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Ryerson opening

Dean stresses access to justice as Ontario’s newest law school officially launches

Thursday, October 01, 2020 @ 3:46 PM | By John Schofield


As Toronto’s first new law school in more than a century celebrated its official opening, founding dean Donna Young declared that Ryerson University’s Faculty of Law is ready to engage with the most challenging legal issues of our time — including those highlighted by the pandemic.

“The pandemic has laid bare inequities in society, disproportionately affecting those least able to withstand its impacts,” she said at the Sept. 30 ceremony, which was broadcast online and included congratulatory messages from a range of prominent figures in Ontario’s legal and academic communities.

“Events have exposed weaknesses in our system of justice, underscoring the impact of anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism,” she added. “These phenomena will continue to challenge us, but Ryerson Law will prepare lawyers ready to adapt and respond, to realize the promise of the law to deliver justice and to expand the reach of the law into new frontiers.”

(L-R) Toronto Mayor John Tory, law dean Donna Young, Ryerson University president Mohamed Lachemi and interim provost Saeed Zolfaghari attend the ribbon cutting to officially launch Ryerson University’s new faculty of law.

Young, the former President William McKinley distinguished professor of law and public policy at Albany Law School in Albany, N.Y., underlined the Ryerson Faculty of Law’s commitment to its founding principles of access to justice, innovation and entrepreneurship, equity, diversity and inclusion, and a “world-class, ambitious and innovative pedagogy. She promised that the law school and its students will shape the future of legal practice “to better reflect who we are as Canadians and what we value.”

“It is famously said,” she noted, “that law is reason free from passion. But I believe fervently that it is our profession’s responsibility to feel passionately about injustice, to empathize with those who are marginalized, and to seek to eradicate inequities wherever they may be found.”

The one-hour ceremony featured musical performances by Indigenous singer-songwriter iskwē and a ribbon-cutting ceremony with Toronto Mayor John Tory, an Osgoode Hall-trained lawyer. He called the launch of the new law school “timely” because it will focus on training lawyers who are more practice-ready, more tech-savvy and more committed to providing cost-effective legal services to the people who need them most.

“Unmet legal needs — the need people have and can’t get for legal advice and legal representation — is a growing issue in our city,” Tory said. “And that is something that we should be very mindful of because justice cannot be achieved and should not be determined on the basis of whether or not you can afford to get legal advice or legal representation.

“Ryerson has in so many instances, as times have changed, been the place where innovation and determination saw us find a solution to these problems,” he added. “And so Ryerson is now, through its new law school, its new faculty of law, going to create more lawyers, which will provide better ways to give people access to justice.”

In recorded messages from students, Nick Chai-Tang, president of the Ryerson Law Students’ Society, said he chose Ryerson Law because there was no other program like it in Canada and it was also an opportunity to be part of something new — even though much of the teaching will take place online during the pandemic. “Being the inaugural class,” he said, “let’s us define who Ryerson Law is. Who are we? We are resilient, we are trailblazers and we are the lawyers of tomorrow.”

Congratulatory messages were offered by numerous law community leaders, including Ontario Chief Justice George Strathy, Ontario Court of Appeal Justice Michael Tulloch, Ontario Superior Court Justice Lorne Sossin, Ontario Bar Association president Charlene Theodore, Law Society of Ontario treasurer Teresa Donnelly and a number of law firm leaders, including Dave Leonard, CEO of McCarthy Tétrault, and Bryson Stokes, managing partner with Blakes.

A recorded version of the ceremony is available on YouTube.

Photo by Alyssa Faoro

If you have any information, story ideas or news tips for The Lawyer’s Daily please contact John Schofield at john.schofield@lexisnexis.ca or call 905-415-5891.