BlackNorth Initiative Releases Law Firm Pledge

The pledge addresses efforts to end anti-Black systemic racism in the practice of law

Press release July 14, 2020

Today, the BlackNorth Initiative, led by The Canadian Council of Business Leaders Against Anti-Black Systemic Racism (the “Council”), released the Law Firm Pledge, asking leaders from Canada’s law firms to commit to specific actions and targets designed to end anti-Black systemic racism and create opportunities for those in underrepresented Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) communities. 

The Law Firm Pledge builds on the June 30th 2020 announcement in which Wes Hall, Founder and Chair of the Council, and his Co-Chairs –Victor Dodig, President and Chief Executive Officer of CIBC; Prem Watsa, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Fairfax Financial Holdings Limited; and Rola Dagher, President and CEO of Cisco Canada – asked Canadian business leaders from all sectors to commit to similar goals for their companies. 

Already, a large number of CEOs have signed the CEO Pledge, including leaders from major public companies, private businesses, charities and the public sector. 

“Now is the time for Canada’s leading law firms to step up and take action,” said Wes Hall, Founder and Chairman of the Council. “Signing this sends a strong message to your Black employees, your clients and the broader community that you are willing to face this challenge head on and lead by example.” 

Several prominent Canadian law firms, including Norton Rose Fulbright, Stikeman Elliott LLP and Wildeboer Dellelce LLP, have already committed to signing the Law Firm Pledge and to supporting BlackNorth with this important initiative. 

The BlackNorth Initiative Law Firm Pledge asks firms to commit to seven goals:

1. Increase efforts to make their workplaces trusting places to have complex, and sometimes difficult conversations about anti-Black systemic racism and ensure that no barriers exist to prevent Black employees from advancing within their organization. 

2. Implement or expand unconscious bias and anti-racism education.

3. Share best—and unsuccessful—practices.

4. Create and share strategic inclusion and diversity plans with their board of directors.

5. Ensure that Black communities across Canada are aware of opportunities of employment within their organization and that employment opportunities are set aside for Black people, including committing to specific hiring goals of at least 5% within their student workforce from the Black community.

6. Engage Canada’s corporate governance framework – commit to the goal of 3.5% of executive, board and/or senior leadership roles based in Canada being held by Black or visible minority leaders by 2025.

7. Set inclusive talent management goals and include them in senior leaders’ annual performance scorecards.

Firms that sign the Law Firm Pledge will also be expected to track their progress, share their goals internally and externally and share regular updates with each other. 

“Like many in our industry, our eyes have been opened to the need for greater action and accountability,” said Charles Hurdon, Managing Partner - Canada, Norton Rose Fulbright. “This means admitting that our current efforts are not enough and that we must tackle and address the barriers to fair representation of Black employees. It will take courage, a willingness to take constructive feedback and a conviction to act. We know that working together with BlackNorth and the broader legal community, we can effect positive change for our people, our clients and our society.”

“We salute the leadership of the Canadian Council of Business Leaders Against Anti-Black Systemic Racism and the BlackNorth Initiative and are proud to join in their efforts to ensure that Canadian firms better reflect the composition and values of our communities. We know these goals are shared by many law firms like ourselves and look forward to working toward diversity and inclusion with them,” said Marc Barbeau, Chair, Stikeman Elliott. 

“Recent events have demanded that we, as a legal community, take a hard look at ourselves and our organizations to assess what we are doing to combat systemic racism in Canada,” said Perry Dellelce, Managing Partner of Wildeboer Dellelce. “As a law firm, we realized that we can do better and we must do better. Our commitment to co-leading the Law Firm Pledge initiative is our unequivocal message to the BIPOC community, and in particular legal professionals, those who aspire to be legal professionals and those who wish to pursue any career in a law firm setting, that there is a place for you at Wildeboer Dellelce. We strongly encourage our fellow law firms across Canada to join us in this pledge as a significant step in addressing a problem that is long overdue for a targeted response. Wildeboer Dellelce does not only make this pledge; we will act to ensure the Law Firm Pledge has real impact for positive change for the BIPOC community.”

Increasing diversity has been a key focus for Canadian law firms over the last many years. The Law Firm Pledge is an opportunity to answer the call to specifically address anti-Black racism in Canada. 

Senior leaders from law firms that sign the Law Firm Pledge will be invited to the BlackNorth Initiative virtual summit on July 20th 2020 from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. (ET). 

SIGN THE PLEDGE TODAY

Read the Law Firm Pledge and submit your signed copy to lawfirmpledge@blacknorth.ca to be eligible to participate in the virtual summit before July 17th 2020. 

 

Contacts

Media: 

 

Andy Radia
Director, Communications and Marketing 
Kingsdale Advisors 
Ph: 416-867-2357 
aradia@kingsdaleadvisors.com

Helena Wade 
Hill+Knowlton Strategies 
Ph: 613-483-7853 
helena.wade@hkstrategies.ca