Why is Western University's new law advisory council so white?
The Faculty of Law introduced the new advisory panel late last month and some say it lacks diversity
The composition of a new advisory council at Western University is raising some eyebrows.
Western's Faculty of Law introduced the 12 members of its first advisory council late last month, announcing the team would assist in achieving the department's goal of boosting its reputation and fine-tuning its education.
The reaction to the almost all-white council on social media was swift: "Now that is [a] picture of diversity there. Wow Western. It is 2021 almost 2022. Wake up," wrote Mark Stamp.
"Where is the diversity?" asked Cara Breac on Twitter. "I could not seriously recommend Western to any student."
"We have all been talking about it. We're talking about it on Twitter and via text messages," said Toronto lawyer Omar Ha-Redeye, a 2010 Western Law graduate.
Becoming a distinguished lawyer is not a process entirely based on merit. There are many talented, diverse lawyers in Canada whose full potential and capacity is never fully realized.- Toronto lawyer, Omar Ha-Redeye
In a press release, Western Law Dean Erika Chamberlain said the all-Western graduate council would "lend their varied perspectives and experiences to further the faculty's mission and will have a direct impact on Western Law's immediate and long-term future."
Now that is picture of diversity there. Wow Western. It is 2021 almost 2022. Wake up.—@mstamp36
While the members' areas of expertise are varied and a spokesperson for Western said more working lawyers will be added to the council in the new year, they are right now, for the most part, white.
That's a problem, and tackling inequality in the legal profession should be a top priority for the new council, said Ha-Redeye.
"The majority of law jobs and opportunities in the legal field are largely informed by family ties and connections to the field," he said. And most Indigenous and racialized lawyers don't have those same connections.
"In some cases it was even illegal for their ancestors to be lawyers based on their race or ethnicity alone."
"Becoming a distinguished lawyer is not a process entirely based on merit," said Ha-Redeye. "There are many talented, diverse lawyers in Canada whose full potential and capacity is never fully realized."
And based on the makeup of the new advisory council, "it's not clear that the new Western Law Advisory Council will be focusing on this pressing issue," he said.
The composition of Western Law's Advisory Council raises questions about how seriously the school is thinking about diversity and inclusion," echoed Kerry-Ann Cornwall, the president of the Black Law Students' Association of Canada, and law student at York University's Osgoode Hall Law School.
"You cannot properly advise on how to move legal education at Western forward with the experiences of Black, Indigenous, and other people of colour missing," she said.
The members of the Western Law Advisory Council: