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Black Law Student Census Report: How many Black Law Students are in Canadian Law Schools?

Last fall, the Black Law Students' Association of Canada (BLSA Canada) asked 23 Canadian law schools, and 24 BLSA Chapters, how many Black law students were in their faculty's law programs. Today, BLSA Canada is publishing its "Black Law Student Census Report" on its findings. The report will be translated into French in the coming weeks.

The report indicates that Black law students are underrepresented in the majority of entry-level programs at law faculties across the country. The report was written by law students: Rachel Lewis (BLSA Canada, National Director of Advocacy); Mirabelle Harris-Eze (BLSA Canada, National President); Rebecca Mesay (BLSA Canada, Advocacy Committee member); Chelsea Anthony (BLSA Canada, Advocacy Committee member); and Aderoju Salami (BLSA Canada, Advocacy Committee member).

This report sought to: quantify the extent to which Black law students are represented in law schools, now and historically; discuss if and what progress is being made; and propose insights and recommendations that law schools ought to consider. This exercise is important because the effects of who is or is not admitted into Canadian law schools are vast. As the gatekeepers to the legal profession, the decisions of Canadian law schools significantly determine the composition of Canada’s future lawyers, judges, general counsels.

This report has three-fold considerations. First, Canadian law schools are responsible for enrolling applicants that will build a genuinely multicultural, visibly diverse, and inclusive legal sector. Second, we must promote Black storytelling along with championing Black law students and future Black lawyers. That includes continuing to tackle systemic discrimination and racism, which is still a lived reality for too many Black people in Canada. Third, we must continue supporting Black communities and stimulating pluralistic approaches to making Canadian law schools more equitable, inclusive, and diverse. We believe that implementing a pluralistic approach will lay a foundation for more equitable, inclusive, and diverse law schools.

The Black Law Students' Association of Canada (BLSA Canada) wrote this report as it believes collecting, publicizing race-based data, and considering law school admissions processes is important in understanding how systemic racism affects the admission of prospective Black law students into law schools. Moreover, race-based data also gives a fuller picture of the underrepresentation and experiences of prospective and current non-Black law students. It is important to learn how a lack of particular, ameliorative initiatives may play a role in propagating underrepresentation and, if so, identify ways to eliminate or overcome barriers.

To be clear, Black law students are not inherently less intelligent or less capable of achieving high LSAT scores and GPAs. When this report considers the limitations of admissions programs that solely weigh LSAT and GPA scores, it asks both: (1) what systemic barriers exist that make attaining the highest scores more attainable for those with more privilege to dedicate more time to their studies; and (2) whether high LSAT scores and GPAs truly dictate what makes a good lawyer. (Black Law Student Census Report, page 6)

The numbers in this report must be considered in the context of demographic surveys, Black-conscious admissions processes and scholarships, and internal efforts to address anti-Black racism and make schools more inclusive. The underrepresentation of Black law students at a school is not inherently indicative of the school’s commitment to EDI processes and racial justice and the collection of race-based data is not a panacea alone. However, considering race-based data in the context of student perspectives, regional demographics, and limited EDI initiatives aids in understanding how certain actions or inactions propagate underrepresentation. Race-based data helps paint a fuller picture of the underrepresentation and experiences of prospective and current Black law students. It helps us identify ways through which we can eliminate or overcome barriers. To neglect this information is to allow for issues regarding race and gender to persist and go unaddressed.

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