The shameful attack on Harry Kopyto: Kafka comes to Ontario

Meet Harry Kopyto, a good man who is about to be given the shaft by Big Law in Toronto.

Background

After he fought a judge and won, Kopyto was banished as a lawyer. Now, as part of their takeover of the competition, the Law Society of Upper Canada intends to remove him as a paralegal.

A son of Holocaust survivors, Kopyto has spent a lifetime fighting for the voiceless and the dispossessed. Over the years he fought and won cases on behalf of the Mount Cashel sexual abuse victims. In a case that went to the Supreme Court, Kopyto extracted an historic guarantee of press freedom in Canada. He also fought a ground-breaking case that led to the Human Rights Code being changed to protect gays. He similarly obtained the largest human rights settlement in Canadian history, $250,000 for Claudine Charley – an African-Canadian nurse dismissed from her job because of race.

His most recent legal battle was on behalf of hundreds of mostly non-white nurses against a trusteeship imposed on the union local.

The Center for Equity in Health and Society, which coordinates a network of interdisciplinary researchers and nurses, honoured Kopyto in 2006 with their prestigious “Voicing in Advocacy” award.

Two years ago Kopyto did the unthinkable. He took on a judge. Kopyto launched a complaint against Family Court Judge Marvin Zuker. Kopyto presented evidence the judge had falsified transcripts in a case Kopyto had before him. Kopyto won. The Ontario Judicial Council slapped the judge with a reprimand for misconduct on the bench.

Kopyto has become a lightning rod for establishment lawyers and their organization, the Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC).

The LSUC has been trying to bring him down for decades. In the 1980s, Kopyto was found guilty of an antiquated form of contempt. It’s called “Scandalizing the Court”. Kopyto’s crime was to tell a Globe reporter that the “courts are warped in favour of protecting the police.”

Next, charging him with overbilling legal aid, they had him kicked out as a lawyer.

Anyone who knows Kopyto knows he has never been in it for the money. He was sloppy with his billing, and admitted it, but the evidence this was a nuisance complaint is that he was never asked to pay back the money he is accused of taking.

Law Society takes over regulation of paralegals

Now, under the premise of providing “greater openness, transparency and accountability” to the legal system, the body tasked with governing lawyers (the Law Society) has been given the right to regulate paralegals (in many ways their competition). The Access to Justice Act (Bill B14) effectively gives them a near monopoly over who can and cannot provide legal advice to the people of Ontario. With this stick in hand, the Law Society is trying once again to silence Kopyto and take away his livelihood as a paralegal. It’s a case worthy of Kafka: the Law Society refuses to supply Kopyto with the disclosure documents he needs to defend himself.

Harry Kopyto is no choir boy. He is spiky and relentless. He has no time for Old Boys Clubs. He is consistently outspoken, even outrageous, but none of that should be a crime in Canada.

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