Q and A with the Faculty of Law’s Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers

Student executives Roscoe Gee and Alicia Revington share how FACL builds community

Sarah Kent - 3 May 2023

For law students at the University of Alberta Faculty of Law, the Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers is more than just a student group — it is a community lifeline and catalyst for change.

Established in 2020, the Faculty’s chapter is part of the larger FACL Western organization, which promotes equity, justice and opportunity for Asian Canadian legal professionals. The group offers students regular opportunities to connect, network and participate in valuable and unique learning experiences.

To celebrate Asian Heritage Month, Roscoe Gee and Alicia Revington, two of the eight executive members of FACL, share a look at the student group with a Q&A.

Tell us a bit about FACL.

Gee and Revington: We are committed to helping law students gain better access to culturally-conscious opportunities for mentorship and networking, as well as to providing a safe space to build a supportive community within law school. Additionally, we advocate for and raise awareness among the faculty about EDI issues in the legal field. We are proud of our successful speaker event last year featuring Judge Ho, who shared his thoughts on the relevance of EDI groups in today's society. It seems unimaginable that historical Canadian legislation such as the “Chinese Exclusion Act” prevented ethnic groups from becoming citizens, ultimately preventing them from practicing as lawyers in the country. While the profession has come a long way, there is more to be done to promote change. We would like to emphasize that law students of all ethnicities, experiences, and backgrounds are welcome to join our student group.

How has being part of FACL impacted your law school experience?

Gee: Building relationships with colleagues can be challenging at times throughout our careers. However, at FACL, I've found a solid foundation for cultivating healthy relationships within a supportive and inclusive community. Through FACL, I've become more aware of the challenges faced not just by Asians, but also by other EDI groups in the legal profession and in law school. I've learned that EDI topics are more openly discussed in other provinces, whereas in Alberta, it can still be a difficult conversation to have. Fortunately, at FACL, I feel comfortable and confident discussing questions related to my race or culture openly and without judgment.

Revington: In many ways, FACL has felt like a family to me. The relationships you build with other club members are rooted in an unspoken understanding of the hurdles we have had to overcome just to stand among our colleagues. While recent public awareness of anti-Asian racism has helped to shine a light on the casual racism that Asian Canadians so frequently experience, the legal field still has a ways to go in terms of increasing and embracing Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Accessibility. Student organizations like FACL offer visible minorities a place to grow, learn from one another and let down our barriers, and have been imperative to my experience as a law student.

What was a highlight of the past year for you as part of FACL?

Gee: Our events offer an excellent opportunity to meet Asian lawyers and judges from across the province, and hearing about their experiences of overcoming challenges in their careers is truly inspiring. These are individuals who have successfully navigated law school and are now making a difference in the profession. It's remarkable that they take the time to engage with law students, and I appreciate their willingness to share their insights and advice. Among all of FACL's events, one of my personal favourites was the mentorship dinner. The conversations were genuine, and I found the advice and guidance from experienced lawyers and judges to be valuable and insightful.

Revington: The Diwali and Lunar New Year Events put on by FACL were particularly special to me. Many law students aren’t aware of what Diwali is, or how Lunar New Year is celebrated, so it felt incredibly rewarding to help put on these faculty-wide events. The sense of community among the attendees was exceptional. What really stood out to me was the students who attended that didn’t traditionally celebrate Diwali or Lunar New Year, but came out to learn more about these events and celebrate. The best way to practice allyship and support visible minorities is by challenging yourself to show up, take a step outside of your comfort zone, and be open to learning.

What motivated you to join FACL and serve on its leadership team?

Gee: As someone who strongly believes in mentorship, I've had the privilege of developing meaningful relationships with several upper-year FACL executives during my first year. Their guidance and support inspired me to get involved with FACL, especially after witnessing the prevalence of racism during the COVID-19 pandemic. In law school, we learn that we all have an active role to play in combating injustice, regardless of whether or not we are visible minorities or have personally experienced it. There is always something we can do to make a difference.

Revington: It can feel isolating to enter a traditionally underrepresented field as a visible minority. Interactions with other students, mentors, and leaders in the profession have shown me that this feeling is commonly echoed, and that there is a desire for more diversity within the legal field. These interactions have shown me that it helps to have the support of others who understand your experience. When I found out that FACL existed as a community and support group for other Asian law students, I was excited to become a part of the organization and its leadership team.

What personally drew you to law?

Gee: Initially, I was interested in pursuing corporate law due to my business background. However, when I spent a couple of years working from home before starting law school, I researched the legal profession more extensively and discovered the versatility of a JD degree. I found that the various areas of law one can study and work in reflect this versatility. The meticulousness of law also aligns well with my personality, and I appreciate that it allows me to become a specialist in a particular area of focus. The areas I’m interested in will allow me to interact with everyday people and help them plan their lives.

Revington: In my undergraduate degree, I performed research on the rise of anti-Asian racism in relation to COVID-19. This research gave me the opportunity to advocate against anti-Asian racism to the Calgary municipal government and provide research-based suggestions for change. This experience gave me an appreciation for what a career in legal advocacy could hold, alongside opportunities to engage with my community and become a voice for awareness and change. This solidified my desire to pursue a degree in law, with the hopes of continuing to engage with advocacy work and enact change in the future.

What are some goals of FACL for the upcoming academic year?

Gee and Revington: We are looking to build off of the success of our speaker events last year. We have a number of new events planned for the upcoming year, as well as celebrations for cultural events such as Diwali and Lunar New Year. Our goal for the upcoming academic year is to foster more opportunities for a greater diversity of people to participate in our events and initiatives. This year, we are excited to collaborate with other EDI groups to promote greater awareness and inclusivity.

In FACL, we strongly believe in the importance of mentorship, which can be crucial to a student's law school experience. As part of this effort, we regularly engage with lawyers and judges from around the province, providing students with opportunities to interact with legal professionals and receive guidance and advice. By facilitating these interactions, we aim to build a sense of community and support within the legal profession, particularly among students who may not have many opportunities to connect with professionals in the field.

The upper-year executive members of FACL include Aarij Ahmed, Kris Jun, Tina Tai, Alicia Revington, Erin Castro, Shelah Kwok, Tajdeep Sandhu and Roscoe Gee. The student group will be looking for up to four first-year law students to join the executive team in the fall. More information about this opportunity will be available in September.