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Tackling Anti-Black Racism: Partnerships for Impact

Tackling Anti-Black Racism: Partnerships for Impact

McCarthy Tétrault’s award-winning Inclusion Now program is our effort to recruit – but more important, to support, retain and advance – Black, Indigenous, people of colour, members of the LGBTQ2S+ community, people with disabilities, and women.

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Our goal is to identify and extricate where there may be unintentional bias in our own policies and practices, and create a deeply inclusive workplace culture where no one has to cover parts of themselves to be successful.

McCarthy Tétrault is proud to be a signatory to the Black North Initiative Law Firm Pledge. We know that Black people continue to be underrepresented in the legal profession, and we are committed to doing our part to tackle this issue. We also understand that, in order to effectively respond to anti-Black, anti-Indigenous, and structural racism, it is imperative to partner meaningfully with the community.

This is why, on the heels of the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which calls on each of us to stand up against racism, we are proud to announce a five year, $200,000+ investment in a number of Black-led organizations, including:

  • Canadian Association of Black Lawyers (CABL)
  • Black Female Lawyers’ Network (BFLN) (includes a commitment to the Dalhousie University Schulich School of Law, Judge Corinne Sparks Award)
  • Black Law Students’ Association (BLSA)
  • Black Future Lawyers (BFL) (in collaboration with 13 other leading law firms)
" The Black Female Lawyers' Network is pleased to partner with McCarthy Tétrault in its five-year partnership commitment to confront anti-black racism in the legal profession. At the core of BFLN’s mission is promoting the advancement of black female legal professionals, as well as providing support in our community for our members to excel, despite racial barriers. McCarthy Tétrault’s commitment to working with the BFLN on initiatives targeting the development of black female lawyers – such as the annual scholarship funding at Dalhousie University, Schulich School of Law, is a great step for both organizations. We are excited about the opportunities this partnership will create, and look forward to working with McCarthy Tétrault in promoting a more equitable, diverse and inclusive legal profession. "
Denise Dwyer, President, Black Female Lawyers' Network (BFLN)
" BLSA Canada is thrilled to have McCarthy Tétrault as our National Law Firm partner. Their multi-year contribution and commitment to Black law students through our organization and respective BLSA chapters will help to sustain the support we aim to provide for Black law students. Through this partnership, BLSA Canada and our chapters will become a stronger, more viable organization that can focus its attention on advocacy and growth. We sincerely thank Nikki Gershbain and her team at McCarthy Tétrault! We look forward to all that we can do together. "
Kerry-Ann Cornwall, President, BLSA Canada

This investment goes beyond simply a financial commitment, and includes support in the form of pro bono advocacy, governance, fundraising, and continuing legal education for Black law students and lawyers across Canada. Our goal is to build meaningful, long-term relationships with our partners, and assist them with their plans to deepen and scale their organizations.

" We are ecstatic that BFL has received such immense support from Canada's leading law firms. The funding is essential to expanding our reach and impact across the country, and guiding more brilliant Black students to a fulfilling career in law. The need for more Black lawyers in the field is pressing and extends far beyond Toronto. We want to establish additional BFL undergraduate chapters across the province and the country, and expand the program offerings. Over the next ten years, BFL will be able to employ Black staff and work-study students who can continue to manage and build the growing program. The financial and program support from McCarthy Tétrault and the other law firm partners will ensure that BFL continues to offer meaningful learning experiences to all BFL members. "
Novalee Davy, JD/MBA Candidate 2022, Co-President, UofT Black Law Students’ Association
" The Canadian Association of Black Lawyers is excited to welcome McCarthy Tétrault as our Partner in Public Interest Advocacy and Capacity Building, and our Ally in Professional Development. Black communities are far too often unrepresented or under-represented in issues of major public concern. A strategic focus of CABL is to advocate for a more equitable, diverse and inclusive Canada and legal profession, and ensure that Black voices are heard on the issues that impact our communities. We look forward to working with McCarthy Tétrault to achieve these goals and appreciate the long-term investment McCarthy Tétrault is making in our organization. "
Raphael Tachie, President, CABL

These community partnerships will complement several internal initiatives we have created. This includes the work of our national Race Action Group and our Reconciliation Committee, our ground-breaking Black and Indigenous Summer Program for 1L law students, internal educational programs on structural and anti-Black racism, and our new mentorship pilot program – Mentorship Plus – for associates who identify as diverse.

If you have any questions regarding McCarthy Tétrault’s Inclusion Now program, or our efforts to tackle anti-Black racism, please contact our Chief Inclusion Officer, Charlene Theodore at [email protected], or Junior Sirivar, Litigation Partner and Chair of our Race Action Group at [email protected].

Leading Canadian law firms make long-term commitment to Black Future Lawyers

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A newly formed partnership of leading Canadian law firms has committed $1.75 million to the groundbreaking Black Future Lawyers Program (BFL).

The 14 firms—Blakes, BLG, Cassels, Davies, Dentons, Fasken, Goodmans, Gowling WLG, McCarthy Tétrault, McMillan, Norton Rose Fulbright Canada, Osler, Stikeman Elliott and Torys—through their combined commitments, will provide operational funding to BFL over the next 10 years.

University of Toronto Faculty of Law Dean Jutta Brunnée said the 10-year financial commitment from the partner firms provides the stability and security needed to allow the BFL to establish chapters at universities across the country and invest in the future of Canada’s next generation of Black lawyers.

“We know that Black students face systemic obstacles that prevent them from accessing professional school education," Brunnée said.

“BFL leverages the resources at U of T Law and the legal profession to address this issue."

“It’s important that we have a long-term vision for the program that will ultimately help build a consistently strong number of Black students enrolling in law.”

"It means so much to individuals like me who at one point didn't think law school was a viable pathway. BFL has been very powerful and inspiring, especially as I was applying," said BFL participant, Ikran Jama, a U of T undergraduate student.

In addition to the financial support that will enable the BFL to accelerate its ambitious programming goals, partner firms will collaborate and deliver a business law-focused educational stream for BFL students.

“Students will have the opportunity to attend seminars and events on a regular basis that will give them exposure to the priorities and day-to-day realities of working lawyers,” Brunnée said.

These sessions will cover substantive topics in various areas of law as well as professionalism topics like building networks and improving presentation skills.

“These are great avenues for BFL students to learn directly from some of the top law firms in the country.”

BFL provides support and engagement opportunities to Black undergraduate students whose vision is to become lawyers. It was formed by the University of Toronto Faculty of Law in January 2020 in collaboration with the school’s Black Law Students’ Association, its Black alumni, and the greater legal community. BFL offers mentoring programs, opportunities to attend workshops at UofT Law, and an annual conference.

More details on the Black Future Lawyers Program