Esto es para los incredulos….
Colour at the Bar
>> Conference participants duke it out over racism in Quebec’s legal profession
by LORRAINE CARPENTER
“We have to acknowledge that racism is entrenched in our society and as a result of that, everything that happens–especially in law– has an undertone of racism.”
So said Carol Aylward at last Friday’s conference on racial equality in the legal profession, sponsored by the Centre for Research Action on Race Relations (CRARR) and the Canadian Bar Association (CBA). Aylward, director of the program for indigenous blacks and Micmacs at Dalhousie law school, recently published a book called Canadian Critical Race Theory: Racism and the Law, which encourages the analysis of race-based litigation from a social and historical perspective.
“There’s a problematic myth that racism is not a part of our past, present or future,” she says.
Aylward hails from Nova Scotia, where Canada’s first blacks settled and which CRARR President Gail Grant called “one of the most racially segregated provinces in Canada.”
Montreal lawyer LucrÉce Joseph, who attended the conference, says things aren’t so rosy at home either.
“Quebec is behind the rest of North America by 30 years–this province is so backward it’s unbelievable,” he says.
Joseph cites examples of racism in his own professional experience, as well as the fact that Quebec only appointed its first black judge last year, a feat achieved in Ontario in 1969.
Joseph feels that changing attitudes is more crucial than changing legislation.
“The problem is with the people,” he says. “There’s a complicity between the federal government and the people in charge of implementing the equity programs here in Quebec.”
But when Carole Brosseau, secretary of the Quebec Bar Association (QBA) cultural-communities committee, spoke about the changes attempted by the QBA since 1992, Joseph went on the attack.
He asked her if there were any visible minorities employed by the QBA and why he personally had been rejected for several jobs in the field. Brosseau accused him of being bitter, inciting a nasty rumble from the audience.
“This gives you an idea of the type of mentality we’re dealing with,” replied Joseph. “As soon as you complain, you’re accused of being too aggressive or bitter–she’s playing the ostrich with her head in the sand, pretending the problem is not there.”
But Brosseau said that, as a woman and a mother of a handicapped child, she understands discrimination and has worked hard at promoting equality during her years at the QBA.
Saying she was personally offended by the subjectivity of Joseph’s presentation and the fact that no one else spoke up about it, Brosseau added, “If a black person had stood up and said the same thing I did, it would have been fine.”
But regardless of where you stand in the debate, the numbers make it clear that people of colour are under-represented in the legal profession.
Of Canada’s 2,000 judges, only 15 are black–10 in Ontario, two in Nova Scotia and one each in Alberta, British Columbia and Quebec.
The 1996 census stated that only 235 of Quebec’s 15,000 lawyers belong to minority groups. According to CRARR, less than 10 of them are aboriginal. :