The LSO is on the right track in regards increasing diversity and inclusion.
This is not much of an issue in the technology field, which is an in demand sector, with many job opportunities. In law, it is more of an issue, given much lower growth and an oversupply of lawyers.
The public benefits with a robust and diverse legal profession. It is in the interest of the public that women, Indigenous, parent, disabled and racialized licensees remain within the profession and assume positions of leadership. Continued efforts to ensure inclusion are required and necessary. The Law Society has done a great job of creating the Discrimination and Harassment Counsel. But more work is needed. The Law Society needs to amplify its efforts to address the #METOO movement.
I have been actively involved in a number of diversity and inclusion initiatives in the profession, including the LSO’s Equity Advisory Group, which was a key contributor to the report on challenges facing racialized licensees. This document is an important starting point for our work to ensure the profession reflects the people of Ontario, and allows opportunities for all Ontarians to join our ranks and achieve upward mobility within the bar. The corollary of a representative bar is one which provides better service that is more responsive to the circumstances of the public. The barriers to the bar take shape well before writing the bar exam, and the LSO needs to direct efforts towards addressing those factors – not just our internal challenges.
LSO’s role is to set out the goals and provide educational no cost programs designed to achieve those goals through voluntary efforts of lawyers. Societal change must come through carrots and incentives, not threats and compulsion. LSO must support enforcement of Canada’s and Ontario’s laws but should not write or make rules on top of Canadian and Ontario laws.
The priority should be effective implementation of there commendations of the Challenges Working Group as adopted by Convocation in December 2017.
Practicing law is a privilege, not a right. Therefore, the Law Society needs to treat discrimination as a serious professionalism and regulatory issue. As Bencher,
I will commit to strengthening the powers of the Discrimination and Harassment Counsel to include the same investigatory powers as the Law Society’s Investigation Counsel; Including an anti-racism lens to the Rules of Professional Conduct and clearly addressing unconscious bias and systemic discrimination as professionalism and regulatory issues; Promoting name-blind recruitment practices for law firms to reduce conscious or unconscious bias.
Convocation is a board of directors who are to refrain from fettering their decisions in advance. I remain open to all proposals that fall with the LSO mandate and budget.
LSO should engage government and law schools to examine whether rapid increases in law school tuition and the number of new lawyers are hindering access to justice and diversity in the profession. The current system and skyrocketing tuition will lead to a situation that the profession is only for the affluent. We need to foster lawyers seeking to embark in careers providing access to justice to the vulnerable and disadvantaged groups. We need to take steps to control tuition or graduating lawyers will not be financially able to work in community legal environments or with racialized groups.
I support the recommendations of the 2016 Equity and Aboriginal Issues Committee report.
We should promptly repeal The Law Society’s “Statement of Principles” requirement (which will never, in any event, assist anyone in attaining any advancement in the legal profession), before more time and goodwill are lost arguing over it. We should collectively confront the provincial and federal governments and their taxpayers, and the universities and law schools, and make clear to them that the high costs involved in becoming a lawyer these days are unacceptable, and are retarding the advancement of diversity and inclusion in the legal profession, and consequently in society at large. We should solve the crisis of the shortage of decent articling jobs, without permitting the permanent settling-in of any “two-tier” system of bar admission streams. Many of us should spend more time mentoring those junior to us at the bar.
1. Complete the implementation of the Challenges Report.
2. Apply the recommendations in the Challenges Report to other equity seeking groups.
3. Complete the review of the Discrimination and Harassment Counsel role and then improve it so that people are more aware of it and so that it is accessible.
4. Keep the lines of communication open with equity seeking groups, keep listening to them and where we are doing something that hasn’t worked, change it.
The LSO must follow in practice its mandate of diversity and inclusivity. The legal profession should be representative of the broader community. The strenuous resistance against the Statement of Principles requirement suggests there is a lot of work to be done in terms of affirming the value of equality, diversity, and inclusivity. The LSO must work to dismantle barriers to entry and practice on an urgent basis.
This is an incredibly important issue and the solution does not lie in more studies to prove what we already know, but with the courage to take bold steps to ensure a more diverse governing body. This may include dedicated positions for historically disadvantaged groups whose membership in the profession has never been reflected in seats at Convocation. We still have a long way to go. We all must continue in every possible way imaginable to ensure full equality for all licensees. The statement of principles is one very small step in the right direction. In my opinion, the lawyers who oppose this initiative do not understand our profession or our public responsibilities.
I support the Statement of Principles and implementation of the recommendations in the Challenges Faced by Racialized Licensees Working Group Final Report – Working Together for Change: Strategies to Address Issues of Systemic Racism in the Legal Professions.
In 2014, when I was the president of the AJEFO, the LSO amended its by-laws to add a provision ensuring the right to communicate with, and to receive services from, the Law Society in French as well as in English. This was an important step toward equality and inclusion for Ontario’s francophones. The Law Society has begun other important work to advance equality, diversity, and inclusion. It is essential that the Law Society pursue this work. One of the means of doing this is to build on the findings and recommendations of the “Strategies to Address Issues of Systemic Racism in the Legal Profession” report. I support it`s Five Strategies.
En 2014, lorsque j`étais président de l`AJEFO, le Barreau a modifié ses règlements administratifs pour ajouter le droit de communiquer, et de recevoir des services du Barreau en français. Ce fut un pas important envers l`égalité et l`inclusion pour les francophones. Le Barreau a entrepris d`autre travail important pour avancer l`égalité, la diversité et l`inclusion. Le Barreau doit poursuivre ce travail. Un des moyens est de soutenir les recommandations du rapport `Stratégies de lutte contre le racisme systémique dans les professions juridiques`. J`appuie les cinq stratégies du rapport.
In my last term, I supported diversity and equality initiatives, especially for those who have their own principles and live by them, by asking for a conscientious objection option to the Statement of Principles. Today, a lawyers SOP is theirs alone – and it does not have to espouse prescribed values.
I support diversity and inclusion priorities.
Diversity and inclusivity should be left to the goodwill, honor, and integrity of members. I am not enthusiastic about ‘affirmative action’ approaches – i.e. giving preferential treatment to individuals or groups who someone deems to be under-represented or under-privileged. A better, fairer approach is to insist on merit as the sole criterion for accessing legal education, and, at the same time, ensuring that those who possess said merit but lack financial wherewithal have access to merit-based financial assistance. Lack of financial means may flow from minority status, but it is the financial hardship, rather than a designation as being in an under-represented group, that should be the trigger for financial aid. It would be nice if professional membership roughly reflected society’s make-up – in terms of gender, skin tone, ethnic origin, and so on. But an artificial system designed to make that happen is unjust and uncalled for.
I have no objection to any of the EDI iniatives undertaken by the LSO, with the obvious exception of the Statement of Principles requirement.
I fully support the report and recommendations of the Racialized Licensees Task Force and would work to ensure that the recommendations are implemented in their entirety. That, however, is only the beginning and we must continue to seek input and survey the profession to enable us to better support all diversity and inclusivity initiatives.
The LSO must be fully reflective of the professional in all respects.
I support the statement of principles obligation and the equity, diversity and inclusion initiatives of the Law Society generally. I wish the SOP wasn’t such a controversial topic. We have bigger problems that we should be addressing as a profession.
The legal profession ought to be a leader in progressive practices. There is no excuse for any practice, policy, viewpoint, etc. that pushes people away from our honourable profession.
Huge steps have been taken in these areas but more can be and needs to be done
The LSO needs to address barriers to entry into the profession that are disproportionately affecting racialized licensees, including implementing the Report of the Challenges Faced by Racialized Licensees Working Group.
At its core, diversity and inclusivity is all about one simple proposition – treating others as you would wish to be treated yourself. Each of us wants to be accepted and respected by our colleagues, clients and the public. Moreover, we all want to be fulfilled in our profession regardless of who we are. I am committed to advancing the cause of inclusion and acceptance within our profession.
I see this as a priority, particularly as it relates to recent calls and their inclusion.
The current priority is implementing the Recommendations from the Racialized Lawyers Report which, pursuant to a motion moved by me, were extended to all equality-seeking groups. We need to let these recommendations work. On Retention of Womem in the Profession, it’s time to revisit the Justicia Project, publish current stats on retention and update the Justicia materials.
Since 2015, I have worked on supporting equity initiatives as a Bencher and as a Trustee of the Law Foundation of Ontario (which funds A2J initiatives across Canada). As a Bencher, I have advocated for progressive changes for equity and inclusion at the LSO. This includes my work on Challenges Facing Racialized Licensees, my leadership as Vice- Chair of the Equity and Indigenous Affairs Committee (and Chair of the Steering Committee on the Inclusion Index), my active role on the Indigenous Review Panel, my commitment and work on the Mental Health Working Group and Task Forces, and my role as Chair of the Tribunal Committee, which has successfully worked on developing and implementing initiatives to increase the independence and professionalism of the Tribunal and better respond to the needs of vulnerable persons. This work needs to continue and I am committed to the implementation of the recommendations, and to advancing our work further on diversity and inclusion priorities.
In addition, I have spent my entire legal career working to advance the rights of diverse groups and individuals who face barriers and challenges in society including individuals from racialized groups, indigenous persons, persons living with disabilities and mental health issues, LGBTQ2S+ persons, women and those new to professions. I believe that my lived experience has led to a deeper understanding, from both a personal and professional perspective, of the kinds of barriers and challenges that persons from equity-seeking and marginalized communities face entering and practicing our profession, as well as the challenges the public faces in access to justice.
EDI initiatives enhance the delivery of legal services to the public
Implementation of the Challenges Report recommendations, including time lines for progressive compliance requirements.
The LSO must continue to address the work as set out in the Challenges Facing Racialized Licensees: Final Report, the Working Together For Change: Strategies to Address Issues of Systemic Racism in the Legal Professions report and the Review Panel on Regulatory and Hearing Processes Affecting Indigenous People report. The LSO must also continue the work aimed at the retention of women in the profession.
Access to and mobility within the profession are characterised by inequality at every stage. Climbing fees at law school and the articling crisis stultify careers of junior members of the Bar, a disproportionate number of who belong to marginalised communities. The inequity persists as systemic bias becomes an invisible yet formidable impediment in the way of upward mobility. This is a self-fulfilling prophecy as the absence of inclusion at positions of influence engenders a deep-seated culture of exclusion. The result is a loss of talent and underutilization of our best resource – human resource.
I agree with the Law Society’s proactive, multi-pronged and comprehensive strategy to combat systemic discrimination. It is essential to turn to all 5 strategies outlined in the Challenges to Racialized Licensees Report (accelerating a culture shift, measuring progress, educating for change, implementing supports and leading by example) to tackle these issues. In particular, I would like to see the following considered:
• Advocating for a more representative judiciary
• Enhancing the Law Society’s mentorship program to assist racialized licensees
• Establishing a speaker’s roster at the Law Society that actively solicits and includes names of racialized lawyers as speakers to be considered in the Law Society’s CPD programs
• Liaising with equity bar associations on EDI issues
• Enhancing the Discrimination and Harassment Counsel’s office and the Member’s Assistance Program at the LSO.
We have a long way to go to eliminate inequitable barriers. I believe that it is essential that the Law Society support and empower women and racialized lawyers. We can begin to address these issues through resources that promote education and mentorship. First, with respect to education, the Law Society should provide free programs that qualify for CPD requirements to assist in promoting and educating the membership at large about the need for creating an even playing field. Second, the Law Society should enhance the Coach Advisory Network and provide incentives for participation. In addition, we should set up a hotline, run by mentor volunteers who can earn CPD hours, who are there in the evenings or weekends, who can help assist on specific issues and with their practice, so that no one feels isolated. In this way, we can help support and retain new lawyers who have entered into the bar. Lastly, the Law Society needs to continue to reach out as an ally. The Law Society must communicate with various groups in order to understand how best to address issues. The Law Society has an obligation to be an ally in equality and diversity, and to understand and address the continued challenges faced by minority groups within our profession.
Young and racialized lawyers need the support of the Law Society to succeed. We must do better to address the additional barriers that many members of the profession face in both entry-to-practice and seeking equity and inclusion throughout their careers.
I support the SOP, along with the other recommendations passed by Convocation arising from the report on Challenges Faced by Racialized Licensees. I will work to ensure their implementation and enhancement.
I hope to bring a strong, experienced, and motivated voice to Convocation. I have a history as a progressive, feminist and activist, but I also have a great deal of Board and advocacy experience, which I believe makes me someone who can be very effective in moving the LSO’s EDI agenda forward, not backward.
Please refer to my answer on the Statement of Principles. The legal community needs to be representative of the community as a whole. Making someone feel included is not just about having a policy that says they should feel included… there needs to be action behind the words.
In the last 30 years I have experienced and watched fellow women lawyers experience barriers to career success as a result of their decision to have children. We need to change how law firms perceive and treat lawyers who have had children because, among other things, retention of women is good for the population we serve! I hope to influence a change in how partners and other lawyers perceive and treat younger lawyers who choose to have children because I believe, as so eloquently put by human rights activist and barrister Charlotte Proudman, that “achieving gender, class and race parity needs to be the aim of the legal profession, so that we properly reflect the society we represent – and inequality is stamped out for good”.
Priorities should be on retaining women in the profession and providing greater opportunities to racialized licensees.
Regarding retaining women in the profession, I support the Parental Leave program, but would raise the means test and would raise the maximum eligible amount and the duration of leave. Right now, the LSO expense for this program has averaged $205,000 over the last five years. Even doubling this program within our overall budget of $133 million (in which significant efficiencies can be found) would not be too onerous. Supporting this program is a policy choice we should advocate for. The effects on retaining female lawyers in the profession yield significant dividends for a low cost with this program.
Regarding racialized licensees I agree with the recommendations in the Final Report of Challenges Faced by Racialized Licensees Working
Group generally, and think that the inclusion index is a good idea as is the inclusion survey to develop adequate quantitative information about the effects of these policies in addressing lack of diversity in the profession. However, I think that the benchmarks are set too high. I do not think it would be unduly onerous to have the inclusion index apply to firms of 5 lawyers and more (not 25) and that the inclusion survey interval of 4 years is too long. This should be reduced by half to every 2 years at most.
We have the chance through this Bencher election to vote the change we want. There are many truly talented people in this election that bring new thoughts and ideas to the table. Perhaps the best way to ensure diversity and inclusion is to celebrate from within the people that make this profession great. No greater incentive to a young person is seeing that they can to by seeing someone else that has. We must all act as role models to the new generation so they can aspire to become lawyers or paralegals.
As mentioned above, if elected, I will bring many perspectives to Convocation. These perspectives are enhanced by my personal background, lived experience, and culture. Combined, they have taught me the importance of improving equality, diversity, and inclusion in the justice system for all legal professionals, including those with invisible challenges. I will “lean in” to this cause as a first generation Canadian, the first in my family to attend university, and as a strong advocate for mental wellness in the law. In short, I support the LSO taking steps to increase diversity and inclusion at Convocation, in the legal profession, and throughout the justice system, whether alone, or in partnership with willing justice sector participants.
I am co- chair of the CCLA Diversity Committee and former staff lawyer to the CBA equality committee. Diversity and inclusion are priorities for my work.
This has been some of the most valuable work the LSO has done in the last few years, and must continue to be a priority, particular to address barriers to entry into the profession that disproportionately affect those of racialized communities.
Each year the bar better represents the public. However, we do lag behind where we should be. Reminding lawyers of the benefits of a diverse bar and providing actual opportunities rather than paying lip service to the issue is the way forward.
If we wish to stay relevant to the whole public in Ontario, we need to work on this energetically. Our demographic diversity has changed. We need to change with it, or become just another profession that fell by the wayside. I’d like to see the culture shift the Challenges Report recommendations are intended to bring about.
The recommendations of the Report of the Challenges Faced by Racialized Licensees Working Group need to be implemented in the near term. It is a road-map of minimums that we should treat as a starting point and direct concerted effort toward.
I will always be a strong voice and advocate for diversity and inclusiveness. To be frank, let us not forget the very real barriers of race, religion and gender which, historically, faced minorities seeking to practice in our profession. I feel strongly that considerable work remains to be done by all of us, however, the LSO has taken a step in the right direction to help eliminate these barriers by bringing greater focus to this issue and establishing a stronger foundation for the future of the law society.
We need to build on the current LSO initiatives and to start recruiting diverse candidates within the community. Every high school student should be encouraged to follow a career in the law and contribute to the Ontario legal system.
Our profession must reflect our communities. The Law Society has made great strides, but there is more to do. It starts with ensuring the implementation of the “Strategies to Address Issues of Systemic Racism in the Legal Professions”. But it does not stop there. I would advocate for additional research and reform, including to the Articling Recruitment Procedures” (both inside and outside Toronto), improving the PLAP (Parental Leave Assistance Program), and modernizing previous initiatives such as the Justicia Project.
Licensees have duties to abide by all Human Rights legislation, not to discriminate, and to uphold the rights and freedoms of all in society. I support these requirements and continue to meet and exceed them in my own law firm. I oppose the LSO’s authoritarian compelled speech Statement of Principles.
I plan to continue to actively lobby other Benchers to ensure that the remaining initiatives to end systemic racism in the legal profession are successfully implemented. I also intend to continue to educate fellow Benchers and the legal community about my experiences as a racialized lawyer to contextualize and bring to light ongoing issues of racism in the profession.
In addition, I will continue to encourage the LSO to consider diversity in their hiring practices. Since 2016, I have been a member of the Equity and Indigenous Affairs Committee. When I began in this role, very few minority women had been employed as the LSO’s Discrimination and Harassment Counsel. The DHC confidentially assists anyone who may have experienced discrimination or harassment by a lawyer or paralegal. Since my involvement with the Equity and Indigenous Affairs Committee, the DHC has now promoted minority women to various roles within the DHC.
I fully support the SOP but wonder whether the current measurement questions in the annual report are fulfilling their purpose. I would support the retention of qualified professionals to explore the utility and effectiveness of the current measurement model and, if found wanting, create an improved model.
Please see my answer to SOP above. Diversity is only authentic when it happens naturally and organically as it does in highly ethnic cities and towns such as Windsor. We don’t need artificial rules imposed from ‘on high’. Such rules are typically regressive.
I support LSO’s 5 strategies for equality, diversity and inclusion.
I support our efforts to promote diversity, including in this bencher campaign.
Window-dressing with no structural change.
The Bar is more and more diverse ethnically, and increasingly reflects the larger community. Firms need to be encouraged to bring aboard culturally and ethnically diverse articling students.
Women also greater consideration. Female members of the Bar are raising the issue of with workplace harassment. The ombudsperson approach could help to resolve the problems faced by women in the profession as well as those socially marginalized.
The LSO should also address maternity leave concerns – not with the thought of enforcing standards, but with the intent of providing guidance to firms that employ women to ensure they return to the profession.
I am pleased to say that my firm has an equal number of female and male lawyers with considerable diversity as well. We also top up maternity leaves and have medical benefits for our staff. Encouraging other firms to do the same will help to keep women in the practice of law.
I support the Racialized Lawyers Working group report presented to Convocation in September 2016. I believe that there can and should be refinements in the recommendations/ results from the report. In particular, I believe that survey methods should be made clear to those being surveyed, should not be integrated in the LSO Member’s Report and that the results and methodologies of the report should be made transparent to members. For example, despite the September 2016 results, detractors from the Statement of Principles such as Murray Klippenstein take issue directly with the survey’s findings and the pervasiveness of barriers facing racialized lawyers within the profession. The LSO needs to be clear in both its methodology and the outcomes of its analysis. I am aware of, from engagement with my work with the A2justice.ca coalition over the past five years of anecdotal examples of racialized lawyers and candidates facing barriers in integrating within the system. I believe that these barriers are systemically entrenched within the system and that the LSO must be clear in how it defines systemic discrimination based on anecdotal information survey information and data gleaned from other sources. I believe that the data exists that does support the existence of systemic barriers faced by racialized lawyers and that looking at the demographic makeup of many law firms, small and large across the province, there is an underrepresentation of racialized lawyers at higher levels within firms. We need to continue to address equity, diversity and inclusion, but avoid making conclusions about the measure of barriers faced by all equity seeking groups without substantiated findings whereby we can focus on solution oriented practices and interventions within the mandate of the LSO.
As a major proponent of my platform, I support an “LPP for all” approach and in so doing, it is important to recall that the LPP was designed as a measure to equalize the playing field for all candidates at the entry level to the profession. By maintaining a two-tiered model of training pathways, there is a danger that LPP will continue to be a “second tier” of training. By creating a standardized approach, this two-tiered or discriminatory impact can be directly addressed.