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Black History Month

Black History Month

By: Teresa Donnelly, Treasurer | February 22, 2021

February is Black History Month in Canada. Black Canadians have helped to shape our heritage and collective identity from coast to coast to coast since the early 1600s, well before this country was even known as Canada. However, Black history in Canada has not always been celebrated or highlighted. It was only in the 1970s that Canadians began to mark the enormous contributions that Black people have made, and continue to make, in all sectors of our society.  Only in 1995 did the Parliament of Canada officially recognize February as Black History Month.

The 2021 theme for Black History Month is “The Future is Now.” This is an opportunity to honour and acknowledge the transformative work that Black Canadians, and their communities, including Black law professionals, are doing now. It is an opportunity to acknowledge that they are building a better future for everyone.

However, Black History Month also reminds us of the inequity and barriers many continue to face, from anti-Black racism and discrimination to a lack of opportunity and resources. As the regulator of the legal professions, the Law Society of Ontario is committed to combating racism, including anti-Black racism, in all its forms and to keep working to build a more diverse and inclusive society that is informed by Black history, Black voices, Black expertise and Black lived experiences.  

In reflecting on this, we are reminded of the Supreme Court of Canada’s comments in 2018 when it recognized that equal access to the legal profession and diversity within the bar, are all within the Law Society’s scope of duty to uphold the public interest. The Court noted that ensuring a diverse legal profession not only promotes the public interest but also furthers access to justice.

In his Opening of the Courts speech last fall, Chief Justice Strathy reminded us about the prevalence and perseverance of anti-Black racism; the historic effects of slavery and colonialism, and the centuries of racism and discrimination that have followed. His words are powerful motivators for us to take action to effect change.

As Treasurer, I have had the privilege of connecting with many legal professionals who are Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC). They inspire me daily in the work I do as head of the Law Society; their perspectives and experiences have enriched my comprehension of the continuing impact of racism and colonialism on our institutions, including the institutions of our justice system. I am grateful for the opportunity to learn and grow through my interactions with these remarkable people and I hope that all members of our professions will have similar opportunities.  

Accordingly, I invite you to attend our annual Black History Month program, hosted in collaboration with the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers (CABL), as part of our Equity Education Series. This year’s event takes place on February 25 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. It features a virtual panel discussion exploring equity, diversity and inclusion from a Black perspective, with a focus on strategies to overcome systemic anti-Black racism. Please note that this program is free of charge and has been accredited for 1 hour and 30 minutes of EDI Professionalism content. You can learn more about the program and register here

Conversations being held like the one on February 25th inspire meaningful action to build a more equitable, diverse and inclusive society. The Law Society is grateful for this continuous partnership with the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers and for the leadership that the Association has demonstrated in advancing issues and causes relevant to Black legal professionals, not just this month, but over the past many years.

 As we celebrate Black History Month and take part in virtual events to mark the occasion,  reflect on the challenges of Black Canadians and learn more about the important role that they have played – and continue to play – to build a better future for all of us,  I invite each of us outside of the Black community to take an active role in addressing anti-Black racism and building equity in the legal professions and beyond.

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