The Woke cancelled her article, now they want to cancel her

September 28, 2021

Welcome to Canada Shahdin Farsai!

Farsai, a practicing lawyer since 2016, wrote a short, innocuous article suggesting recent British Columbia court directives asking for people’s gender pronouns amounted to compelled speech, endangered privacy rights and could prejudice the court in certain cases. The article was accepted for publication in the BC law magazine, The Advocate, and the editor looked for someone to represent the other side in the debate. Instead he received a vitriolic campaign that included threats to The Advocate’s funding if he were to print Shahdin’s article. The article was subsequently published in The Canadian Lawyer out of Toronto but after a five day campaign of character assassination and more threats, the article was pulled. You can read Shahdin’s offending article for yourself here: Republished: British Columbia’s practice directions on preferred gender pronouns in court are problematic – CANADIAN GENDER REPORT

Shahdin Farsai did not disappear. She seconded the following resolution presented to this month’s convention of the B.C. Law Society:

a) the Membership affirms its commitment to rational and unfettered discourse on
any and all issues regarding the Directives;
b) the Membership affirms that no topic that relates to our profession and the
administration of justice should be exempt from open debate

The campaign of vitriol directed against Shahdin by a core group of Wokists resumed. Among the attackers was was Clare Jennings, President of the B.C. Bar Association. Many people have been cancelled from their jobs as a result of such mobbings. Instead, we are pleased to reprint the following letter sent to Ms. Jennings from Ms. Farsai’s employer. We encourage all employers to stand behind their employees in similar circumstances.

From: Keith Sabey
Sent: September 20, 2021 12:43 PM

Clare, As a member of the Okanagan Wills and Trusts executive for many years and chair for the last two years, I was disappointed to see your email purporting to speak on behalf of the entire CBABC to vote down the resolution put forward by Shahdin. I certainly was not consulted on your email about Shahdin (one of my associates) prior to it being sent out.

Shahdin is an intellectually gifted, young lawyer, who immigrated from Iran at a young age, and has worked hard for everything that she has. She has had to work harder than many of us as she is a minority woman. She takes her oath seriously and felt compelled to write her article to initiate the debate on concerns that she has with the practice directives.

I agree that this is not the ideal forum to discuss this. A better forum for these debates would have been The Advocate. Unfortunately the editor was threatened with a human rights complaint and there was suggestion that the Advocate’s funding might be in jeopardy if they published the article and so they backed down. Similar threats were made to the Canadian  Lawyer magazine and they pulled the article shortly after online print. I was disappointed and frankly ashamed to see my colleagues immediately form a digital mob in an effort to try to silence this minority woman trying to have her voice heard. She was called hateful and bigoted and even had one lawyer mocking her physical appearance. In reading the criticisms of her and her article it was clear that few, if any of her detractors had actually read the full article or at least not read it carefully.

Clearly there are numerous issues surrounding the PD that require clarification and further debate. In my mind the primary issues are privacy issues and the appearance of bias in cases where the sex/ gender of a litigant is related to or is the primary issue being litigated. Specifically we have received CBA trainings (as well as numerous other articles) that “outing” a trans person may be harmful or even “fatal” and that we should NOT proactively and publicly ask for a persons pronouns. Why then have we have implemented a directive that publicly prompts litigants (including trans litigants) to state their pronouns in open court?  Is it harmful or “fatal” to trans persons to be “outed” everywhere except in a public courtroom; one of the most stressful public settings imaginable? This makes no sense to me and I want clarification and want to hear the point debated.

The directive also encourages and might even require litigants to use another litigants stated pronouns in cases where the sex/ gender of the litigant is related to or even is central to the issue in dispute. This could take place in difficult cases where young children are seeking transition against the wishes of parents or say with transgender sporting issues. For example how will this PD operate in a cases where say a 17 year old biological girl wrestler (who is competing at provincials, looking for scholarships, future coaching positions, Olympics, etc.) is arguing that she should not have to compete with a 17 year old biological boy who identifies as a girl who may take away her position and future opportunities? The entire issue is whether for the purpose of competing in this combat sport, the biological boy should be considered a boy or a girl. Will the court begin the proceeding by saying: “we understand that you are arguing that the boy is a boy for the purposes of wrestling. However we will require you to refer to the boy as a girl for the duration of the proceeding”? In such cases does the PD not give the impression of bias against the biological female, and the appearance of procedural unfairness to the public? Are we required to use the other litigants stated pronouns even in cases where it is at the heart of the issue being litigated and even if our client’s instructions and interest are the opposite? I do not know the answer (the PD does not say) or how to deal with these difficult questions but I would like to hear these points debated.

Following robust debate, there likely is a way the PD could be worded that would avoid these and other problems. Unfortunately there is an effort to silence one side of the debate.

It is highly inappropriate for you to use your position to publicly suggest that what Shahdin has done is in any way analogous to slavery, genocide, or to allege that Shahdin opposes “transgender and non-binary people exist[ing] and [that they] deserve equal respect and dignity.” The latter suggestion is a demonstrably false allegation against Shahdin and unfortunately one that I fear other CBA members might accept as truth simply because of the position you hold and the fact that you said it. There is nothing in the proposal or in her article that says this or anything remotely close to it.    

Never in my life did I think that I would read an email from the CBA taking a stand against something so fundamental as our right to free and open debate; particularly on challenging issues like this.

Keith Sabey

Barrister & Solicitor,

Managing Partner

Sabey Rule LLP

Barristers and Solicitors

201 – 401 Glenmore Road

Kelowna, BC  V1V 1Z6

Phone: (250) 762-6111, Ext: #106

Fax: (250) 762-6480

Toll Free: 1-866-268-6383

Lloyd Robertson