The Current

Non-white lawyers in Canada call out racial profiling in justice system

Toronto lawyer Selwyn Pieters has filed a lawsuit alleging humiliating treatment based on his race by the Law Society of Upper Canada. Now other lawyers who say they have faced similar situations are speaking up about racial bias in the court system.
Selwyn Pieters, a prominent black lawyer who says he felt humiliated when a security guard denied him entry to the law society's headquarters, has made a racial profiling complaint to the human rights tribunal. (Colin Perkel/The Canadian Press)

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Last July, prominent black Toronto lawyer Selwyn Pieters says that he experienced racial profiling by a security guard at the Law Society of Upper Canada's headquarters. Pieters has filed a complaint against the Law Society to the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal, seeking $75,000 in damages. He claims the Law Society itself has an issue with race.

The Law Society says the security guard was following standard procedure and that this was not a case of racial profiling. 

To speak to the perennial problem of discrimination and systemic bias that Black, Asian and Indigenous lawyers say they face in our courts, The Current convened a panel: 

The Law Society of Upper Canada declined to speak to The Current about the complaint but did provide a statement. Here is an excerpt:

"When Mr. Pieters related his experience, our CEO, Robert Lapper, reached out immediately to assure him and his student, Mr. Williams, that the incident would be reviewed."

It goes on to say standard protocols were followed at the time and "we regret that Mr. Pieters' experience in interacting with our security staff was not more positive."

This segment was produced by The Current's Howard Goldenthal and Sujata Berry.