List of resources for lawyers on how to be an ally to racialized colleagues

Diversity and inclusion trainings from the Ontario Bar Association, Law Society of Ontario and more

List of resources for lawyers on how to be an ally to racialized colleagues

Editor’s note: To suggest changes or additions to this article, please contact [email protected]

Another wave of police interventions ending in deaths of Black civilians — including George Floyd in the United States and Regis Korchinski-Paquet in Toronto — has brought a renewed sense of scrutiny on the justice system’s treatment of racialized people. 

“How many more Black people are going to die in the presence of police before someone is finally held accountable? Her name is Regis Korchinski-Paquet. Her family and our community deserve answers,” tweeted the Black Legal Action Centre, a legal aid clinic created to combat individual and systemic anti-Black racism in Ontario.

The legal community has no shortage of existing literature on white anti-racism, allyship and becoming an accomplice — owing to documentation of the issues raised by “Black on Bay Street,” by Hadiya Roderique; “A Collective Impact: Interim report on the inquiry into racial profiling and racial discrimination of Black persons by the Toronto Police Service,” by the Ontario Human Rights Commission; Legal Aid Ontario’ Racialized Communities Strategy;  the interventions in R v Morris; a call-out by a United Nations panel, the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and the Law Society of Ontario’s “Challenges” report.

One recurring theme in allyship literature directed toward lawyers and other professionals includes being the “back up singer” that amplifies the voices of racialized colleagues (some vocal advocates online include Joshua Sealy-Harrington, Nana Yanful, Atrisha Lewis, Billeh Hamud, Ish Aderonmu, Lori Anne Thomas and Royland M. Moriah.) 

Another common suggestion is to write to lawmakers and regulators about issues such as mandatory minimum sentences and jury selection that may impact racialized people. In light of the death of Korchinski-Paquet, activists suggested taking steps such as calling the Special Investigations Unit and Attorney General Doug Downey to advocate for transparency and accountability.

Many organizations that support racialized people in and those in criminal justice system also accept donations, as do organizations that focus on helping incarcerated individuals. Lawyers might also be in a good position to become a trustee of a charitable organization. Another common suggestion is to read more content from racialized people in the community ( has a legal section overseen by bencher Tanya Walker.)

Finally, the open-source “guide to allyship” suggests people “do not expect to be taught or shown. Take it upon yourself to use the tools around you to learn and answer your questions.”


Thomson Reuters Survey Finds 6 Ways to Act as Ideal Allies to Professionals of Color
“Respondents indicated they want allies to speak out to question bias when it occurs. More specifically, the responses overwhelming referred to situations in group settings when bias is displayed and that most people in the majority (white men) lack awareness of the group’s power dynamics.”

Ontario Bar Association Forthcoming June 22: How To Be An Ally By Design [Webcast]
“These carefully designed exercises aim to deepen and build our capacity to be Allies for Diversity and Inclusion within the legal profession.”

TVO: Transcript - Removing Barriers to Justice in Ontario | May 26, 2020
“I think that a lot of it has to do with anti-Black racism, actually, in the criminal justice system. . . . racial profiling by police, the over-surveillance. But I think it's often in terms of how discretion is used, right? Crown prosecutorial discretion, how defence lawyers, other lawyers treat clients, how many arguments are made when it comes to race-based arguments that can be challenged in terms of charter litigation, the sentencing.”

Ontario Bar Association: What's A Non-indigenous Woman To Do? Some Ideas About How To Be An Ally
“So, uh, are you one of those people who say ‘it’s so horrible but I don’t know what to do?’ And then, uh, you don’t do too much. Because you’re scared/frozen/actually indifferent.  . . . If in 2018 you did the same amount of learning about Indigenous matters in Canada as you did in 2017, you aren’t working hard enough at being an ally. 2018 feminism ain’t what was happenin’ in 2017. Neither are the issues involved in the vitally important Black Lives Matter movement.”

Ontario Bar Association: Cpd Review: Are You A Changemaker?
“Some mornings I wake up and I feel like I can change the world. I see the inequities that exist and I know that with some hard work, supportive people, and a plan, I can make a difference. Other days I read the headlines, spend 10 minutes on Twitter, watch the news and I think it's impossible. There is nothing I can do to change anything. Why would I even bother trying? How can one person fix so much that is wrong?”

Law Society of Ontario Black History Month archived webcasts (2019) (2018)
2019: Dr. Kwame McKenzie, CEO of the Wellesley Institute, Professor of Psychiatry at University of Toronto, and Director of Health Equity at Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, provides the keynote address that will explore the social determinants of health in the context of the Black community in Toronto and Canada. Dr. McKenzie, an internationally acclaimed expert in the area, will discuss the relationship between racial discrimination and significant adverse impacts on Black mental health.

2018: The conversation will focus on the speakers’ experiences of and advocacy against anti-Black racism in Canada. Licensees will also be invited to consider whether and how they can use activism in their own practice.

West Coast Environmental Law: Building blocks for allyship
“While many Indigenous people(s) are happy to teach and educate, many are, frankly, tired of it. Becoming a respectful ally to Indigenous peoples requires work and learning, and we agree that one best practice is for allies to take primary responsibility for that learning by doing their own research.”

UDocs: Lessons Injustice
“This 1.5 hour PRO BONO edutainment program on equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) features as a case study the Hot Docs original short documentary entitled ‘Lessons Injustice’ followed by a discussion about anti-racism measures and cultural competency in the professional workplace featuring a cross-disciplinary panel of lawyers, medical and health care professionals, and business professionals.”

Thomson Reuters 10 Inclusive Behaviors for Men to Advance Women Lawyers and Attorneys of Color
“To start, the number one ‘must’ quality is “having a moral compass and acting with integrity in alignment of personal values,” according to the panelists.”

Osgoode Hall Law School: Cultural Competence Skills for Legal Professionals — Key Challenges for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion
“This seminar will sensitize you to issues such as: implicit associations and implicit bias; power, privilege and the legal system; marginalization and systemic discrimination; effects of these forces on the legal system and the legal profession.”

Osgoode Hall Law School: The Inclusion Imperative: Impacts of Cultural Difference and Marginalization in the Legal Process (and What This Means for You)
“The forces that contribute to the marginalization of communities and individuals can be exacerbated within the legal process. This seminar will focus on: excluding populations for lack of an understanding; conflict, authority, deference and dispute resolution; gender, time, emotional expression and other culturally contextual values; the risks of stereotyping, beyond the obvious.”

TedXToronto: How Tupac inspires better policing, by Anthony Morgan
A culturally responsive approach to addressing Black criminalization is needed. In this talk, Anthony Morgan, lawyer and a Training & Development Consultant in the City of Toronto’s Confronting Anti-Black Racism Unit, introduces a new framework for social reform that offers a culturally responsive approach to addressing the challenges of gun and gang violence faced by Black communities.

Colour of Poverty – Colour of Change: Fighting for Racial Justice in Ottawa
“In this second episode of the racesEDJ podcast mini-series by Colour of Poverty-Colour of Change (COP-COC), we discuss local racial justice issues and priorities for Indigenous communities and Peoples of Colour in Ottawa.”

7 Examples of What Being an Ally at Work Really Looks Like
Here are a few roles that allies can choose to play to support colleagues from underrepresented groups in beneficial ways.

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