On Thursday, March 4, the Waterloo OJEN Committee welcomed young women from diverse backgrounds to participate in an online version of their highly successful Braiding Diversity into Justice initiative. The program, which has run annually since 2018, encourages racialized and marginalized young women to consider careers in the justice sector. Students between the ages of 16 and 20 have an opportunity to meet and connect with women in legal professions.
In previous years the Braiding Diversity into Justice program has been a full-day activity including sessions at the Waterloo Courthouse and visits to local law firms. This year, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the event was modified to become a 2-hour activity delivered through Zoom video conferencing.
A lot of information and encouragement was packed into that short time! Opening the program, the students heard from 3 women judges who shared personal experiences about their journeys to law careers. Justice Marlyse Dumel and Justice Jodie-Lynn Waddilove, both of the Ontario Court of Justice, inspired the participants through their stories of overcoming barriers to achieve success in their chosen field. They both stressed the importance of perseverance, hard work, and seeking help from others.
Justice Catrina Braid of the Superior Court of Justice told the participants that there was a place for them in the legal sector if they chose it as a career path.
“We want you to believe in yourselves. We want you, and we need you in the justice system. That’s why this program exists.”
Students then had the opportunity to meet in small groups with women from a variety of legal careers. Coming from diverse backgrounds themselves, these professionals were able to answer questions the students had about the challenges that lay ahead, the resources available to them, and what to expect from the careers they aspired to.
Letters of congratulations for this years’ Braiding Diversity into Justice program were received from the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada and the Chief Justices of all three Ontario courts.
In his message to the participants, The Honourable David Lametti, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, had this to say:
“Increasing diversity both on the bench and throughout the justice system is important because people must see themselves represented in the institutions and bodies that represent them. At the same time, by representing the richness of Canadian society in all aspects of the justice system, we can offer information, services, and decisions that are built on and strengthened by a broad array of perspectives and lived experiences. All who work in the justice system have a role to play in advancing this goal. The Braiding Diversity into Justice initiative is a great example of these efforts.”
Congratulations to the Waterloo OJEN Committee for delivering this meaningful justice education program!