On June 18th, 2020 the Ryerson Faculty of Law hosted a panel on “Black Lives Matter. State Power and the Breaking of the Social Contract”. Annette Bailey, Graham Hudson, Shawn Richard, and Kikelola (Kike) Roach engaged in discussion (moderated by Dean Donna Young) on the topics of injustice and racial oppression. As Dean Young opened with, “It’s a difficult discussion to have, but an absolutely necessary one”.
The uproar that has spread across the world in the face of police brutality and anti-Black racism has sparked various discussions, protests, and calls for action. Systemic racism has existed for centuries and has been ignored for far too long. This panel provided incredibly insightful discussion on the reality of racial oppression and why this notion that Canada is a non-racist country is a myth.
Dean Young made this statement before proceeding to ask the panelists what role the inaugural cohort of Ryerson Law plays as we are about to enter into the legal community come September:
“We’re building a new law school, the newest in Canada, and we’re in a historical moment. We’re living through a pandemic, we’re witnessing protests like we’ve never really seen worldwide, and there’s this building of kind of a consciousness around what is happening to POC, to indigenous people, and to queer and trans people.”
This really resonated with me. We are living in a historical moment. We are seeing the exposure of systemic racism and oppression and the absolute refusal to allow it to continue to be ignored any longer. As incoming law students, it is our absolute duty to understand that “systemic racism is alive and well and that it continues to affect POC in deathly ways” (Annette Bailey) because without this active consciousness we will fail to reshape the legal industry in the way it so desperately needs. Diversity and inclusion is not a trend to be followed or a quota to be filled, but rather a day to day reality for BIPOC and the LGBTQIA2S+ community that is often filled with struggle and disappointment.
Ryerson Law has pillars based on diversity and inclusion and access to justice, which is why this panel was so powerful. Dean Young and the faculty of Ryerson Law were able to put together this panel with such incredible and insightful speakers because they understood how important it was to have this conversation with their incoming inaugural class. I believe this shows just how special this law school I’m about to attend is going to be, and how Ryerson Law will change the course of legal education and the legal industry as a whole. The world doesn’t need more lawyers. The world needs a different kind of lawyer. To quote Kikeola (Kike) Roach:
“We don’t need more lawyers.
We don’t need more lawyers who defend the indefensible, such as drafting laws that exclude women who wear hijabs.
We don’t need more lawyers who are going to become politicians who chip away at legal protections for tenants, or who represent the government and block the Human Rights Tribunal’s order that the Canadian government pay compensation to Indigenous children in this country who’ve been wronged.
We don’t need more lawyers who are going to perpetuate the status quo and continue the kinds of problems that we have seen.
But we DO need more lawyers who are going to use their legal imagination and their courage. We do need more lawyers who are going to understand the treaties and make sure that our government actually upholds them.
We do need more lawyers who are going to breathe life into section 15 of the Charter that talks about equality and that talks about our government’s ability to actually take affirmative action to correct the historical wrongs.
We do need more lawyers who are going to interpret section 7 of the Charter that says that we have the right to life, liberty, and security of the person.
We need more lawyers to help us imagine what that security of the person really means and what it should look like in a way that benefits everyone.” - Kikeola (Kike) Roach
Diversity and inclusion is embedded into Ryerson’s DNA, which in turn will produce legal professionals who have the necessary skills and expertise to change the painfully traditional legal industry. In the journey towards making the law more accessible to all, we must consider what “to all” really means and the role diversity and inclusion plays. And so, to myself and to my fellow classmates at Ryerson Law, I end off with this: we have an incredible opportunity to be a part of the building of this new law school. The stage is being set, the resources are being provided. Everything is at our full disposal as new law students to understand both the landscape of the need to change the legal industry and to act in reshaping it. We all came to Ryerson for this reason, because we wanted change in some way shape or form. A lot of us are intrigued by this atypical lawyer approach that Ryerson has promised us through technology and innovation...but regardless of where we wish to take our legal careers, I hope we graduate from this law school with a true understanding of why diversity and inclusion are so important. I hope we follow what Ryerson Law says in using the multifaceted skills we are about to develop to serve a broader range of communities and as a direct result, work towards creating a more diverse legal industry.
Check out my last post, “Becoming a Diverse Legal Industry”, to read more about how we can create a diverse legal industry.