Faculty of Law Statements on Racism

23 July 2020

If we are to invite an honest conversation about anti-Black racism at the University of Alberta Faculty of Law, we must acknowledge and be held accountable for our past.

With the momentum of the Black Lives Matter movement and the push for meaningful change, I am compelled to address the instances of UAlberta Law students engaging in blackface, photos of which appear in Faculty yearbooks. Blackface represents a long history of violence against and dehumanization of Black people.

I want to acknowledge that these harmful images detrimentally affect the health and well-being of our Black colleagues, students and community members. These specific events were and continue to be traumatizing for faculty, students, staff and alumni of colour. I sincerely regret that these events and their negative impacts are part of the history of our Faculty.

Racism, whether by overt acts or everyday micro-aggressions, diminishes our community and is not consistent with the commitments by UAlberta Law and the University of Alberta to serve the public good and to uplift the whole people.

As a Faculty of Law, we commit to stand against racial injustice within our justice system, within the broader society, and within the walls of our own institution. We are currently working to address the underrepresentation of BIPOC faculty, staff and students at our Faculty and to ensure that all members of our community are welcome, heard and supported. Reviews of our curriculum, hiring procedures and admission processes are currently underway and discussions of recommended changes will take place in early fall. Initiatives are also underway to increase scholarship funding for BIPOC students and a portion of the annual faculty retreat in September will be devoted to a discussion of anti-racism and unconscious bias. Anti-racism resources for staff, faculty and students are now available through a link on the main page of the Faculty website (https://www.ualberta.ca/law/anti-racism-resources.html).

We invite all who wish to be involved to contribute to a productive dialogue on our efforts to address racism within our community.

Sincerely,

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Barbara Billingsley
Dean of Law




19 June 2020

On June 17, we held our first ever remote version of Law Convocation. It was a wonderful opportunity to offer congratulations to our graduates and to participate in the celebrations. However, the observation was inescapable that our students are graduating in a time of economic and social turbulence.

After years of unsettling reports, the Black Lives Matter movement continues to vividly expose the racism that exists in our society. Events in Alberta and across Canada in the last three weeks have provided sickening examples of how the legal system all too often treats Indigenous people and other racialized persons. We know these instances are extremely painful for many of us, and particularly affect Black, Indigenous and racialized students, staff, faculty and alumni.

The Faculty of Law supports President Turpin’s statement of the position of the University of Alberta on racism: https://blog.ualberta.ca/statement-u-of-a-stands-in-solidarity-against-racism-2fdb2e77ee45

However, we also recognize that law schools are part of a legal system which has allowed the perpetuation of racism. As part of Canada’s legal community, we stand against racial injustice and renew our longstanding commitment to promote the values of diversity, equality and inclusion within the walls of the law school, the justice system, and the broader society.

The surging global movement against racism will be prominent in the minds of students and faculty when term begins in September. Thinking about and researching injustice in its varied and pernicious forms is part and parcel of what a good legal education must confront, and has long been included in the teaching and scholarship at the Faculty of Law. This work continues and we remain committed to enhancing opportunities to engage with these problems. Students and Faculty are called upon to address what it means for lawyers and law students to participate in a legal system which has failed to achieve its constantly avowed expectation of equality before the law. The law school itself must also look in the mirror to ensure that it meets its obligation to avoid the perpetuation of racism.

Recent events have created a widely felt impetus for a long overdue change in Canadian society. Participating in and fostering this change will be a vital part of the function of law school next term and for years to come.

Sincerely,

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David R. Percy, QC
Interim Dean

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Barbara Billingsley
Dean Elect




30 November 2020

The Faculty of Law condemns racism directed at Professor Ubaka Ogbogu

Last week, Associate Professor Ubaka Ogbogu received an anonymous voice mail placed to his Faculty telephone number that was racist, profane, hateful and aggressive.

The content of the voice mail is deeply disturbing. It is upsetting to me, and to the Faculty of Law, that anyone would be subjected to this type of experience. For the target to have been a widely respected member of our own Faculty brings into sharp focus the sad reality that racism is real and that it exists in our community today.

Of further concern, a reference in the voice mail makes it clear that it was, at least in part, a response to Professor Ogbogu’s public commentary on matters within his area of academic scholarship. Free and open academic expression is one of the most basic of principles defining who we are as a Law Faculty, as an academic institution, and as a society. For a member of our Faculty to experience an abusive and deeply personal backlash in response to the airing of academic opinion is an affront to us all. It is an attack on our Faculty and on the university.

The Faculty of Law stands in unqualified solidarity with our colleague Professor Ubaka Ogbogu. Professor Ogbogu is held in the highest of regard in our Faculty and throughout the wider academic community. He is respected for his esteemed scholarship and is a valued colleague and member of our academic family. The Faculty condemns, in the strongest possible terms, this and any act of racism against a member of our community. The Faculty likewise condemns this and any attempt to silence academic participation in public discourse.

Investigative steps are underway with respect to this matter, with the full co-operation of the Faculty of Law. I have been in contact with University President Bill Flanagan and am grateful for his support and engagement in addressing this incident. See the President’s statement here.

This unfortunate incident is a reminder that hate and racism are not easily overcome and that there is much work yet to be done. Personally and on behalf of the Faculty of Law, I affirm my commitment to continuing our efforts.

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Barbara Billingsley

Dean, University of Alberta Faculty of Law