One of Canada's most exclusive IVY league like Law School in Canada -- the University of Toronto's Law School -- has an ambitious mission to help best reflect Canada's diverse population among its future students.
Earlier today, the Law School hosted its annual event titled See Yourself Here and invited "equity-seeking communities that have historically been underrepresented in law schools and the legal profession". With the support of TD Bank -- it sent out an invitation to Canada's visible minority community to come for an open house - and 150 people showed interest making the event a sell out with a long waiting list.
In the shadow of the historic appointment of a Jamaican Canadian - Michael H. Tulloch - as a member of the Ontario Court of Appeal barely a week ago - the participants were promised guidance, mentorship and information to aspire to be future guardian of Canada's scared legal system.
Tulloch - who became the first black Judge inside the Ontario Court of Appeal once served as President of the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers. The Association has been a strong advocate for diversity in Canada's legal profession.
The idea for the conference was started five years ago by the Black Law Students Association at U of T as a one time event. Then - the idea was to recruit black law students as the association found out that there were too few black students among the large student population. Since then - the focus has also included the larger mainstream visible minority population.
Renatta Austin - who was instrumental with last year's event reflected what the challenge may be for U of T's Law school. She thinks "the school recruits nationally, so they aren't looking for people that are necessarily from the local area" and that she thinks the school "doesn't take on the same holistic approach that some other universities do."
Law schools such as York's Osgoode and Windsor take a holistic approach in their recruitment and acceptance unlike U of T. They are beginning to reap the benefit of a more diverse student population. Why is U of T far behind?
The hope is that the See Yourself Here event will inspire students to compete and gain acceptance without compromising its long held standard. The mission of the event also reflects how - "inspirational speaker sessions, educational worships and networking reception with law students, alumni and members of the legal community" might be the push for potential students to apply to be its students.
The speakers at the conference were impressive.
Among the many - Andrew Alleyne - a 30-something partner of Fasken Martineau who was recently named a 'Rising Star' by Lexpert magazine. He is also the President of the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers.
Julian K, Roy - a University of Toronto Law School graduate who is a well known public interest lawyer before numerous Coroners Inquests. He was also part of the Maher Arar's legal team.
Anusha Aruliah - is a young lawyer with the Justice Department who has been a criminal defense lawyers and a Shakespearean actor in her free time.
Would a one day event with impressive speakers and networking opportunities be enough to inspire them to join Canada's most exclusive Law School and help change the face of Canada's future legal profession? That might be a challenge and then again, the University thinks it just might work
In what is arguably one of the most diverse countries in the world - Canada is well behind in celebrating diversity among its legal leaders. For instance - as the Globe and Mail recently found out - "In the past three and a half years, the federal government has appointed 100 new judges in provinces across the country - and 98 of them were white"
That is a shock and I hope the future law students I witnessed today will help change that reality.