Growing up in Richmond, B.C., home to Canada’s largest immigrant population, Kimberly Gosel, ’19 JD, didn’t encounter issues of inequality until she interviewed her Indian-born father for a high school project and discovered he’d been bullied throughout his childhood and teens.
“He’d never told this story before.” says Gosel, the 2019 recipient of the Hon. Cecilia Johnstone Equality Award. “I’m very lucky. I’ve never had to deal with direct racism like that.”
His trauma opened her eyes. During her undergrad in sociology, she worked with Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Affairs Canada as a negotiations assistant, and with Motivate Canada, teaching leadership skills to youth of different races, gender and social status. In law school, Gosel made equality issues the focus of her extracurricular commitments.
Since first year, she has represented her peers on the Equality and Respect Committee, a group of faculty, students and staff intent on promoting an open and inclusive environment at the Faculty of Law.
She also volunteered biweekly with Student Legal Services, providing legal information and referrals to members of the low-income community at the Bissell Centre.
“I recognize that I do have this privilege,” she says. I feel like I should be sharing that privilege in any way I can.”
In third year, she served the Law Students’ Association as vice-president (academic), with duties that included formatting and editing the condensed annotated notes of law school courses (CANS) that many students create to assist their peers.
A second-year student who supported her nomination for the equality award wrote that Gosel is always available to listen to students struggling with issues of equality and has “genuine compassion and tireless advocacy for those who face roadblocks due to their identities in both professional and social settings.”
Gosel ably fulfils the criteria of the award named for the late Justice Cecilia Johnstone, who was a champion for the fair treatment of women within, or in contact with the legal system. It is given to a student who demonstrates a passion for fairness and compassion to those in need.
“Equality is an aspiration,” says Gosel. “It’s important to recognize that as an aspiration, you always have to work towards it.”
"In awarding Kim the Hon. Cecilia Johnstone Equality Award, the Faculty recognizes a student whose commitment to the ideals that the creators of the award sought to recognize," said Dean Paul Paton.
"Her fellow students universally highlight that her countless acts of advocacy and support are accompanied by humility and empathy, qualities which go to the heart of why this award was established in honour of a judge and trailblazer for equality for women in the legal profession."