Queen’s Law launches Anti-Racism Working Group

Group to focus on anti-Black racism in legal education

The Working Group has set benchmarks throughout the 2020-21 year.
Journal File Photo

Following Queen’s senior administration’s declaration of commitment to anti-racism, the Queen’s Faculty of Law formed an Anti-Racism Working Group. 

Mark Walters, dean of the Faculty of Law, made the announcement on Sept. 14. Several months ago, he announced the launch of the group—now, however, it has set members and a terms of reference

The members of the group include Abiola Akinyemi, Law ’22, Dakota Bundy, Law ’22, T. Day, Law ’22, Dhaman Kissoon, Law ’89, Helen Kobusinge, MBA ’16, Nasrudin Mumin, Law ’21, Sarah Ali, Lisa Kelly, Sabine Tsuruda, Noah Weisbord, and Stephanie Simpson, associate vice-principal (human rights, equity, and inclusion). 

The group will focus on determining how the relationship between legal education and racism affects different groups.

While the group intends to address all forms of racism, it will focus on anti-Black racism.

“Recent events have re-affirmed that racism infects law and the administration of justice,” Walters wrote in the statement. “University law schools have a special responsibility to ensure their students are equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to recognize and combat racism within the legal system.”

READ MORE: Queen’s announces additional support for Black students

According to the statement, while 35 to 39 per cent of recent incoming Queen’s Law students have self-identified as members of a racialized group, the number of Black and Indigenous students remains disproportionately low.

“Racism persists in our society’s practices and attitudes, is deeply embedded in cultural norms and assumptions, and infects institutions at a structural level,” Walters wrote. “We have known this for some time, and we should have acted before.”

The group will review University and Faculty policy statements about issues of race and racism, including the 2017 Principal’s Implementation Committee on Racism, Diversity, and Inclusions (PICRDI), Final Report.

It will also review the Faculty’s practices related to students, staff, and curriculum to ensure the program is as inclusive, diverse, and representative of Canada as possible.

Walters is also forming another working group to address issues surrounding Indigenous communities, prompted by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s final report in 2015. 

By the end of the fall term, the group will submit an interim report to Walters illustrating its primary findings. At the end of the winter term, it will submit a final report offering proposals and timelines for furthering anti-racism within Queen’s Law. 

“That it has taken the tragic events that ignited the Black Lives Matter movement in recent weeks for institutions to be jolted from their position of relative complacency on these matters is a failing of those institutions—including the University and its law school,” Walters added.

READ MORE: Faculty of Law begins community consultation on de-naming Sir John A. Macdonald Hall 

The Faculty of Law launched a formal consultation process to review the name of Sir John A. Macdonald Hall in June. Principal Patrick Deane is set to make a recommendation about de-naming the building to the Board of Trustees at its September meeting, which will decide whether the University removes Macdonald’s name.

Should the building be de-named, the Faculty of Law will begin a new process to choose a replacement name. 

“I thank the students, staff, faculty, and alumni who have agreed to serve as members of the Anti-Racism Working Group,” Walters said. “We should all be grateful to them for their willingness to invest time and energy in addressing topics that are complex and difficult yet integral to the well-being of our academic community and our academic mission.

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