Law Matters | Fall 2016




We all support diversity in the profession, don’t we?  Sure we do.  Talk to your fellow lawyers, and quite likely everyone will be very supportive of a diverse legal profession.  All good, no?

Of course, “being in support of” diversity in the profession does not necessarily equate with ACTUAL diversity in the profession... and there is the challenge.  I recently had lunch with a colleague who, in discussing judicial appointments, commented on why we shouldn’t just pick “the most competent applicant” instead of actively seeking appointments that reflect diversity.  My response?  Well, if the majority of people selecting judges are white males, it just might end up looking like white males are almost always the best candidates.  Consciously or unconsciously, we like people who look “like us”.  And making a conscious effort to challenge and overcome our own personal bias – even if unintentional, is a necessary step in working towards a more equitable justice system.

Why should we care?  Well, look at Ola Malik’s “Unsung Hero” article in this issue.  Three “heroes” – three lawyers working to make a difference – who all share one thing in common.  They are all women.  Women who are making effort to do work for people who need it, for people who aren’t oil companies, or banks.  Lawyers who are making our profession better today than it was the day before.

Serendipitously, about an hour before reviewing this issue and reading Ola’s comments, I read a blog from Karen Dyck, an A2J focused lawyer in Manitoba: “Is Delivering Access to Justice Perceived as Women’s Work?” It shouldn’t be.  But one could reasonably argue that a side product of expanding the role of women in our profession is a more empathetic and compassionate profession – to the benefit of addressing our access to justice concerns.

Certainly there’s nothing WRONG with being a white male (I hope), but as also discussed in Noren Hirani’s article, a diverse and varied profession is not only a moral goal – beyond that, it assures a diverse and complimentary collection of skills and perspectives, which can only serve to enhance the quality of our work as lawyers and judges – as well, as assure our increasingly diverse population that the legal system is reflective of all Canadians thus enhancing respect and trust in our profession and the legal system as a whole.

How do we get there?  Well, that’s a good question.  Aditya Badami in his article suggests that regulation and imposition upon the profession by our Law Society may not be an optimal solution.  At the same time, unfortunately, Joshua Sealy-Harrington points out that we have great work to do – as a profession – and while the examples of continuing struggles in diversity should raise concern, they should also remind us that we are a work in progress.  They are a challenge to us for the work yet to be done.  

Hopefully, this issue can provoke some thought and conversation towards continuing the important effort towards expanding the diversity of our profession – and great thanks to our writers (a reasonably diverse group I must say), in sharing their time and thoughts on the issue of diversity.  Please read, enjoy, and discuss these articles over lunch, over partnership meetings, or over drinks.  The concept of diversity in our profession is timely, and it’s important.

Here’s to courageous readers.

Robert G. Harvie, QC

Download this issue in PDF format.