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AVANT GARDE - VOL. 1, ISSUE 2 - MAY 2021

AVANT GARDE

Lincoln Alexander School of Law - Student Newspaper

 
What's Inside This Issue:
 

Creating A Sense of Community Through Diversity

By: Mira Setia

Special thanks to the Presidents of BLSA (Shanelle Dover), TLSA, (Abinesha Elanko), LALSA (Manuela Jimenez Bueno), APLSA (Deborah Lim) and SALSA (Harman Bath).


A community is a group of individuals with different backgrounds, perspectives and experiences that support one another, advocate for each other and help each other grow. Lincoln Alexander Faculty of Law prides itself in promoting the pillars of equity, diversity, inclusion and innovation; and we can see these principles highlighted within the cultural organizations at Lincoln Law. The presidents of the Black Law Students’ Association

(“BLSA”), Tamil Law Students’ Association (“TLSA”), Latin American Law Students’ Association (“LALSA”), Asia Pacific Law Students Association (“APLSA”), and South Asian Law Students’ Association (“SALSA”) all shared that one of their primary goals was to harbour a sense of community within the law school and legal field.


Many minority groups have faced intergenerational trauma and discrimination within society; this translated into underrepresentation and exclusion from professions such as law. As Abinesha Elanko put it, “as the daughters and sons of refugees who fled a civil war and continue to face racial discrimination, it is integral that we have a legal voice to stand up for the arginalized.” Elanko explains that TLSA “wish[es] to break the barriers that racialized students face in accessing a legal education.” As such, TLSA organized a speaker panel featuring six prominent Tamil lawyers and articling students to provide guidance and networking opportunities to grow the Tamil legal population. This event welcomed over 50 participants.

Many people are unaware of the biases and lack of representation that the legal field fosters. Hence, with the goal of community-building for agents of change, Manuela Jimenez says, “[LALSA] intends to foster awareness of the underrepresentation of the Latinx community in the legal profession and provide opportunities to meet Latinx practitioners, activists, members of public service, academics, and others… [and] strive to cultivate a culture of inclusion.” LALSA organized a “Women Breaking the Glass Ceiling” Panel featuring five Latinx women who discussed how they were breaking the glass ceiling in a profession where they are the largest minority. Jimenez continues to comment that “we want to leave a mark by continuously bringing awareness and representation for the underrepresentation of Latinx individuals in the legal profession”; as such, their plan is to create a first year mentoring program, reaching out to younger students at the high school level, in order to promote post secondary education among the Latinx community. Their long term goal is to establish a scholarship for future Latinx Lincoln Law students.

Similarly, SALSA was founded to “harbour South Asian representation at Ryerson and build a safe space to network, relax and support one another”, says Harman Bath. Most recently, SALSA invited South Asian law students in a panel to share their tips and tricks for the 1L Summer Recruit; and speakers who shared their experiences on Bay St, in small practice and abroad. Hosting other social events, SALSA has worked hard to generate a home and a sense of community for South Asian students within Ryerson; and as Bath explains, SALSA’s ultimate goal is “to establish a scholarship for South Asian students.”

Although we live in the 21st century, there still exists internalized racism within society against certain minorities. However, to promote a culture of tolerance and acceptance, many groups like APLSA promote principles of community, advocacy, representation and education. Deborah Lim says that APLSA’s goal is:


"To promote cultural pluralism, educate Ryerson’s community about Asian culture, voice the concerns of our members to the Ryerson Law community and the Canadian legal community at large, offer support to community members facing adversity….. [and] to work in harmony with other Ryerson Law student groups to develop practices that promote and achieve common goals of anti-oppression, anti-racism, intersectionality, and decolonization within legal education and the practice of law.”


In pursuit of these social justice goals, APLSA has hosted a variety of social events and partnered with Asian law student organizations across Ontario to host a Lunar New Year celebration, which led to the creation of an Ontario Law Students’ Discord Server. Further, as Lim explains, “[APLSA] has been working with the Ryerson Advisory Committee to Combat Anti-Asian Racism to talk to Mayor Tory about how Ryerson can collaborate with the City to combat racism and promote greater inclusivity.” Ryerson’s dedication to advocacy and acceptance has been seen at every step of its creation.


Many organizations have taken on the initiative to expand on these goals through creating and fostering support systems within the faculty. BALSA has hosted monthly mental health check-ins and has provided safe spaces where the community can de-stress, debrief and deepen their relationships with one another. Shanelle Dover explains that BALSA is “committed to improving access to legal education and professional opportunities in the Black community… [and] the launch of our BLSA Black Excellence Award is the first step of many that we've taken in alignment with our purpose”.


In the coming years, BALSA “hope[s] to host community-based events (virtually and eventually in person) for high school and undergraduate students with aspirations to attend law school…[and] work with other identity affirming associations and those who have demonstrated a vested interest in advancing the goals of the Black community to ensure that Ryerson Law has a reputation of being inclusive and welcoming.”


All racial and cultural groups have a story of underrepresentation and exclusion from professional settings. However, Lincoln Law has been encouraging social justice principles within the legal field by promoting diversity and being agents of change. Ryerson’s cultural groups have done a lot throughout the inaugural year to represent their communities and offer an inclusive, supportive network for all students; and they all have bigger pictures in mind. Regardless of what the legal trends have been in the past, the future will be more supportive and representative. It will be a community.

Image Source: Graham Hughes / CP (Stop Asian Hate)
 

Zooming Through 1L Production

By: Ivy Lok

On April 3, 2021, the screening of Ryerson Law Revue’s “Zooming Through First Year” aired. Our lead producer Deborah Lim had been heading this production since the fall. Group chats buzzed with anticipation as the familiar Zoom waiting room filled the screens of faculty, students, and administration. Attendees turned on their cameras, some seen in their usual spot, Some cozied up, and some even joined by their families. The pre-show opened with RLSS’ president Nick Chai-Tang, presenting this year’s awards. The Zoom chat flooded with approvals and congratulations as the names of our fellow classmates were called in each section.

WLEA, run by co-presidents Vanessa Penna and Kyra Balogh, took home Student Organization of the Year. Staff of the Year was awarded to Leanne Shafir, a true MVP for many students. Professor of the Year was awarded to Angela Lee, who expressed that it was, quite literally, the best moment of her life. The collective applause may have been audibly silent, but the Zoom chat was not.


On to the show! Our host Daniel Pignataro opened with witty jokes and jabs at our first-year experiences, and in the spirit of Toronto, even included a few Drake references. “You only law school once,” Pignataro emphasized, pulling smiles and laughs from the audience.


Nick Chai-Tang presented an impressive script and made good on his promise that every single student in the cohort got a shoutout. Our RLSS president managed to work everyone’s names

into puns within a story of getting accepted into Ryerson Law during the pandemic.



Zoi Samonas, whose background is in theatre and drama, flaunted her impressive vocals in her performance of “Hopelessly Devoted to You,” inspired by the struggles and workload of Ryerson Law school. Viewers raved over Samonas’s voice, lyrics, and visuals.


Our administration and faculty get a spotlight too, acting in a hilarious skit (written by Nick Chai-Tang and Deborah Lim) about what goes on behind the scenes in their meetings. Even they may not be immune to gossiping about certain students and giving questionable tips on making their lives easier.


“What The Hell Happened”, a game show parody, delved into the inner joke territory of Zoom tropes and bumbles. Written by Kimberly Barbosa, the game prompts two student contestants to guess at these clichés, including the strangest-but-most-asked-question, “How tall are you?”



For those of you exasperated by the dreaded study group meetings, this one’s for you. Playwright Dawson Wigle directs a tragicomedy of the study group meetings gone wrong—or as many of you can attest to—as usual.





Before the curtains closed, “How You Like Zoom,” left viewers humming the catchy melody for days to come. Written by Annie Li, the lyrics followed the production’s theme of Zoom fiascos and technological gaffes. The Zoom chat flooded with requests that the song be put on music streaming services—especially when it came to Angela Lee’s rapping segment. As our performers strike a final pose, the lyric "Let's just put our hope in September '21!" resonated as our motto.


The show aired for 24-hours, and those who got to tune in were left blown away by the professionalism and quality of the production. Many wondered how our writers, performers, and editors found the time to create this impressive show on top of their busy schedules. Although we are all rarely together, the show brought all viewers to share in the experience of the very first Ryerson Law production. Ryerson Law Revue also raised over their goal of $2,000 towards the BLSA Black Excellence Award.


An amazing production by producers Deborah Lim, Zoi Samonas, Dawson Wigle, Nick Chai-Tang, and Daniel Pignataro!

Images Source: The Ryerson Law Revenue Production
 

Sex Work in the Age of COVID-19: Government Action

By: Bryn Copp

Image Source: Mark Blinch/The Canadian Press

The unprecedented time of Covid-19 presents sex workers with the unique challenge of responding to a health pandemic while working in an unregulated industry. Sex workers’ livelihood has been an afterthought in financial support initiatives and provincial reopening plans. As a result of economic initiative discrimination and unclear public health advice, sex work advocates argue that sex workers must risk their health to earn money for survival. Advocates for sex worker’s rights, including Amnesty International Canada, call to federal Justice Minister David Lametti to temporarily suspend the enforcement of sex work laws during the pandemic.