Diversity in Law – Law is Cool http://lawiscool.com The law school blog and podcast from Canada Wed, 30 Sep 2015 13:10:01 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.6 1338880 Personal Choice v. Systemic Issue http://lawiscool.com/2014/06/20/personal-choice-v-systemic-issue/ Fri, 20 Jun 2014 19:45:37 +0000 http://lawiscool.com/?p=3737 By: Farrah Rajan

Justice Minister Peter Mackay claims that women are not applying to be judges because it may take them away from time with their children.  Although his comments were made in reference to the lack of diversity on federally appointed courts, the mindset can be applied to all people in the workforce, regardless of gender or profession.

After reading about his comments, I was both confused and offended because:

  • He did not address the scarcity of visible minorities (which is an issue that deserves its own post)
  • Not all women are, or will be, mothers
  • Classifying all women as mothers is sexist
  • He is blaming women for the lack of diversity

Thankfully, we have people like Avvy Yao-Yao Go willing to take a stand to dispute such ignorance.  The problem is that as long as the Mr. Mackay’s are running the show, achieving an optimal work-life balance will remain elusive for the majority of women and visible minorities across Canada.

As Omar He-Redeye points out, “many visible minorities in Canada still believe that a profession is one of the more stable routes to successful lifestyle.  Perhaps nobody told them that the chances of them making partner are even worse than their peers”.

I would like to think that I will be able to achieve great things in my future career as a paralegal, but as a visible minority female, I wonder how much I will need to sacrifice in order to do so.  In the past, I have compromised my health and personal relationships in order to fulfill work obligations.  More recently, I took a stand to protect my mental health and it resulted in me being forced to take an unpaid leave of absence.

Jordan Furlong thinks “work-life balance is a [legal professional’s] personal choice and responsibility”; I think it is a systemic issue that needs to be dealt with.


Equity & Diversity Pre-Law Internship Program Proposal http://lawiscool.com/2011/03/17/blake-prelaw/ http://lawiscool.com/2011/03/17/blake-prelaw/#comments Thu, 17 Mar 2011 20:32:05 +0000 http://lawiscool.com/?p=3149 See below for an initiative by Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP

Equity & Diversity Pre-Law Internship Program Proposal

Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP (the “Firm”) has a strong commitment to providing legal services in a workplace which is rich in perspectives, backgrounds and cultures. In achieving this commitment, starting in the summer of 2011 the Firm wishes to offer an opportunity for an undergraduate student from a Canadian University to work in a law firm environment focussing on equity and diversity initiatives within the Firm. Currently our plan is to run the Internship in either May or June.

By creating an Equity & Diversity Pre-Law Internship Program, this will result in the creation of a position within the Firm’s Toronto office to work on equity and diversity initiatives and projects within the Firm (the “Pre-Law Internship”).

The Pre-Law Internship will provide an opportunity for an undergraduate student who is considering law school to gain work experience in a law firm environment, to observe lawyers in the workplace and to perform a variety of tasks and work on specific projects in the areas of equity and diversity. The Firm will define the scope of the tasks and activities for the Intern.

In addition to fostering a working relationship with the student who is awarded the Pre-Law Internship, another benefit of the program will be the development of a mutually beneficial relationship between the Firm and the participating Universities. Moreover, the students will benefit from exposure to life in a law firm and lawyers may act as a mentor to the student who has future career aspirations in law.

The Firm would be responsible for:

  • providing the Intern with a variety of activities and tasks as well as to ensure a positive experience at the Firm;
  • providing the Intern with feedback and evaluation on tasks performed;
  • compensating the Intern for a 4 week period at a rate of $20/hour.

Interested applicants should email their application to Kari Abrams, Director of Student Recruitment and Development at kari.abrams@blakes.com.

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Niqab, Sex Assault, And The Court: An Examination Of R v NS http://lawiscool.com/2011/01/13/niqab-ns/ http://lawiscool.com/2011/01/13/niqab-ns/#comments Thu, 13 Jan 2011 09:17:52 +0000 http://lawiscool.com/?p=3084 In a unanimous decision in October 2010, the Ontario Court of Appeal affirmed that a sexual assault complainant may wear a niqab, a Muslim facial veil, while testifying. The Muslim Canadian Congress had intervened on behalf of the two accused men who had requested the order that the complainant remove her niqab. Upon the judgement’s release, Tarek Fatah, founder of the MCC, argued that the decision made “a fool of the Canadian judicial system and values of gender equality”. In fact, the court had paid careful attention to balancing the witness’s freedom of religion and the accused’s right to make full answer and defence. To date, Fatah is perhaps the only person to so openly argue that allowing a sexual assault complainant to testify in front of her alleged attackers in the clothes in which she feels safest is a denial of gender equality. For some context, it is worth noting that Fatah has long been a vociferous advocate of a total ban of the niqab in Canada. His response to attempts in Quebec to ban the niqab was to proclaim, “I welcome the rescue of all Muslim-Canadian women.” The wholesale paternalism of his language is revealing: to the extent that Fatah wishes to counter gender inequities, his position has persistently emerged from a patriarchal perspective that infantalises Muslim women by denying their agency in making sartorial and religious choices for themselves, even such highly contested choices as the one to wear niqab.

To be sure, generalised public discomfort around the niqab did inform most mainstream debate about the decision. However, in this paper I want to shift the discussion away from the Huntington-esque clash-of-civilisations characterisation advocated by Fatah to a more considered analysis of both the specific reasonings and the broader implications of the judgement. I argue here that the judgement actually signals a substantive attempt by the OCA to address some of the systemic inequities that entrench the pervasiveness of gendered violence in society.


The facts of the case are distressing, but not atypical for sexual assault cases. The complainant, N.S., alleged that between the ages of six and 11 she had been repeatedly sexually assaulted by her uncle and her cousin, the accused. In 1992, when she was 16, N.S. disclosed the assaults to a teacher, but the accused were not charged until 2007.

In 2004, as part of her practice of Islam, N.S. began wearing the hijab, a headscarf, and niqab, a veil that covers her face, whenever in the presence of males who are not her direct relatives. At the preliminary inquiry in 2008, after electing trial by judge and jury, both accused men sought an order that would require N.S. to remove her niqab before testifying. The preliminary inquiry judge ruled in favour of the accused.


In direct contrast to that histrionics that has marred public debate about the niqab, Doherty J.A., writing for a 3-0 Court of Appeal, began the judgement by describing the witness’s freedom of religion and the accused’s right to make full answer and defence as “apparently competing” interests (para 10). The adverb is easy to miss, but given the extensive media coverage the case had received, it suggests a conscious effort by the court to be as balanced as possible. In any event, the measured language comes out of entrenched case law that has clearly established that “no Charter right [can] be treated as absolute” (para 47), which principle finds its most authoritative articulation in the ubiquitous Oakes test.

Further, the court did acknowledge that “The wearing of a niqab in public places is controversial in many countries, including Canada. The controversy raises important public policy concerns that have generated heated debate” (para 41), but then declared that “Those difficult and important questions are not the focus of this proceeding and cannot and should not be resolved in this forum” (para 41). As a consequence, the court was able to focus its energies on setting out the approach for reconciling the rights of the parties concerned, instead of getting mired in public disputes over the semiotics of niqab.

First, the court held that, as per Syndicat Northcrest v. Amselem, 2004 SCC 47, the preliminary inquiry judge must begin by determining whether the witness’s choice to wear the niqab is religiously motivated and whether the witness holds those religious beliefs sincerely. Though the Amselem test is problematic to the extent that it mandates the rating of one’s spiritual fortitude, the test’s threshold is not prohibitively high. Certainly, it was more expansive than the assessment set out by the preliminary inquiry judge in the prior proceedings, who argued that since N.S. had taken off her niqab to have her photograph taken by a female photographer for her driver’s licence, her religious belief was “not that strong” (quoted at para 7). The Court of Appeal clarified at para 68 that:

A court cannot […] reason that because a person has made exceptions to her religious beliefs in the past, or perhaps has simply failed to follow her religious practices in the past, that her present assertion of those beliefs is not sincere. Past practice cannot be equated with present belief. Few among us who have religious beliefs can claim to have always acted in accordance with those beliefs. Past perfection is not a prerequisite to the exercise of one’s constitutional right to religious freedom.

If the judge is satisfied that the witness has advanced a valid religious right claim, the judge must then determine on the facts of the case the extent, if at all, to which the niqab may affect the cross-examination. The onus here is on the defence to demonstrate an air of reality to claims that the witness’s wearing niqab “would impose an impediment on cross-examination that was more than minimal or insignificant” (para 71), as may arise if the defence contends that the witness’s face must be exposed because her identity is at issue.

When the judge is confident that both parties’ claims are sufficiently engaged, the judge must then attempt to reconcile the rights by giving force to both. This balancing of interests will require a contextual analysis, which in turn will require that the judge take broader constitutional values and societal interests into account. All the interests at stake may not be able to be given full voice, but they should be acknowledged and considered in arriving at an appropriate order (paras 79-83). Further, as part the reconciliation process, preliminary inquiry judges have the option of employing such “constructive compromises” as are constitutionally permissible. These might include an order that the court be closed to all male persons other than the accused and his counsel, which is keeping with several provisions of the Criminal Code, particularly ss. 486, 486.1, 486.2, which already give judges discretion to close the proceedings to the public. Alternatively, where the witness has indicated she wears different styles or fabrics of niqabs, the judge may call upon the witness to wear her niqab in a way that “least interferes with the trier of facts’ ability to assess her demeanour” (para 86).

Finally, the court admitted the possibility that efforts to reconcile the rights may fail and the witness will be required to remove her niqab when testifying (paras 88-89).

In short, the court stressed the need for a case-by-case assessment. The assessment will have draw not only on the facts of the case, but also on whether the claim is being made at the preliminary inquiry or trial stage, and whether there is a jury. Each scenario will raise slightly different concerns. The court affirmed that bald assertions of a right to demeanour evidence are unlikely to be sufficient at the preliminary inquiry stage (paras 97-102).


In its analysis, the court outlined numerous constitutional values and public interests at stake, such as the court’s truth-seeking function, the negative impact of religious stereotyping, access to justice, the contested value of cross-examinational evidence, and the transparent operation of the criminal justice system (paras 79-82). However, in light of Fatah’s contention that the court’s decision makes a mockery of gender equality, I want to focus on that aspect of the judgement. I will show that it in fact marks an important step forward in safeguarding the rights of sexual assault claimants, who have historically been disadvantaged by the criminal justice system. Not only are sexual offences severely under- reported, they have lower conviction and higher acquittal rates than other violent offences.

At para 45, the court made explicit what should already be obvious:

N.S. is facing a most difficult and intimidating task. She must describe intimate, humiliating and painful details of her childhood. She must do so, at least twice, in a public forum in which her credibility and reliability will be vigorously challenged and in which the person she says abused her is cloaked in the presumption of innocence. The pressures and pain that complainants in a sexual assault case must feel when testifying will no doubt be compounded in these circumstances where N.S. is testifying against family members.

Later, when assessing the value of cross-examinational evidence, the court wrote, “The criminal justice system assumes that the truth is most likely to emerge through a public adversarial process. Face-to-face confrontation, especially between an accused and his accuser, is a feature of that adversarial process” (at para 60). What we are given, in other words, is a description of a justice system whose very processes work to trigger and further traumatise survivors of sexual assault.

Little wonder then that so few survivors of sexual assault, regardless of their attire, report the crimes. Fewer still challenge their attackers in court. As the court observed, “It should not surprise anyone that N.S., when faced with this daunting task, seeks the strength and solace of her religious beliefs and practices” (para 45).

Moreover, as the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund has noted, “The demand that a sexual assault remove her niqab [occurs] in the context of the long history of sexual assault complainants being harassed, re-victimized, humiliated and intimidated, especially at the preliminary inquiry. Such tactics have long been used to shut down prosecutions or prevent women from reporting sexual assault in the first place.”

Thus, the following reasoning by the court at para 80 should be lauded for the effort it makes to address that history of systemic repression:

N.S. is also a woman testifying as an alleged victim in a sexual assault case. Permitting her to wear her niqab while testifying would recognize her as an individual and acknowledge the particularly vulnerable position she is in when testifying as an alleged victim in a sexual assault prosecution. Adjusting the process to ameliorate the hardships faced by a complainant like N.S. promotes gender equality.


As a final point of analysis, I want to stress that the discourses used to pressure the complainant into unclothing herself in front of her alleged attackers were predicated on the assumption that cross-examinations provide the most crucial form of evidence in trials. Not only is that assumption often untrue, it is deeply ableist.

To begin with, while the Charter does protect the accused’s right to a fair trial, there is no independent constitutional right to cross-examination. As the court acknowledged, “credibility assessments based on demeanour can be unreliable and flat-out wrong, [such that] appellate courts have repeatedly cautioned against relying exclusively or even predominantly on demeanour to determine credibility” (para 55). The court even held that allowing the complainant to wear her niqab could advance the truth seeking function of the criminal trial, since a complainant who normally wears the niqab and is commanded to unveil cannot be expected to “be herself” on the stand: a trier of fact might well misinterpret her embarrassment and discomfort as uncertainty and unreliability (para 81). The court was therefore clear that demeanour evidence cannot be a substitute to critical and substantive analyses of the entire body of evidence.

In fact, there are numerous evidentiary rules that restrict the use of cross-examinations. Besides the willingness of courts to admit statements made by declarants who do not testify at trial at all, as per s. 715 of the Criminal Code and some common law hearsay exceptions, s. 486.2 (1) of the Criminal Code provides that in proceedings involving “a witness who is able to communicate evidence but may have difficulty doing so by reason of a mental or physical disability, [the judge] may order that the witness testify outside the court room or behind a screen or other device.” Additionally, the Court of Appeal here noted the example of witnesses who testify in dark sunglasses because of medical conditions that requires them to shield their eyes from the bright lights in courtrooms (para 42). Following that reasoning, the court was able to point out at para 55 that a witness’s niqab does not preclude the trier of fact from considering her tone of voice or how she responds to questions, which are also essential aspects of cross-examination assessments.

Despite all this, in his assessment of the importance of cross-examinations, the Superior Court judge held that “visual aids are important because the absence of visual clues is the cause for complaint” (quoted at para 15). Yet as Bradley Berg and Rahat Godil, co-counsel for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, have pointed out, “the right to make full answer and defence is not infringed when a witness is blind, or when a witness’s mouth occasionally twists into a grimace due to a congenital defect.” In other words, we cannot privilege sight to such an extent that we forget vision is afflicted with its own inherent limitations and biases. Efforts to make courts more accessible will have to undo those underlying assumptions.

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Julian Assange: Why the world needs WikiLeaks http://lawiscool.com/2010/12/11/julian-assange-why-the-world-needs-wikileaks/ Sat, 11 Dec 2010 19:14:59 +0000 http://lawiscool.com/?p=3042 For video click here

Azar Nafisi, New York Times Best Seller Author Discusses Baha’is’ Human Rights Violations in Iran http://lawiscool.com/2010/12/08/azar-nafisi-new-york-times-best-seller-author-discusses-human-rights-violations-of-bahais-in-iran/ http://lawiscool.com/2010/12/08/azar-nafisi-new-york-times-best-seller-author-discusses-human-rights-violations-of-bahais-in-iran/#comments Wed, 08 Dec 2010 06:15:03 +0000 http://lawiscool.com/?p=3038 Azar Nafisi is the author of the New York Times 117-week bestseller, Reading Lolita in Tehran. In this video she discusses the widespread violations of Baha’is’ human rights in Iran as well as her personal experience with Baha’is in light of the baseless accusations that they bear. Ms. Nafisi is not a Baha’i.

click here for the video

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Reminiscing about the history of legal education and law schools in Canada http://lawiscool.com/2010/09/21/reminiscing-about-the-history-of-legal-education-and-law-schools-in-canada/ Wed, 22 Sep 2010 03:32:11 +0000 http://lawiscool.com/?p=2928 For those looking for an interesting reminiscence about the history of law schools and legal education in Canada, view Christopher Guly’s article in The Lawyers Weekly:

“Apprenticeship to academe: The history of law schools in Canada – Part 1 of a 3-part series” – A LOOK at the past, present, and future of legal education in Canada


Blawg Review #278 http://lawiscool.com/2010/08/23/blawg-review-278/ http://lawiscool.com/2010/08/23/blawg-review-278/#comments Mon, 23 Aug 2010 10:35:43 +0000 http://lawiscool.com/?p=2856 Blawg Review is a blog carnival that rotates to a different law site every week, usually emphasizing a specific theme. Last week’s review was by R. David Donoghue.

August 23 is the “International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition,” established in 1997 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) during the 29th session of the General Conference (Volume 1).

The purpose of the day is to examine:

  • the historical study of the causes and workings of the transatlantic slave trade,
  • the clarification of the consequences and interactions to which it gave rise, and
  • the contribution of the project to the establishment of a culture of tolerance and peaceful coexistence between races and peoples.

This year UNESCO has developed a documentary for this day Slave Routes: A Global Vision.

A companion document has has been released with the film, and will be referred to periodically throughout this post.

The Causes and Workings of Transatlantic Slavery

The origins of the Transatlantic slave route go back to the Iberian wars, between the Christian and Muslim kingdoms of Spain and Portugal. Both sides engaged in the enslavement of captives of war. As Slave Routes notes, the institution of slavery existed well before the Transatlantic route, both internally within Africa and to the Near East. But something different began with the European enslavement of Africans from the 15th c. onwards.

The first known African slaves sold in markets of recognizable European states was in Lisbon, Portugal in 1441, obtained from what is now Mauritania. The Portuguese had good reason for attempting to circumvent the Atlas Mountains and raiding the West African coast. In 1086 a black African dynasty originating from this area known as Al-Murabitun (Almoravids in English) provided military support and temporarily halted the expanse of the Christians. Soon after, Pope Alexander II provided the papal standard (vexillum sancti Petri) and an indulgence to the Christians in the conflict in 1063, making it officially a holy war that would culminate centuries later in the Spanish Inquisition.

The motivation for European slavery of Africans was therefore initially military, as an extension of the Western Crusades known as La Reconquista, or the reconquest of the Iberian peninsula by the Christians. In reality this term was probably too broad and an exaggeration, as many of the diverse peoples in the Muslim kingdoms of Spain and Portugal included native Iberians who had adopted the Islamic faith.

A permanent Portuguese fort was established at Arguin in 1448, and the 1452 Dum Diversas papal bull of Pope Nicholas V specifically authorized Alfonso V of Portugal,

…full and free permission to invade, search out, capture, and subjugate the Saracens and pagans and any other unbelievers and enemies of Christ wherever they may be… and to reduce their persons to perpetual slavery.

This established the basis for a racialized slavery, hereby unknown to Africa or any region engaging in African slave trade. As the motivations for slavery shifted from military goals to economic incentives, sheer greed resulted in a complete and utter destruction of African civilization and society. This is what made the Transatlantic slavery exceptionally devastating and worthy of particular scrutiny.

Web resources on the subject are expanding, archiving historic documents for amateur historians looking to deepen their knowledge on the subject. J.L. Bell has a post on Boston 1775 announcing American Slavery Debate, a new database of primary source documents.

Marco Randazza thinks slavery would be a pretty good alternative to some judicial punishments out there.

In some ways we’re all a slave to something. Those of us starting out in our legal careers are often a slave to the billable hour, or a slave to making partner. Norm Pattis is eying some of the pro bono work big firms are doing and wondering if they can spare him a partnership. Ronda Muir gives some tips to young lawyers on how to be a better lawyer by improving specific behaviours. Social media might boost a career, but Adrian Dayton cautions on a guest post at Above the Law that it takes time and dedication to get true returns.

If we don’t make it seems like we’re all likely to move back in with our parents. Stephanie West-Allen discusses these millennials on IdeaLawg. Scott Greenfield just sort of bashes them. Jordan Furlong thinks law firms should pay more attention to a workplace trend:

…a daydream about the courage to quit a job that treats you with less respect than you deserve… As Daniel Gross explains in a Newsweek commentary, “the poor labour market and workers’ antagonism toward employers and customers are actually connected”

Slavery means different things to different people. James T. Harris quotes Alan Keyes, who describes the experience of slavery as a guarantee of shelter, clothing and a job. “Socialism,” and Obama, is a form of slavery, if you buy the Keyes line that government-dominated largess is an infringement on freedom. Blunt Politics gives us more black Republicans who claim that real freedom comes through independence from the state, which they liken to the slave plantation,

This is not the land of guarantee, it’s the land of opportunity… but when you say racism is the problem, you put the power for your future in someone else’s hand.

My take is that the modern descendants of slaves are more likely to find guaranteed food, shelter and clothing in prison. The U.S. has the highest incarceration rate in the world, and African-Americans are disproportionately affected for a variety of reasons. I always wonder why Keyes doesn’t talk more about that, because it seems like race is the problem. Or part of it, at least. If nothing else it makes confidence and belief in the system difficult for minorities in the U.S. Abdul Hakim-Shabazz has his own doubts about police on the Indiana Law Blog after the David Bisard case, where an intoxicated on-duty officer struck and killed a biker and somehow had the charges dropped.

Law enforcement is not always right. James Morton thinks Col. Patrick Parrish is wrong about Omar Khadr. Confessions are only valid if they are free and voluntary. Threats of gang rape in prison usually vitiate that consent.

Eric Lipman reminds us about Terry Nichols in prison, not notable for being African-American, but rather for his role in the Oklahoma City bombing. Seems he’s not too happy with his food in prison due to the lack of insoluble fibre which doesn’t give him regular bowel movements. Seems the judge doesn’t give a…

Consequences and Interactions of Transatlantic Slavery

The most immediate consequence of the Transatlantic slavery was the dominance of European powers in the world. Western civilization as we know it today would not be possible without the hundreds of years of free labour, and the continued exploitation of natural and human resources. Operation Black Vote said,

The UK reaped huge profits for the despicable trade financing the developments associated with the industrial revolution. Britain made unprecedented profits and benefited enormously for the bloody trade. The legacy of racism remains with us some 400 years later.

Transatlantic slavery also created a system of oppression that places people of European ancestry on a higher level in a hierarchy maintained by what Slave Routes refers to as europhilia, ethnophobia and endophobia. It resulted in a far greater polarization of cultures in the world, as those attempting to restructure this hierarchy or seeking independence through an anti-colonial stance invariably adopted a counter-European philosophy. We see this pattern not just across Africa, but all of the colonized world, including the Middle East, across Asia, and Latin America.

August 23 was selected by UNESCO because it corresponded with the Haitian revolution, a major landmark in the resistance against colonialism and slavery. Slave Routes points out,

In the United States, the North America historian, Herbert Aptheker, has estimated that approximately 250 acts of sedition in all were organized by Afro-Americans to free themselves from slavery during the history of that “particular institution” in that country.

These revolts existed throughout the Caribbean and the Americas, and were a far more compelling reason for abolitionism than any humanitarian or compassionate grounds. For more on the Haitian revolution and slave revolts, see Blawg Review #249.

Although the direct domination of the developed world by European powers has largely ceased, the exploitative relationship continues to this day and is a major source of civil unrest and political tensions in the world today.

I came across this poster the other day on Queen Street West stating that “Slavery wasn’t abolished in 1834,”

It’s an advertisement from The Body Shop, who have raised over a million dollars to fight sex trafficking through partnerships with ECPAT USA (End Child Prostitution and Trafficking) and The Somaly Mam Foundation. The greatest consumers of modern sex trafficking continues to be wealthy European and North American citizens.

The Morning Quickie shares a review of Not Natasha, a photo book documenting the lives of survivors of sexual slavery in Moldova.

The key thesis behind Siddarth Kara and Devin T Stewart’s Sex Trafficking: Inside the Business of Modern Slavery is not that different from the Transatlantic slavery,

…the enormity and pervasiveness of global sex trafficking is driven by the ability to generate immense profits at almost no real risk.

They suggest the most effective way to address the profitability of modern slavery is to elevate the risk.

Not For Sale | Cambodia from Not For Sale Campaign on Vimeo.

Michael Platzer of the U.N.’s Center for International Crime Prevention said,

…200 million people are victims of contemporary forms of slavery. Most aren’t prostitutes, of course, but children in sweatshops, domestic workers, migrants. During four centuries, 12 million people were believed to be involved in the slave trade between Africa and the New World. The 200 million — and many of course are women who are trafficked for sex — is a current figure. It’s happening now. Today.

The Not for Sale Campaign has a slavery map tracking incidents near you revealed largely through law enforcement. The campaign focuses on more than just sexual slavery, and in their 2010 “Stop Paying for Slavery Tour” uses supply chain monitoring programs and looks at various forms of exploitation and economic dependence that result in a de facto rather than de juris forms of slavery.

Or as Jason Mustian recently put it,

Ron Soodalter at the Huffington Post talks about The Slave Next Door, and reaffirms that slavery is alive and well today. He’s calling for California to pass the Transparency in Supply Chains Act. A Heart for Justice reviews the same book.

Bruce Reilly visits the Modern Slavery Museum focusing on agricultural workers. Actually, the museum visited him, because it’s on wheels,

Farmworkers in this country have been the most exploited group of folks since the Abolition in slavery in 1865. As one farm owner puts it, “Before, we used to own the workers. Now we just rent ‘em.”

Faces of Slavery from David Hepburn on Vimeo.

Those interested in learning more might want to attend the Global Forum on Human Trafficking in Yorba Linda, CA on Oct. 14-15, or a number of workshops being held in the UK by UCL.

My Fight Planet gives us an edited version of highlights from “Fight Traffic,” a Mixed Marital Arts (MMA) event raising funds to abolish slavery and human trafficking. Maybe we can do something like that over here, because MMA fights are coming to Ontario.

Not all sports are so philanthropic. Tom Kirkendall is following the Roger Clemens case. Meanwhile, Howard Wasserman is cheering speech at the Sports Law Blog. Lilian Edwards comments on the case of the anonymous star of BBC’s racing show Top Gear trying to reveal his true name to cash in on an autobiography. (Sorry, no hockey here this time).

A Culture of Tolerance and Peaceful Coexistence between Races and Peoples

Michael Lynk, one of my former profs at UWO and currently Associate Dean, has the 2009 Rand Memorial Lecture on SSRN, Labour Law and the New Inequality. The premise behind the paper is that poor labour practices that stem from global inequity leads to instability and civil strife, limiting both social capabilities economic potential of these communities. UNESCO is currently mobilizing a response for the Pakistan floods, an issue of global concern to avoid radicalization, militancy and religious extremism in the region.

An obvious prerequisite for the horrors of Transatlantic slavery was the development of racial ideology. Slave Routes notes one of the major obstacles to political independence in Latin America was persistent and divisive racial ideologies. The Human Genome Project and countless scientific studies in recent years indicate the biological impossibility of human “races,” yet the resurgence of eugenics around the world is quite disturbing.

But genes can be used in good ways too. The Innocence Project announces that after 30 years DNA evidence has proven a Virginia man is innocent of rape charges due to the pro bono work of lawyers at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP. Another recent exoneree, Michael Anthony Green, wants to become a paralegal to help others wrongfully accused.

Speaking of wrongfully accused, Christine Corcos reports that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange was charged in Sweden for rape and molestation charges. Not so quick though, seems those charges were dropped in a hurry. Other charges of espionage against Assange are contemplated by Kenneth Anderson, but Julian Ku on Opinio Juris says in true spy form that they have to catch him first.

The most effective approach to peaceful coexistence might simply be for people to get to know and understand each other, a variation of the contact hypothesis used in sociology. But sociologists know that contact alone is not enough.

Eugene Volokh thinks Islamophobia is not quite irrational, citing a Time article indicating 46% of Americans believe Islam is more likely to encourage violence than other religions. Maybe, after several centuries of slavery and colonialism justified through religious practices, to restore some balance or equilibrium in global power. But sometimes, as Simon Fodden points out on Slaw, patience can be just as effective in the face of intolerance.

Volokh does note however that the accommodation laws invoked by many American Muslims today were intended for all religions and have primarily benefited Christians. And although Islamophobia is not a typical form of racism, it does rely on classic Social Darwinism thought.

By the way, Obama is not a Muslim, even though his middle name is Hussein (Can we get over this already?).

Slave Routes rejects the premise that racism is based on xenophobia or ignorance,

Racism can be defined as a process of suppression of the human being, based on socially selected phenotypical traits. This system classifies people according to their external physical characteristics and establishes a hierarchy of groups. In the long run, one of those groups defined as the superior race and the others are placed in inferior positions on the scale. Racism, therefore, is not a product of ignorance, the result of fear or concern over the ‘other’ or a natural phenomenon. [emphasis added]

Racism is more than a word, according to Marco Randazza. One word by a Dr. Schlessinger is what a lot of people are talking about right now. I’ll let you guess the word, but Norm Pattis weighs in too. One of his readers doesn’t agree though,

That someone as smart as yourself would join the oh so ignorant and completely off base “young black men say nigga, why can’t an old white woman say nigger?” team I hope speaks only to a generational divide and a complete lack of understanding of the context in which nigga is used and that it is a different word than nigger.

Where we do typically see racism manifested today is with immigration. Kevin Johnson at the Immigration Prof Blog discusses the 14th Amendment, which gives citizenship to the children of immigrants born in the U.S. Instead of repealing it, the real solution he proposes is immigration reform. Daniel Cubias points out how difficult it is to repeal an Amendment, and the unlikelihood of it happening, while J.E. Robertson considers it an attack on all Americans. Hegemomy notes that repealing the 14th Amendment used to be the talk of the fringe-right, and calls it the rise of the “Old South.” They heavy-handed tactics used in places like Arizona inevitably spill over into the general population, as evidenced by a case presented to us by Scott Greenfield.

What is needed is for group to have meaningful interaction with each other in a shared space and common goals to overcome deeply ingrained stereotypes and prejudices. It’s very difficult to hate others when you have extensive and nuanced encounters with a group that demonstrate the diversity found within them. For example, Martha Minow raises concerns that charter schools in the U.S. have the potential to create self-segregation.

Maybe that’s what the opponents of a new community center in lower Manhattan are really afraid of, that others won’t harbour the same hatred and animosity towards other that they do. Originally Park51 was appropriately called Cordoba House, invoking the city in Spain that was once a Muslim capital of a flowering multicultural and multi-religious literary civilization, extinguished by the same movement that led to the Transatlantic slavery.

Or maybe, as Jon Stewart suggests, Fox News is a terrorist command center (see here in Canada). Randazza doesn’t have much to say about it, aside from invoking through Sam Seder bull-size helpings of Terry Nichols’ favorite prison past-time:

Daniel Luban just calls it “The New Anti-Semitism,”

While activists like Pam Geller have led the anti-mosque campaign and the broader demonization of Muslims that has accompanied it, leaders like Abe Foxman have acquiesced in it. In doing so they risk providing an ugly and ironic illustration of the extent of Jewish assimilation in 21st-century America. We know that Jews can grow up to be senators and Supreme Court justices. Let’s not also discover that they can grow up to incite a pogrom.

It was through Cordoba that toothpaste and under-arm deodorant were introduced to Western Europe, and where literary works were translated freely between Arabic, Hebrew, Latin and Greek. It was in Cordoba that the Golden Age of Judaism flourished, giving birth to rabbinic scholars such as Maimonides.

Despite being one of the most tolerant and inclusive societies on Earth today, and all the lofty constitutional and human rights ideals, the United States has yet to accomplish the same culture of tolerance and coexistence that once briefly existed – in Cordoba.

Perhaps that’s something though we can all aspire to in Park51, if we’re willing to open our minds to it.


Charon QC has his own little law review going on, and Jordan Furlong has six for the road. Next week’s Blawg Review is by Mirriam Seddiq, a criminal defence and immigration lawyer who posts on Not Guilty. Blawg Review has information about next week’s host, and instructions how to get your blawg posts reviewed in upcoming issues.

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The Glass Ceiling is Breaking! Umm…kind of… http://lawiscool.com/2010/08/12/the-glass-ceiling-is-breaking-umm-kind-of/ http://lawiscool.com/2010/08/12/the-glass-ceiling-is-breaking-umm-kind-of/#comments Thu, 12 Aug 2010 04:03:52 +0000 http://lawiscool.com/?p=2848

“…[P]robably the most exciting day was the day I found out I became dean. And I remember the person who phoned me said, ‘Are you sitting down?’ And I said, ‘No.’ And the person said, ‘Well, you are about to make history.’ And I was, like, ‘Oh, my God.’ [I]t was scary, of course, but really, really incredible because I was the first woman.” – Dean Mayo Moran

I am encouraged.

Elena Kagan isn’t the only one getting a promotion this year.  Recently, Kimberley Brooks and Camille A. Nelson were appointed as deans at the Schulich School of Law (Dalhousie) and Suffolk Law School, respectively.

The last year alone has seen the appointment of quite a few female law scholars to the rank of dean in Canadian law schools, namely the aforementioned Professor Brooks, Jinyan Li, Odette Snow and Lorna Turnbull.  In fact, of the fifteen law schools in Canada, a record breaking eight of them (more than half!) were very recently or are currently headed by women:

It is interesting to note, however, that all of the deans of the law schools in Quebec are Caucasian and male.  I suppose change is slower in some parts of the country…

Camille Nelson deserves special mention, not only because is she a Canadian appointed as a dean at an American law school (Suffolk School of Law to be exact), but because she is a woman of colour — the first woman and the first person of colour to hold the position of dean in the 104-year history of the law school.  Although not recent news, it should also be noted that it is a woman who currently heads one of the top law schools in the States; Martha Minow is currently the dean at Harvard Law School.

Now, this is news.  This is ground-breaking.  I am so used to reading articles and blogs bemoaning the lack of diversity and upward female mobility in the legal profession, but I write this article on a happier and (slightly) more optimistic note.  One can only hope that the trend will continue.  I can finally see cracks in the glass ceiling (even if only in academia) and as a female law student and a minority, I am encouraged.

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Hip-Hop and the Law: Law as Police http://lawiscool.com/2010/07/31/hip-hop-and-the-law-law-as-police/ Sat, 31 Jul 2010 21:59:35 +0000 http://lawiscool.com/?p=2808 Jay-Z and the Law

Welcome to the first article in the “Hip-Hop and the Law” series, which uses hip-hop as an entry point to discuss significant legal issues from unconventional perspectives, an objective not very different from Hip-Hop Law.  For my  first exploration of hip-hop and the law, I decided to focus on the way “the law” is often used as a synonym for law enforcement or police officers in rap music. Consider the following three examples of “the law” as a synonym for police:
The year is ninety-four, in my trunk is raw
In my rearview mirror is the [expletive] law
– Jay-Z, 99 Problems (2003)
Making [expletive] hate me from a distance
Hopping fences in an instant, trying to get away from the long arm of the law
– Z-Ro, Get Yo Paper (2002)
By the way they’re runnin’, you would swear the law was comin
– Eminem, Run Rabbit Run (2003)

From the above examples we can learn a great deal about the perception of “the law” within hip-hop discourse.  For instance, note that the subject in rap music is often on the punitive end of the law, interacting with the law as a mechanism of control that conflicts with the behaviors, actions, and often happiness of the subject.  The law, then, is not of the subject, of hip-hop culture, or the individuals and communities that comprise a hip-hop collective; instead, the law is an external agent that enters a community not to serve or protect, but to punish.

Another important observation to glean is that in hip-hop discourse the law is often defined by its frontline enforcers: police officers.  That the law can be reduced to police officers in hip-hop discourse indicates a lack of engagement of the law’s other elements: judges, politicians, lawyers, civil2pac arrestedsociety organizations, lobbyists, and others.  To many communities, police officers are the only representatives of the law that are seen and heard directly.

So for individuals and communities that are reflected by or even produce hip-hop discourse, the law is experienced in a way that does not always lend itself to thinking of the law as an academic field, a source of employment, a malleable tool of protecting and bettering society, or an arena through which society is guided and driven, or the multiple other manifestations of the law distinct from police officers.

We may gain from this is an appreciation of diversity that brings different experiences and understandings of the law to the table, but perhaps more pertinent is recognizing the power that those of us who engage with the law through roles outside of law enforcement have the potential to redefine the law in different, more nurturing and comprehensive ways to communities who see law as police (i.e. low-income and, or minority communities).  Popular education initiatives, public speaking in relevant venues, and mentoring of youth are three efforts to achieve such redefinition that I have personally seen work.

Determine where you fit in and play your position.

What Law Schools Don’t Want you to Know http://lawiscool.com/2010/07/20/what-law-schools-dont-want-you-to-know/ http://lawiscool.com/2010/07/20/what-law-schools-dont-want-you-to-know/#comments Tue, 20 Jul 2010 10:57:03 +0000 http://lawiscool.com/?p=2791 A reader wrote in to us about this post about 15 Facts Law Schools Don’t Want You to Know:

1. Books are incredibly expensive, and you might never use them again.
2. Your first year of law school will already be laid out for you.
3. Your grades will be curved.
4. Law school debts could total well over $100,000.
5. What school you go to does matter.
6. Your chances of getting a high paid job are slim.
7. You can expect to work much more than 40 hours a week as a lawyer.
8. The bar exam requires you to study for months, and even after that 33% fail.
9. Breaks aren’t really breaks– you must spend them working.
10. Law school won’t teach you business skills.
11. Grades aren’t the end all.
12. Only 54 percent of all working-age law school grads are able to make it as a lawyer.
13. Fewer new grads are able to find jobs.
14. Law schools lure in minority students to improve diversity rankings without disclosing that less than half of African-Americans who enter these programs ever pass the bar.
15. Schools create misleading employment statistics by temporarily hiring new grads and spotlighting kids who land top-paying jobs, while ignoring the fact that most students make far-lower average incomes.

While many of these are true, others are more relevant in the American context than in Canada. For example, where you go to school matters far less in Canada (#5), where all schools are publicly funded and are considered first-tier. Bar exam pass rates are far better in Canada as well (#8, #15).

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