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Minority Lawyers in Canada Push for a Less White Bench


Minority lawyers, chafing at an overwhelming number of white appointees to federal judgeships, are mobilizing to press for a more transparent appointment process.
They accuse the government of concealing its poor record of minority appointments behind an intolerably opaque process.
“The demographics of the bench must be tracked and reported—who applies, and gets appointed and who makes the decisions,” the Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers said in a statement Friday.
“Almost every day that we are in court, we see the lack of minority representation staring back at us,” the statement said. “Despite repeated calls for a judiciary that reflects the communities it services, our federal government has yet to respond.”

Ontario court overturns racial bias

verdict in case of librarian who asked

black lawyer for identification

The ruling on alleged racial profiling, rare because it does not involve police, clarifies that discrimination must be proven, not just assumed because the complainant is part of a minority.
“A complainant cannot merely point to his or her membership in a racialized group and an unpleasant interaction to establish a prima facie case of discrimination,” says the judgment, overturning a Human Rights Tribunal finding in the case.
Selwyn Pieters, the complainant and a well-known lawyer on criminal cases in Toronto’s black community, said he is contemplating an appeal.
He and two other black men — lawyer Brian Noble, and Mr. Pieters’ law student, Paul Waldron — were in the lawyers lounge of the Brampton Courthouse in May 2008 when they were confronted by Melissa Firth, a librarian and administrator for the Peel Law Association. She asked them to identify themselves. Only lawyers and law students, not paralegals, are allowed in the lounge. What followed was, by all accounts, an unpleasant confrontation, in which the men proved they were allowed to be there, and accused her of racial profiling.
“What I experienced that day amounts to racial discrimination, to a form of racial profiling that was unacceptable. And the tribunal agreed with me. Some higher court sitting in judicial review said the tribunal was wrong, but it doesn’t change how I felt about what happened,” Mr. Pieters said in an interview Tuesday. “If the judges had a critical, race-based lens, they would have seen it from the perspective of an African Canadian.”
In overturning the 2010 decision of the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario to award $2,000 to each man for “violation of their inherent right to be free from discrimination and for injury to their dignity, feelings and self-respect,” the Divisional Court instead ordered them and the tribunal to pay legal costs of $20,000 to the librarian and to the Peel Law Association, which runs the library.
The three-judge panel found that tribunal vice-chairman Eric Whist unfairly reversed the onus of proof from the complainant to the respondent, and “placed [the librarian] in the difficult position of trying to prove a negative, namely, that her conduct in the performance of her routine duties was not motivated by race and colour.” It also criticized the tribunal’s “misconceived” comparison of the librarian’s conduct to racial profiling by police.
Lawyer Selwyn Pieters was asked by a librarian to identify himself in 2008. He claims it was discrimination.
The outcry follows a Globe and Mail review of superior court appointments over the past three and a half years. It revealed that of 100 new judges in provinces across the country, 98 were white.
Coming on the 30th anniversary of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms—a document that enshrines the rights of equality and diversity—the figures suggest that a central institution responsible for upholding and interpreting the country’s laws is seriously lacking in diversity.
To obtain a glimpse of recent patterns, The Globe used Internet searches and culled information from judicial sources and law firms where judicial appointees worked. The Globe found two exceptions to the pattern—both Métis judges appointed in B.C. and Nova Scotia.
The FACL statement, prepared by directors Paul Jonathan Saguil and Immanuel Lanzaderas, noted that 14.6 per cent of B.C.’s legal profession and 9.6 per cent of Alberta lawyers are visible minorities.  more at source


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