Diversity front and centre

A coalition of equity-seeking groups hopes to make diversity an issue in this year’s bencher elections in Ontario, with a new web site that lists candidates’ responses to a probing survey on their approach to diversity in the profession.mile komlen

Late last month, the Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers, the Ontario Bar Association’s sexual orientation and gender identity committee, the Women’s Law Association of Ontario, the South Asian Bar Association, the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers, the Arab Canadian Lawyers Association, and the Hispanic Ontario Lawyer Association teamed up to distribute its Bencher Candidate Equity Survey to all candidates in this year’s Law Society of Upper Canada bencher election.

Candidates have until April 11 to get their responses in, but several early birds have already set out their positions, and you can view them at the project’s web site. The web site will be updated as candidates respond.

“Anyone can just say on their platforms ‘I want to increase diversity,’” says Jason Leung, president of the Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers. “What we would like to find out is what in your past shows you have a history of making this a priority, and what ideas do you have for making it go forward.”

Milé Komlen, the director of human rights and equity services at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont., also chairs the LSUC’s equity advisory group, where the idea for the survey came from. The group is made up of representatives from the seven associations involved, and Komlen says this initiative is the first time there’s been such a concerted effort to get diversity on the agenda for bencher elections.

“People are taking it seriously. The responses we’ve seen so far indicate they’re thinking about these issues,” he says.

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