The Faculty of Law has an ambitious goal to raise $2,000,000 by April 2022 to support its vision of equity, diversity, and inclusion.
We know that BIPOC students report feeling less than fully welcome on university campuses, including McGill’s. The new cohorts of McGill Law students are significantly more diverse than in the past, but as we enter McGill’s third century, we can and should do better. We need to provide students with the tools, resources, and environment to flourish.
McGill’s Bicentennial is occurring at a pivotal moment when institutions and individuals in Canada and around the globe are increasingly acknowledging – and working to address – the ongoing impact of colonialism, anti-Black racism, and systemic discrimination. This milestone marks a prime moment for institutional reflection and actions that confront societal schisms.
We need to act now to make a difference in students’ lives, to make their McGill experiences possible and welcoming – and to propel them into the brightest possible future.
This information is also available as a flyer that can be downloaded
Committed to nurturing brilliance and tackling barriers
At the core of McGill’s aspirations are its students – the living link to our future, those who will carry our aspirations forward. In our University’s third century, we are deeply committed to nurturing brilliance in all its diversity and tackling the tangible and intangible barriers that have made a McGill education seem out of reach for many, including some living nearby in our city. But students’ challenges do not miraculously resolve when they cross the Roddick Gates. Once they arrive at McGill, they are entitled to an enriching environment, supportive services, and robust access to opportunities for experiential learning, including ones that take place in a wide variety of community organizations.
Aligned with the University’s commitment to EDI, Dean Robert Leckey recognizes the Faculty of Law’s responsibility to create pathways to success for students from underrepresented groups: those who have not always experienced McGill as a place where they belong. A McGill education is a catalyst for social and economic mobility, and helps open the door to success. The Faculty of Law must implement an integrated and holistic approach that addresses access issues, offers tailored support services, and ultimately shapes better futures. Although the Faculty’s student body is becoming increasingly diverse, students who are the first generation in their family to attend postsecondary education constitute only 10% of the cohort it welcomed in 2020.
“The Faculty of Law seeks to reach outwards and to recruit and support a student body that reflects the diversity of its surrounding communities. Our commitment to pluralism, civil liberties, and human rights reaches back throughout our history – but the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and #BlackLivesMatter underscore the urgency of doing better.”
-Robert Leckey, Dean, Faculty of Law
The Faculty aims to raise $2,000,000 in donor support for priority initiatives that will comprehensively advance its commitment to Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. This funding is intended to be flexible, so that emerging priorities can be satisfied as they arise. We will use these funds over the coming five academic years (2021-2026), to tangibly support students from historically underrepresented groups, Black and Indigenous students in particular, helping them to flourish in the Faculty of Law. To achieve this goal, we need philanthropic partners who share our vision. We also need the collective support of our community to forge a substantial positive impact – and change lives for the better.
Investing in outreach: Sparking the dream of a university education and law school
Many students in historically underrepresented groups may not think of a university education – at McGill or elsewhere – as a place where they can contribute and thrive. The L.E.X. (Law-Éducation-Connexion) Outreach Program, established in 2006, invites Montreal-area youth to understand their potential contributions to society through the legal system and profession by pairing them with McGill Law students.
To reach youth from underrepresented populations – some of whom who may have encountered the repressive side of the rule of law – we must invest in resources that prioritize early intervention and that create pathways to McGill, like the L.E.X. Outreach Program at the Faculty of Law at McGill University.
The L.E.X. program:
- Law students visit high school classrooms and potential students embark on field trips to campus, among other engagement opportunities,
- Provides an accessible forum for students to discuss legal rights and issues
- Fosters under-represented youths’ interest in post-secondary education and legal studies
- Reveals previously unforeseen opportunities to create a world with more just laws
- Increases engagement and sense of belonging in Canadian law schools and the legal profession
Through the community network provided by L.E.X., we have the tools to increase our connections to prospective students from underrepresented backgrounds. But at present, we do not have the capacity to provide meaningful follow-up to the students we engage with.
To sustain our relationships and encourage more students to pursue a career in Law, we require additional financial resources to expand the numbers of high schools and CEGEPs we work with, and to support longer-term follow-up and mentorship.
Retaining students from underrepresented groups: Providing support that allows them to flourish
After students from underrepresented groups have been recruited and admitted to McGill, the critical work must continue. And to safeguard their academic successes once they enroll at McGill Law, we must ensure that the appropriate support services are in place, aligned with the students’ needs, for example:
- Mentorship and tutoring
- Guidance related to academic specialty and navigating the McGill system
- Travel and fees for conferences (i.e. Black Law Students Association of Canada and the Indigenous Bar Association)
- Networking opportunities
- Paid opportunities for experiential learning
Targeted career development: Supporting students in their quest to become career-ready – and future-ready
McGill’s Faculty of Law, and its Career Development Office (CDO), is helping students thrive throughout their higher education journey – equipping them with the knowledge, experience, and skills, so that they are future-ready. This type of support is particularly critical for students from underrepresented groups, who may have difficulty seeing their place in the legal profession as it exists today. Many of these students may also be the first in their families to attend university and pursue a professional career, meaning they cannot rely on their families for career advice and support.
The CDO prepares students for the jobs of tomorrow and is dedicated to ensuring students from underrepresented communities can pursue their professional aspirations with confidence through:
- CV and cover letter clinics and reviews
- Mock interviews
- Career counselling
- Mentorship pairing students with practicing professionals who share their lived experience
We need to invest further to ensure that the CDO has sufficient capacity to address the needs of all students with targeted services for underrepresented communities.
McGill Law community engagement: Forging connections and deepening McGill’s presence in the community
The Faculty of Law is deeply invested in the surrounding Montreal community and has formal and informal partnerships that reflect this commitment. From supporting mentorship programming at Fondation Inspire to memberships on the Racial Profiling Committee at Clinique Juridique Saint Michel, and much more, our staff and students are dedicated to forging an impact beyond McGill. Through community engagement efforts, students will be able to engage in pressing legal support in communities of refugees, people of colour, first-generation Canadians.
One key example of McGill Law’s commitment to making positive change is its partnership with the Montréal-North Legal Clinic. Montréal-North is a neighbourhood with a high demand for pro bono legal services, and this particular collaboration between academia and community will provide:
- Free legal support in a community where residents – often new immigrants or individuals experiencing poverty – struggle to access conventional legal resources and frequently have profoundly negative interactions with officials and the law
- Hands-on experience that will inform students’ careers
- Deeper understanding for all students of racial injustices and how their law degree can make a difference in the community
But again, we need financial resources to achieve our goals and to increase our contributions to the community and to our students.
Student-driven initiatives: Empowering change in partnership with Faculty leadership
No one is as well positioned to understand the needs of underrepresented students as those students themselves. Through dynamic student associations involving and serving underrepresented constituencies, these students show the creativity, drive, and first-hand experience to define initiatives and programs that will help them and their peers thrive. The EDI Student-Driven Initiatives Fund will allow the Dean to work with students to:
- Fund and ensure longevity to initiatives that, devised and launched by student volunteers, fall within the Faculty of Law’s responsibilities
- Establish new and creative programs with the potential to positively impact the student experience
- Give students a seat at the table, empowering them to define their futures in partnership with the Faculty’s leadership
Forging brighter futures together.
Donations can be made to the McGill Law EDI fund on the University Advancement site.
This information is also available as a flyer that can be downloaded