AVANT GARDE - VOL. 1, ISSUE 2 - MAY 2021
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.
The exchange of sex for payment has existed since ancient times and continues to exist today. Sex work exists in many different ways, and different individuals’ definitions of what constitutes sex work vary. Sex work is criminalized in Canada and widely recognized by the public as an illegitimate line of work. The dominant pervasive societal ideologies stigmatize sex work as unlawful and morally unsound; and societal judgment of people who engage in sex work is a known barrier to necessary protection.
The pandemic has drawn attention to many unregulated industries and the subsequent inherent flaws within Canadian law. Inequalities provide some industries with privilege and access, while other sectors are condemned and discriminated against. Many sectors continue to operate with new rules and regulations through the pandemic. For example, the sports entertainment industry quickly had new standards for play approved by governments and continued operations. Judgement against those who exchange sex as a service with value is exacerbated, and sex workers face a double burden. Sex work does not receive the same labour standards and protocols as other industries, and sex workers face criticism for working during a
Law reform for sex work in Canada is long overdue, and advocacy organizations such as MoveUP and Werk Safe Twerk Safe (“WSTS”) are taking action. The decriminalization of sex work is widely studied and supported by significant research. The 2013 Supreme Court decision in Bedford v. Canada includes lengthy evidence and expert testimony supporting decriminalization. Advocates for decriminalization want to remove the laws that make activities connected to sex work illegal; and demand similar treatment to other self-employed workers with equal rights, responsibilities and protections under the law.
An electronic petition beginning earlier this year from the MoveUP Labour Union calls on the Federal government to repeal the criminalization of sex work under Bill C-36. The petition has gathered over 5100 signatures, confirming that it will be heard by the House of Commons’ Clerk of Petitions. It will be presented on the house floor by the petition’s sponsor, Randall Garrison, an NDP Member of Parliament. The federal government is required to respond 45 days after it is presented.
WSTS is an Ontario stripper-led advocacy group that promotes the rights of strippers and focuses on understanding and changing harmful adult entertainment by-laws. In late 2020, WSTS brought an application for judicial review, which challenges regulations under the Reopening Ontario Act, 2020, that require strip clubs in Ontario to remain closed. The group claims there were no legal or jurisdictional grounds for the province to close strip clubs, as they are regulated on the municipal level and subject to federal laws. WSTS argues that the regulations unjustifiably infringe the rights of strippers under the Charter sections 2, 7 and 15(1) that protect equality, freedom of expression, and life, liberty and security of the person.
You can read more about WSTS’s call to “support legal action against the arbitrary, discriminatory and unfair closures of strip clubs in Ontario”: https://ca.gofundme.com/f/work-safe-twerk-safe-legal-action
Sex Work in the Age of COVID-19 : CERB
By: Dena Papaioannou
At the end of July, the government announced that the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) was coming to an end; and Justin Trudeau eased the fears of Canadians who were dependent on this benefit by vowing “no one will be left behind” in the transition back to the Employment Insurance (EI) program. However, this reassurance did not reach many of the country’s sex workers, who did not qualify for CERB
and were equally unlikely to meet the qualification requirements of the EI program.
Image Source: Sean Kilpatric/CP
The qualification criteria surrounding CERB proved a significant hurdle for many sex workers for an array of reasons. To have qualified for CERB, Canadians had to show they earned a minimum of $5,000 in 2019 or alternatively, in the 12 months prior to their application. Many sex workers get paid in cash and are unable to show that they earned the minimum annual income essential to qualify. Additionally, given the legal grey area surrounding the sex work industry, there is a heavy misconception that sex workers should not file their taxes. Others alluded to not wanting to get involved with the government out of fear of facing arrest and further stigmatization. It can also be difficult to find an accountant who is sex worker-friendly.
Although some sex workers were able to take time off work to focus on their own safety during the first wave, others were not as fortunate. For those sex workers which did not qualify for CERB, many reported feeling as if though they were toeing the line of becoming survival sex workers after having lost their autonomy in deciding where, with whom and when they could work. Many sex workers were left to balance their fears of contracting COVID through close contact with clients and the fear of having to move into congregate living settings during a pandemic if they lost out on their incomes.
For those who have been working in-person throughout COVID to keep themselves afloat, the extra health and safety measures they have implemented have resulted in frustration from some clients, which continues to add to their already declining clientele base. Every time business’ close, those still working are finding that their options for meeting with their clients narrow; which results in moving their work out of the public eye to more isolated locations where the risk of violence substantially increases.
In response to the hardships sex workers are facing in this ongoing pandemic, there have been suggestions that these individuals switch careers or move online. However, this does not address the root of the marginalization that sex workers face in our society. Pivoting to a different career for sex workers was already difficult enough pre-pandemic given the stigma that surrounds their line of work. As for moving online, many sex workers voice privacy concerns, both in terms of pictures being taken without their consent and the lack of private space to host their work.
To aid sex workers where government support is lacking, many sex work support groups have been attempting to make a difference, however small it may be. The Sex Worker’s Action Program (SWAP) in Hamilton has been raising money to provide for those who are struggling with buying groceries and making their rent payments. Given that the demand far outweighs the supply, they have only been able to provide $50 and $100 cash transfers and gift cards.
Sex work is work, and it is time the federal government recognize this and do as they promised to ensure that “no one will be left behind”. The government needs to get serious about the decriminalization of sex work so that we can emerge from this pandemic with a safer place for our sex workers.
My Summer Plans
By: Shelly Bard
We have four months of summertime ahead of us. I do not know about you, but I recently discovered that I love staying busy. This is probably why I find vacations stressful. Even if I cannot work while I am on vacation, I tend to find some adventure to take up, or some skill to learn and perfect. In applying this to us, some might have found jobs while others are still looking; so we might have a bit of time on our hands. I, myself, am desperately trying to fill every single hour. Here's what I came up with:
WRITE ESSAYS FOR ESSAY COMPETITIONS
There are a few written pieces you can create this summer. Each year, there are several essay competitions that I say “I’m going to get to”, but I never do. Some of these competitions even have an award. If anything, it is a good opportunity to improve your writing, legal research, and create a writing sample for your next job application. Or… you could just write a crime novel this summer.
This is going to sound strange, but, if you have the time, read a couple cases. I recommend looking into the law and content of one of the 2L courses you picked during our course intentions. For example, if you have interest in family law, then investigate the most popular family law cases, look into the ways affidavits are made, and how motions are filed. I am sure that such an endeavour would pay out eventually, either in grades, or in knowledge.
RELAX, BREATHE AND REST
I know I said I like to fill my time, but that time can also equally be about taking a break. Taking a break is also a time-filling exercise. I call it “doing life”. At least, that is how it translates from its original language. You can call it “living life”. For example, today, I could plan a hike with my dog, visit a flower farm, take Instagram-worthy pictures, and then watch a good movie. Honestly, this is how I plan on spending my weekends. I could also sleep in, call my grandmother, do some yoga, then make tomato soup with grilled cheese. With all that in front of us, I think we will have a full and busy summer.
CREATE A DATABASE OF LAW FIRMS YOU'D LIKE TO WORK WITH IN 2L
There are many big and small firms out there which, I discovered during the 1L recruit, have jobs that they do not post publicly, or are not readily found. I recommend looking into niche firms in the area of law where you have an interest. I obviously do not know how successful such a task would be. However, surely, creating a contact and then asking each contact for a 10-minute zoom-coffee chat would bring you one step closer to your job of interest. At the very least, by the end of the summer, I look forward to having increased my new social circle and perhaps found the area of law that interests me the most.
Accelerating Access to Justice in Ontario
By: Katrina Grogan-Kalnuk