Law Society's governing body adopts strategies to end systemic racism in legal professions

    December 4, 2016

    Today, the Law Society's governing body approved the final report by the Challenges Faced by Racialized Licensees Working Group. It contains 13 robust recommendations designed to address issues of systemic racism in the legal professions.

    Working Together for Change: Strategies to Address Issues of Systemic Racism in the Legal Professions – November 2016, is the culmination of thorough study and province-wide consultations, which included surveys, focus groups and public information sessions. Input showed that racialized lawyers and paralegals face long-standing and significant challenges at all stages of their legal careers.

    The report now contains an overview of 23 submissions provided by organizations, and received following the report's initial release on September 22, 2016.

    Overall, the submissions received from the profession and the public were positive and supportive regarding the five areas of action in the report: accelerating culture shift; measuring progress; educating for change; implementing supports; and operations of the Law Society.

    Some of the final report's recommendations include:

    - the development of a demographic data inclusion index for legal workplaces of at least 25 licensees;
    - the adoption of equality, diversity and inclusion principles and practices; and
    - continuing professional development programs on topics of equality and inclusion in the profession — to name just a few.

    "This is an important day. Convocation strongly approved the report and its 13 recommendations, in a room filled with licensees and community justice sector partners, including members of the Law Society's Equity Advisory Group, who were integral in helping develop this seminal report for the professions," says Law Society Treasurer Paul Schabas. "This is a major step in the right direction to ensure the professions are diverse, inclusive and free of discrimination and harassment."

    Working Group co-chair Raj Anand notes that, "It is gratifying that we now can move forward to implement these important recommendations, which reinforce the special responsibility of lawyers and paralegals to promote human rights in their own workplaces — and in their relationships with the justice system and the public."

    Working Group co-chair Janet Leiper adds, "I am very proud that we can begin to address this issue of systemic racism in a meaningful, sustainable way. Implementation of these recommendations will help us effect the culture change that we need within the legal professions."

    The report is available online.

    The Law Society of Upper Canada is the governing body for more than 50,000 lawyers and 8,000 paralegals in the province of Ontario, Canada. The mandate of the Law Society is to govern the legal profession in the public interest by upholding the independence, integrity and honour of the legal profession for the purpose of advancing the cause of justice and the rule of law.

    The Law Society of Upper Canada