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  • Writer's pictureRidhey Gill

Safia Thompson

Tell us about yourself.

I started university in 2007 immediately after high school and was initially pursuing a degree in Science and Engineering. In my third year, I realized I was pursuing this degree for all the wrong reasons and switched to a degree in the Social Sciences. I graduated in 2013 and completed a 4-year B.A. (Hons) degree in Law and Society at York University. During undergrad, I was heavily involved with the Faculty where I lead the Student Council of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies as Vice-Chair whilst sitting on numerous Faculty committees relating to academic excellence. One of the most fruitful experiences of my undergrad was in my last year when I was voted to sit on York University’s Senate and the Senate Appeals Committee where I advocated on behalf of all students in the Faculty on matters pertaining to academics and academic governance. I currently work in the beauty industry, where I have worked for the last 11 years, mostly in management roles while also running my own makeup artistry freelance business. The most rewarding position I held while working in the beauty industry was as an Operations Manager where I was responsible for implementing company policy and procedure. In doing so, I saw the ways in which company rules and regulations left no space for reason to account for circumstance and as such, fuelled my passion to pursue a degree in law.

What area of law would you like to practice?

The kind of law that currently tickles my fancy is Employment Law, Family Law, and Mental Health Law. I hope to build my own firm specializing in the aforementioned areas and after 10+ years of practicing, my dream is to become a judge.

Why did you choose Ryerson Law?

As an African-Canadian woman, it was important for me to attend an institution whose commitment to access and inclusivity was authentic. I was in search of a school who promised to show this authenticity through action and when it was announced that there were going to be individuals who looked like me on the Executive Academic Administration that could understand my lived experiences as a Black woman entering the legal field, my decision was made. Funding is crucial to the advancement of those in marginalized communities and Ryerson genuinely cares, which they’ve shown in their fight to acquire OSAP for incoming students who need it. The school’s curriculum is extremely attractive and forward-thinking, especially its voice for entrepreneurship through its offerings of financial literacy and coding bootcamps. For mature students like myself, time is of the essence and it is exciting that the school was able to replace post-grad articling with a practicum placement in our final year of studies. Law school is branded as one of the most challenging yet rewarding experiences in higher education and I thought what better way to do it than in the heart of Toronto?

What do you hope to accomplish with your J.D.?

As a first generation student, this degree is bigger than me. I am doing this for my parents, my ancestors, and all the children in the world who dream of pursuing higher education and wish to see someone who looks like them accomplish it. Growing up in a West Indian household my mother always reminded me that, “When your hand is in the lion’s mouth, you don’t force it out, you ease it.” Through this teaching, I hope to make a meaningful contribution to law and policy where the complexities of race, gender, and mental health are so often forgotten. I hope to use the spirit of the law to account for the intricacies of one’s narrative where the written letter of the law and policy might otherwise fail them. Through my personal experiences, I’ve learned how important it is to create a new narrative for myself and my community as a Black woman living in North America and as such, I hope to help others ease their hands out of the mouths of lions.

As a part of the inaugural cohort of Ryerson Law, what are you most looking forward to?  

I enjoy building things from the ground up, so I am most excited about the opportunity to do just that considering this program is brand new. In particular, I am looking forward to spearheading the formation of clubs and organizations with Assistant Dean Toni De Mello, especially the BLSA (Black Law Students’ Association) and a potential Mental Health Committee, both of which I hold dear to my heart and deem as necessary for enriching the entire student body experience. Like many other students, I cannot wait to experience the kind of excellence that Ryerson Law is promising as the school shapes us and we shape ourselves to become lawyers of the future. During healthy discourse with some of the students via a student-led Facebook group, I’ve noticed that we are all from diverse backgrounds with a plethora of experiences that shape the way we think and I am looking forward to seeing those multiple lenses present in a classroom setting. I am excited to learn, grow, and most importantly, take up space!


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