Recap: Ryerson’s law school begins its first semester in 2020

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By Reedah Hayder

At the online opening ceremony for Ryerson Law on Wednesday, founding dean of Ryerson’s faculty of law Donna Young welcomed the school’s faculty members, administrative team and first group of students.

Young said the program is “committed to helping our communities gain access to justice…and is dedicated to training the next generation of legal professionals to reflect and respond to the rich diversity of Canadian society,” noting that the pandemic has not slowed the law school down.

“[Recent] events have exposed weaknesses in our system of justice [by] underscoring the impact of anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism,” she said. “I believe fervently that [it is our ] responsibility to feel passionate about injustice, to empathize with those who are marginalized and to seek to eradicate inequities.”

Young said Ryerson Law will equip students with skills to handle equity and racial issues as they continue on to the future.

The law school calculates the admission GPA using the applicant’s best 20 single-semester graded undergraduate degree courses, compared to most Canadian law schools where admission GPA is based on all years or the last two years of undergraduate studies. Ryerson Law also has no set minimum GPA requirement for consideration.

“I believe fervently that [it is our ] responsibility to feel passionate about injustice, to empathize with those who are marginalized and to seek to eradicate inequities.”

Mayor John Tory said the opening comes at a timely moment because of the focus on providing cost-effective legal services to people who need it. 

“Unmet legal needs, inaccessible legal advice and legal representation are growing issues in our city,” he said. “Ryerson’s law school will provide better ways to give people access to justice.”

“We are taking what is the world’s most diverse city and trying to make sure that it is the world’s most inclusive city,” added Tory

At the ceremony, Annamaria Enenajor, a partner at the law firm Ruby Shiller Enenajor DiGiuseppe, Barristers, said that there is “overwhelming statistical evidence” showing that Black and Indigenous people are more likely to be stopped by police officers, judged harshly by our courts and experience violence at the hands of authorities.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission’s 2018 interim report found that between 2013 and 2017, a Black person in Toronto was 20 times more likely than a white person to be involved in a fatal shooting by the Toronto Police Service. 

Enenajor said law matters because “the price we pay for freedom is constant vigilance,” adding that if people do not remain mindful, many hard-fought human rights can be relegated.

“Time and again we learn that the Canadian justice system has an unequal impact…based on factors such as race and gender in the criminal justice context.”

According to a letter of intent released in 2016, Ryerson planned to have a fully operational law school by 2020. Despite its proposal being rejected by the Ontario government in 2018, the university didn’t give up on a law school. 

Tony Staffieri, chair of Ryerson University’s board of governors, said at the opening that Ryerson president Mohamed Lachemi presented the idea of a law school about four years ago. 

Staffieri said that the law school will “take a unique approach to legal education to break the traditional mode.”

Anver Saloojee, assistant vice-president international at Ryerson University, said Ryerson law will involve “a mandatory, intensive practice element and collaborative co-teaching between faculty and practitioners.” 

The co-teaching model includes working lawyers to combine theory and practice in each subject area. The program’s website states that there is a special focus on technologies that are relevant to legal service. 

In total, there are eight cross-appointed faculty members for the new law school, according to Saloojee. 

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