'We don't feed people. We don't save lives': lawyer says lack of respect for profession is understandable
Survey finds Canadians have most respect for first responders and farmers, least for lawyers and pollsters
First responders and health care workers command the most respect when it comes to Canadians' opinions of various professions, while lawyers regularly come last.
But one lawyer says his colleagues should embrace their profession's consistent low ranking as a badge of honour.
Every year, polling company Insights West produces a list of Canada's most — and least — respected professions. At the top of the popular list are people who protect us, heal us and feed us: firefighters, nurses, farmers and doctors.
At the bottom: politicians, car salespeople, business executives and lawyers.
But Tim Murphy, a partner at MacMillan LLP in Toronto, says lawyers who do their job well shouldn't expect to beloved by everyone.
"In my view, if you are doing your job properly as a lawyer, you are defending minority views — the unpopular and the accused," Murphy said.
"You're never going to have, if you defend the minority, having the majority think that's a great thing."
Tainted by TV
Lawyers have consistently placed near the bottom of Insights West's rankings. Murphy thinks the portrayal of lawyers on television has given many people an inaccurate idea of what they actually do.
"They tend to be a bunch of people conniving to get people off on technicalities, to conspire against each other in weird and wonderful ways that are very entertaining, but also, to be honest, don't reflect the real life of lawyers," Murphy said.
Though he puts a noble spin on that unpopularity, he also understands why it has arisen.
"We don't feed people. We don't save lives. We don't rush into burning buildings," he said.
"We tend to be associated with negative things, so it's kind of unsurprising we're not going to be as popular as farmers and firefighters and doctors."
Deals on wheels
Used car salespeople have also consistently ranked low in the annual poll — a reputation the industry has actively been trying to combat.
The Vehicle Sales Authority of B.C. was established in 2004 to regulate the sale of cars to consumers. It grants licences to sellers, provides training and takes disciplinary action in response to complaints.
Doug Longhurst, the director of communications for the vehicle sales authority, says the industry is now much more tightly regulated and consumer friendly that in has been in the past.
"I think there's a lot of residual bad feelings from maybe the '70s [and] '80s," Longhurst said.
The effort appears to be working. Longhurst said the authority conducts its own opinion study every three years and has seen noticeable improvement in the last six years.
The age gap
Mario Canseco, vice-president of public affairs with Insights West, says the poll's results are generally fairly consistent across most demographic divides like gender, age and province.
But he has noticed an interesting split in how various age groups view law enforcement.
The survey found that 34 per cent of Canadians in the 18-to-34 age range — that is, millennials — have a negative view of police officers. For those aged 35 to 54, the ratio is 23 per cent and for those over 55, it's just 19 per cent.
"[Older demographics are] more likely to say, well, that's just the way the justice system works, but millennials are definitely looking for something different when it comes to their judges, to their police officers," Canseco said.
The reputation of journalists is also up slightly — 70 per cent of Canadians have a positive opinion of journalists, compared to 62 per cent last year.
Canseco thinks this may have something to do with differences Canadians are noticing between Canadian and American news media.
"We have a situation right now with Donald Trump in the White House with all of these discussions related to where we get our news," he said. "So, I think the job that [journalists] do is essential to Canadians, and they're starting to notice."
He also notes that pollsters are in the bottom three professions — though they're now up from 34 to 42 per cent.
With files from CBC Radio One's B.C. Almanac.