This year in Ottawa, the Canadian Bar Association addressed diversity and inclusion in its own organization and in the legal profession.
A motion was passed without debate defining diversity, as the bar association sees it, at the group’s annual general meeting in February.
Diversity in the legal world will form part of the discussion at another national meeting, this time in Halifax: the 2019 annual conference of the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers.
The daylong event is to run Oct. 18; the association’s annual gala will be held here Saturday night.
A roster of speakers from this province and elsewhere has been put together for the conference. Among the talkers are a Mi’kmaw social worker with a background in child-protection service, a legal aid lawyer who’s on the executive of the Nova Scotia chapter of CABL, a Dalhousie University law school professor and a former Supreme Court of Canada judge.
According to its website, the Black lawyers’ association over the years “has undertaken numerous initiatives,” including a mentorship program for law students and junior lawyers.
In Halifax, Dalhousie University has a longstanding program – the Indigenous Blacks and Mi’kmaq initiative at the Schulich School of Law – that was started to help boost the numbers of black and aboriginal people in the legal profession.
The gala celebration Saturday is to include recognizing the 30-year anniversary of the IB&M program at Dal.
Toronto lawyer Lori Anne Thomas is president of the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers, which was formed in 1996. African-Nova Scotian lawyers established a CABL chapter in 2015.
Thomas was called to the bar in 2009 after graduating from Osgoode Hall Law School at York University. She has “advocated for formal and informal mentorship and has had the pleasure of mentoring a number of lawyers or those aspiring to be lawyers,” the association’s website says.
Last April, the lawyers’ association released a response to a report on racial profiling and street checks in the Halifax region.
The human-rights study, which looked over years of data from Halifax Regional Police and the RCMP, said Black citizens were more than five times more likely to be stopped by police.
“Street checks cause undue stress, fear, anxiety and trauma on Black people and African-Nova Scotian communities,” CABL’s statement said.
“This practice is racially discriminatory, and a form of racial profiling against African-Nova Scotians that contributes to their over-representation in the criminal justice system.”
Last month, the association posted a response to much-publicized images of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, when he was younger, in black or brown face. That statement, from Thomas, can be found here.
Michael Lightstone is a freelance reporter living in Dartmouth