I am proud to be the first CBABC visible minority president.
My goals this year are: (a) to represent diversity in leadership; (b) to speak out on issues affecting our young lawyers, especially student loan debt; and (c) to engage our elected members fully on pressing issues facing our profession. I thank you for this amazing opportunity to pursue these goals.
Let’s chat about diversity – inclusion, representation and equality. After all, diversity is the new gold standard. Our young lawyers expect it. They embrace it. They lead it. Our law students are brown, black, yellow, red, white and every colour of the rainbow. They are globally savvy – world travellers, trekking, volunteering and learning about cultural differences. They are champions of the environment, the poor and the future. They are universal – linked in by phone, text, apps, more apps, Instagram and Facebook. They live and breathe equality and diversity every day – through practising yoga, eating phô soup, celebrating PRIDE (whether LGBTQ or not), and yes, lauding the ubiquitous Hello Kitty!
Our new lawyers reflect the changing demographics of our society. As a vibrant and vital professional organization, the CBA’s membership and leadership will also continue to reflect those changing demographics. I am keen to embrace these changes.
These are exciting times for our profession. Based on discussions within the diversity community, we recognize that the next generation will lead us on acceptance and inclusion. They have assumed, and rightfully so, that our profession, like society, is diverse and inclusive. They have assumed that differences will be embraced and fully respected. Let’s join in those assumptions. Let’s not anchor and weigh down our young lawyers with outdated stereotypes, or impose biases or barriers that are consciously and unconsciously built and rebuilt. Let’s ensure that our pasts will not block their ascendance.
The new generation holds high expectations. Let’s support them in their efforts and make the legal world a better place to practise. On that note, your Executive Committee recently created a Young Lawyers Advocacy Task Force. More recently, the Newfoundland and Labrador government eliminated student loans and replaced them with non-repayable grants. Can we come up with an idea just as brilliant? I bet you we can. Will the provincial government take us up on our ideas? I certainly hope so.
The new Task Force will consist of CBA representatives from UBC, UVic and TRU, along with Young Lawyer Section chairs and a BC Law Society representative. Co-chaired by me as president, and Erin Crocker as the Young Lawyers representative, we will join forces to tackle timely issues such as student loan debt. The CBA’s successful REAL (Rural Education and Access to Lawyers) program continues to place second year law students in rural BC communities, leading some young lawyers even to set down roots in their newly chosen communities.
Following on REAL’s success, I have high hopes for the new Task Force. We will examine student loan forgiveness programs, including programs promoted by the American Bar Association and by our law schools. Although BC student loan forgiveness programs already exist to assist provincial Crown lawyers as well as doctors, nurses and other professions, our goal is broader. We hope to present a formal report to the provincial government with options and possible solutions.
Young lawyers are the CBA’s future. The new generation epitomizes diversity. Let’s be colourful. Inclusive. The CBA will continue to pursue larger issues such as access to justice, but this year, I also look forward to joining forces with our diverse young lawyers. Let’s embrace diversity by marshalling our forces and tackling issues affecting our young lawyers.