Harry Kopyto is back before the three-person Law Society Panel judging his character on Thursday September 20, 2012. The hearing, which will start at 9:30 a.m., will be held at the usual place: the Museum Room at Osgoode Hall, northeast corner of Queen and University in downtown Toronto. Everyone is urged to attend.
Harry outlined his decision to become a legal advocate in the context of his personal history during the last hearing date. That was on September 14, 2012. Born a child of the Holocaust in a Displaced Persons Camp in occupied Germany in 1946, Harry chose a career as a legal advocate out of a sense of obligation. As a student in high school and university, Harry was a militant activist. He participated and led numerous campaigns and movements. He was actively involved in the movement against the war in Vietnam, the movement for women’s rights and defence of choice and for student power.
Harry also described how he shaped his law practice as a weapon for social and legal justice when he became a lawyer.
The Gay Alliance For Equality v the Vancouver Sun case, heard by all nine judges of the Supreme Court of Canada in 1979 was regarded as Canada’s leading freedom of the press case for decades. Dowson v the Queen, also decided in the 1980s by the Supreme Court, reaffirmed the historic right of private prosecution. However, it was Kopyto’s denunciation of the judicial system for its cozy relationship with the police that drew the greatest calumny from the judicial/political elite. Kopyto was charged in the 1980s for a statement to the Globe & Mail following a futile eight and a half year legal battle to prosecute two RCMP senior officers for crimes that they admitted committing against a legitimate socialist group during the 1960s and 1970s. His famous description of the RCMP and the courts using the phrase that they were “stuck together with Krazy Glue” drew a contempt citation from the Ontario government and the threat of being jailed for up to five years. In a highly publicized case that drew attention across the country, Kopyto was found guilty of the antiquated offence of “scandalizing the Court”. He was ordered to apologize to all judges of all courts in Ontario and forbidden from practicing law until he did so.
Kopyto refused to apologize. Instead, he appealed the conviction and argued that the law that he was found guilty of breaching was unconstitutional. A five judge panel of the Ontario Court of Appeal agreed with him. The Court of Appeal’s decision in Kopyto v the Queen, has won international praise as a sterling example of the importance of permitting public criticism of the courts.
The hearing room on September 14th was full of Harry’s supporters as he testified under oath as to his good character. The Panel was clearly absorbed by his evidence although the Panel Chair Margot Blight reminded Harry at the conclusion of the day that the Panel considered his evidence as “background” and wanted him to address the issue of his character at the present time.
Kopyto intends to do so this Thursday September 20th, the next hearing date. Your presence will remind the Panel that Harry is not isolated and has the support and respect of the public to whom he has dedicated his whole career.