullStop Team.

Although the group alleges it is “independent” and not affiliated with any slate or candidate, its messaging echoes phrasing used by FullStop Team candidates and its website promotes opinion pieces by that group, leading members of the profession to question its connection to the election. 

The group, which calls itself “Citizens for Justice,” has a website and Twitter account, created in April 2023. The LSO was made aware of emails sent by this group, which caused “confusion” in the profession, and has since asked the group to cease using an email address that may suggest an affiliation with the regulator.

In a notice to the professions, issued April 24, the LSO noted it was aware of “communications” being sent from the email address “,” which contained “copyright notices claiming copyright in the communications on behalf of ‘2023 Law Society Bencher Election.’ ”

“The communications appear to be from a group that refers to itself variously as ‘Citizens of Ontario’ and ‘Citizens for Justice’ –  it may be that it is identified in other ways,” the LSO warned, stressing that the “use of the phrase ‘Law Society Bencher Election’ and ‘2023 Law Society Bencher Election,’ in the email address and on the communications, is causing confusion with respect to the origins of the communications.”

The regulator noted that the “communications are in some instances being interpreted as coming from the Law Society of Ontario and carrying the imprimatur of the Law Society of Ontario, neither of which is true.”

When asked whether the LSO would be conducting an investigation, law society spokesperson, Jennifer Wing, told Law360 Canada that “in order to conduct a regulatory investigation into a licensee the subject of the complaint needs to be identified.”

“With respect to this specific matter, the law society has taken action to request that the sender cease using an email address or any text in their communications that may suggest an affiliation with the LSO, may misrepresent their relationship with the LSO or may present false or misleading impressions about the LSO,” she added.

A statement on the Citizens for Justice website, which was also emailed to members of the profession, notes that “although well meaning, in practice, equity, inclusion and diversity policies have resulted in unintended negative outcomes, by fostering a world where voicing an opinion leads rapidly to accusations of bigotry, creating a culture of compelled speech and self-censorship.”

“Compelled” speech was the main issue for the StopSOP slate, which ran in 2019 to repeal the Statement of Principles. The StopSOP slate relaunched in 2023 as the FullStop Team for the current bencher election. The effects of self-censorship were also brought up by FullStop campaign leader, Bruce Pardy, when the slate relaunched in February.

“Competence is being reimagined through a political lens, and a new standard of practice is emerging: be woke, be quiet, or be accused of professional misconduct,” Pardy, a professor at the Faculty of Law at Queen’s University, noted in the campaign’s initial announcement.

The Citizens for Justice statement also stressed that “we must expose and root out injustice, and the best way to do that is on a case-by-case basis and not through a predetermined ideology that marks individuals as more or less worthy based on their immutable characteristics.”

The LSO’s use of “immutable characteristics” in policy creation was brought up by FullStop bencher candidate, Alexander Wilkes, in a Convocation debate over the Equity Advisory Group in November 2021.

The Citizens for Justice statement concluded by noting that “legal institutions should strive to be apolitical, transparent, unbiased, and offer everyone, regardless of identity, equal and ethical treatment under the law.”

“We would like lawyers to remain free to think independently and unfettered from mandated ideological philosophies. It is for this reason that, when you vote, we ask you to consider the FullStop slate of candidates,” the statement added.

Members of the profession contacted Citizens for Justice on Twitter, asking how the group got access to their email addresses and questioning whether the group was a proxy for the FullStop Team. The group’s claim that it is “independent” and unaffiliated with lawyers or paralegals has remained consistent. However, since the group is completely anonymous, there is no way to verify this statement.

Law360 Canada asked both the Good Governance Coalition and the FullStop Team if they have any connection with Citizens for Justice.

FullStop Team campaign manager, Lisa Bildy, said that the Citizens for Justice group is “not part of the FullStop campaign and we have no relationship with it.”

“However, like others, we received their email message and we appreciate their support. They said they are citizens concerned about the influence of identity politics and the illiberal policies that result. The coalition love to wrap themselves in the public interest, yet when actual members of the public express concerns, they're eagerly dismissed,” she added.

Atrisha Lewis, a bencher seeking re-election with the Good Governance Collation, said the coalition is “not affiliated with this group and has no connection whatsoever to Citizens for Justice.”

“I do not know who they are or who created this group that supports the FullStop slate,” she added.

The Citizens for Justice website has no contact page, but links to a Twitter account of the same name. Law360 Canada reached out via Twitter to request an interview on the record. The group responded via direct message, requesting questions be sent to its email address.

Law360 Canada emailed the group, again asking for an interview on the record. The email also contained a list of questions asking why the group is anonymous, its reasons for forming and how it obtained contact information for lawyers that assert their email addresses are private.

A member of the Citizens for Justice group answered the questions via email but maintained anonymity.

When asked what inspired Citizens for Justice to form, the group noted it has “witnessed censorship and silencing of diverse ideas within other Canadian regulatory bodies.”

“We are concerned the regulatory body for the legal profession is next. This has the potential to limit access to justice for citizens of Ontario,” the group added.

The number of members is unclear as the group only indicated it’s a “network of citizens in Ontario.”

When it comes to anonymity, the group explained that many of its members have “had incidents in our personal and professional lives where we have experienced character defamation, been ostracized and pressured in other ways for voicing a contrary opinion,” so they “felt anonymity was best.”

As members of the profession have questioned the group’s claim that it is not affiliated with the FullStop Team, Law360 Canada asked what Citizens for Justice would say to lawyers who are in doubt. The group, again, asserted that they are “citizens, not lawyers or paralegals, who see many cases of compelled views and silenced viewpoints across our society, and do not want this to happen within the legal profession.”

“Any lawyer who believes us to be a proxy misunderstood the emails. We reviewed the platforms and felt FullStop was best aligned to defend free thought and expression and allow for open dialogue,” the group explained.

When asked how it obtained email addresses for members of the profession, the group said the addresses were “taken from various public sources.”

Law360 Canada also asked the group to confirm that it was contacted by the LSO.

“We received an email from an LSO email requesting we make changes in our communications. We responded quickly upon reading the email and made changes,” the group said.

When asked whether Citizens for Justice modelled its communication after the FullStop Team platform, the group again asserted that it’s an “independent group of concerned citizens” and are “not lawyers or paralegals and are not affiliated with the LSO, FullStop, GGC, candidates, lawyers or paralegals.”

Citizens for Justice appears to be the only group to endorse the FullStop Team in this election. The Good Governance Coalition has been endorsed by over 20 legal organizations and associations.

Voting for bencher candidates started on April 19 and will conclude on April 28. According to the LSO, the “names of the 40 lawyers and five paralegals elected as benchers will be announced on May 1, 2023.”

If you have any information, story ideas or news tips for Law360 Canada, please contact Amanda Jerome at or 416-524-2152.