Why Does the LSO need EDI?
This past weekend I attended the Bencher Candidate Meet Up in St. Catherines hosted by Invictus Legal. It was a great opportunity for candidates to share their ideas and concerns and tell voters why they are running for Bencher. In the video I posted last week, I shared my reason. I’m not okay with conversations about equity, diversity and inclusion and systemic discrimination being silenced. Some of my colleagues are actively advocating against EDI at the LSO and I find that disturbing.
In addition to being a paralegal, I’m an EDI consultant. I develop and deliver training programs to help individuals better understand EDI and all of the terms it encompasses. Systemic Discrimination is often sorely misunderstood. During the event, a colleague of mine denied the existence of systemic discrimination on the grounds that not everyone is racist. And he is a grown man who knows how to behave. I don’t disagree….well, with the first part at least.
Not everyone IS racist. However, that’s also not what systemic discrimination means.
Systemic discrimination refers to a system (any system) that was built on discriminatory ideology (for example, no women allowed, no Blacks allowed, no Asians allowed…you get the idea). Because that system was built on the ideology that some people should be excluded, it’s the SYSTEM that we have to address—not necessarily the people.
Did you know ANYONE who works within a system or engages within a system in anyway can feed into that system and perpetuate the way it operates. .That means that even me as a Black woman can perpetuate a discriminatory system that disadvantages certain groups of people simply because that’s the way it’s always been done, it’s the way I’ve learned to do it and no one has questioned it.
When I develop training on these topics I like to allow the audience to see things from their perspective. So paralegals this one is for you.
In the same way the LSO was built for lawyers 200+ years ago, many of the systems we rely on and uphold today were built for able bodied white men. In the same way paralegals have been invited to the table but don’t receive all the benefits they desire, the systems we rely on and uphold today have invited women and people of colour to the table but don’t always allow them partake of the same benefits.
Over the past 15 years, the LSO has grown to make space for paralegals, but there is still work to do for us to truly feel like we belong. Similarly, in its 225 years, the LSO has grown and matured to make space for women and people of colour. Many systems within our country have done the same. But there is still work to be done. As such, we can’t deny the importance of continuing to have the conversation about what that change may look like.
As you can see, my colleague (like many others) erroneously defined Systemic Discrimination. Which, in my opinion, is exactly why it needs to be a part of the conversation at the LSO.