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Diversity group formed to seek equity in Ontario legal profession

Demand Inclusion aims to pressure LSO to continue to promote diversity, inclusion
|Written By Alexia Kapralos
Diversity group formed to seek equity in Ontario legal profession
Elsa Ascencio, founder of the group, says she wants to maintain pressure on the LSO to promote diversity and inclusion in the profession.

A group of legal professionals who embrace diversity within the profession has recently been created by a young lawyer.

The move comes after the recent Law Society of Ontario bencher election results, where 22 members of the StopSOP slate were elected. The StopSOP slate ran on a campaign based on opposing the controversial Statement of Principles initiative (a mandatory acknowledgement of Ontario lawyers to promote diversity), and it now makes up more than half of the lawyers elected to the LSO’s board of directors.

Elsa Ascencio, who will be formally called to the bar later this spring and articled at Jewitt McLuckie & Associates LLP in Ottawa, started the Demand Inclusion “collective” to ensure the LSO continues to promote diversity initiatives within the province, as outlined by the 2016 final report by the Challenges Faced by Racialized Licensees Working Group, which outlined strategies to tackle racism in the profession.

“We need to sustain the pressure on the law society to make sure our voices are heard,” she says.

Ascencio wants the group to develop an active voice in the Ontario legal community to lobby the LSO to follow through with the report when she says more work needs to be done to promote diversity and inclusion.

She plans on using an online blogging platform as a forum to share the stories of legal professionals from a range of perspectives ­— a spectrum of gender, race and ability. Eventually, she wants to expand offline by attending and speaking at conferences on topics of concern, diversity and inclusion.

“I’ve had folks respond to me saying, ‘Thank you, I would like to share my story, but I don’t feel comfortable in the current spaces,'” she says.

Some of the report’s recommendations the group hopes the law society will address are: reinforcing professional obligations; the adoption of equality, diversity and inclusion principles and practices; measuring progress through quantitative and qualitative analysis; and repeat the Challenges Faced by Racialized Licensees project inclusion survey, for instance.

As of the morning of May 6, the group has amassed a following of 62 members. Those interested in joining the group could sign up online through a Google forum.

“We need to sustain the pressure on the law society to make sure our voices are heard and the challenges report is implemented,” says Ascencio.

Law Times Poll

A group of benchers opposed to the Statement of Principles will need to win the support of their colleagues to repeal the requirement. Do you think they will be successful in repealing the statement of principles in the coming year?