This week, Claire Brown was called to the Alberta bar by one of her role models.
On Monday, Gaylene Kendell, one of Canada's only black judges, called her to the bank jurisdiction. Brown said she has looked up to Kendell since she first saw her and considers her brilliant in her work.
Kendall was Brown's first choice when she had to find a judge to lead the ceremony. When it happened, Brown said the experience was inspiring.
"It felt so warm and positive," said Brown, who was interviewed on Radio Active by CBC on Tuesday afternoon. "I see myself in her. The first time I went into family chambers and saw this gorgeous black woman sitting up there, I was like & # 39; who is that? & # 39;"
Brown moved with her family from Kenya to Edmonton in 2007, where she attended high school and later MacEwan University. She didn't always know she wanted to be a lawyer, and hadn't even considered the possibility until a professor at MacEwan suggested it.
She was admitted to Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops in 2016 before returning to Edmonton to write an article with Engel Law in January. She will stay as an employee now
Brown came from a law school with few black students and saw little representation in the provincial judiciary. She said she wanted more meaningful diversity and inclusion in a historically very white space in Alberta.
Brown noted that Justice Kendell had said in the past that the judiciary should reflect the community that it serves, and said that it agreed.
"I think we are making progress when it comes to gender equality, but there is still a long way to go when it comes to representing colored people in Alberta's judiciary," said Brown.
This is reflected in some federal data across Canada.
According to the Office of the Commissioner for Federal Justice in Canada, more than half of the 86 judicial officers appointed from October 28, 2018 to October 28, 2019 were women. But only two of these appointed people were identified as indigenous and only four as a visible minority.
In the previous two years, a total of six people identified as indigenous and 16 as a visible minority were identified.
Law schools also need to do a better job when it comes to meaningful diversity and inclusion, Brown said. The TRU law school started in 2011 and Brown said there was only one black student at the school on arrival. There were four in her senior year, and she said that a year later the school went back to just one black student.
As president of the Black Law Students Association at TRU, Brown said she tried to work with faculties and admissions to address the problem, but had made no progress until she graduated. She said some schools will argue that it is simply the case that there are not enough non-white applicants to apply, but Brown said black students need more support to know that law school is an option at all .
"It's not a path that's obvious to people with color," she said. "When I decided from my own experience to apply for law school, I didn't even know where to start. I didn't have a mentor."
Brown said that the way applications are screened can miss good candidates by over-weighing students' GPA and not taking a more holistic approach. The experiences of the applicants and their experiences in life are considered.
Well, Brown said, working with Tom Engel on Engel Law is a perfect match. She praised Engel as the "voice of the voiceless" and as an advocate of social issues. She said she wanted to become a lawyer after learning about the "horrific" overrepresentation of indigenous and black people in criminal justice.
"I just felt that I have to do something about it, I have to be an agent of change wherever I can. And I hope to do just that."