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Response to concerns over Canadian Lawyer September cover

|Written By Gail J. Cohen

Canadian Lawyer is very concerned about the reaction from some members of the bar to the cover of our September issue. We regret the image has been interpreted in a way that was never our intention.

The intent of the cover was to illustrate a woman waiting and having to bide her time trying to figure out the password or key to get through a locked door, consistent with the theme of the article. The figure behind the door with a speakeasy-type slider is in the shadows, representing the gatekeeper of the establishment/old order looking askew at this person trying to break the code and get into the private club (ie: the bench).

Canadian Lawyer is well known for our promotion and support of diversity issues in the profession and in no way was the image on the cover meant to harken back to old stereotypes or implied threats of danger. The door represents the barrier to a private club and not a prison cell showing “an apparently incarcerated black man glaring at a white woman,” as some readers have suggested.

That said, Canadian Lawyer sincerely regrets that the image was seen as reinforcing negative stereotypes. We do appreciate the input of our readers and value all opinions. Going forward, the editorial team will take all possible steps to be more sensitive and aware of how images may be interpreted.

Yours truly,

Gail J. Cohen

Editor in Chief

  • Barrister and Solicitor

    Don Johnston
    Being offensive requires both giving offence and taking offence. I fully understand how people could take offence. However, I also believe the explanation that no offence was intended. Whenever you can explain something offensive as either intentional or bone-headed - like the driving of the guy who cut you off on the way to the office - the fact is that most of the time it's just bone-headed. Compound that with the honi soit qui mal y pense concept, it's a fact that our perceptions are in part shaped by our experiences. And of course we don't all share identical experiences. So it's entirely possible that no one at Canadian Lawyer was primed to see the cover the way it seems that many readers have. It was an accident, and there was an apology. Have we all learned something from this experience?
  • Response doesn't make sense

    Bill Watters
    In my opinion, the photo really doesn't look like a woman trying to get into a private club. And even if that was true - the above image doesn't even make sense in relation to the article itself. The image would have made more sense if it had portrayed a woman or racialized person with the male gaze in the image being of a white privileged man.
  • Sir

    Anon Y Mous
    Dear Editor in Chief

    Thank you for publishing your response to the petition against the cover of the September 2014 edition of your magazine.

    Unfortunately, this response is not the requested apology. Rather, it is a series of excuses as to why, despite being told by 200+ people that the cover is offensive or likely to perpetuate negative stereotypes, you stand by the selected art work. You have explained the brief given to the artist but you must be aware that such "speakeasy-style sliders" are also used in asylums, prisons and places of ill-repute (i.e. places that the media has too often associated with persons of colour). Given how this picture fails to symbolize the real barriers to diversity, this just adds to the confusion as we ponder how you thought that this was a good idea.
  • -

    gee pee
    I agree with the previous commenter. Your statement is even more problematic that the cover itself.

    Take responsibility for this racist and ignorant cover, issue a real apology, and pull the cover.

    Your explanation also doesn't explain why a white woman was selected to represent the need for diversity on the bench. The Chief Justice of the SCC is a white woman. Why not choose to represent an Indigenous woman or a woman of colour?

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