February 3, 2022
Black History Month
Black History is Canadian History
by Susannah S. Alleyne, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Counsel and Equity Ombudsperson

“Black history is not just for Black people Black history is Canadian history.” – The Honourable Jean Augustine

Every year in February, Canadians from coast to coast are invited to celebrate Black History Month and highlight the contributions of Black people throughout Canada’s history. Many people continue to learn each year that the arrival of Black people in what we now call Canada, predates the birth of this country as we know it today.

In recent years, the suffering of Black people due to systemic racism and discrimination has garnered lots of spotlight in the media. People from all walks of life have experienced shock, sadness, anger and even disbelief at the injustices suffered by Black communities around the world. For many Black people, these moments of reckoning have simultaneously brought feelings of finally being heard and renewed fears that true justice remains out of reach. At the same time, it is encouraging that conversations about resilience and hope are happening at every level of society, and many are asking how they can be allies to their Black friends, neighbours and colleagues. However, gaps remain in communal knowledge about the long history of Black people in Canada – a gritty and harrowing tale of continuously looking to a brighter future.

In Alberta, the Black population has "grown fivefold" between 1996 and 2016 and the province continues to lead the Prairies in exponential growth of the Black population. Yet, when talking about Black history in Canada, many do not immediately think of Pamela Parker – one of Canada’s first Black international models who is a descendant of Black settlers who migrated to Alberta in the early 1900s; or, maybe they’ve never heard of Amber Valley – formerly “the largest black community ever to have existed west of Ontario”. In her submission to CBC’s Black on the Prairies Project, Professor Karina Vernon asks the poignant question, “How does history like this go missing?” While there are several answers to that question – and several reasons for the intentional and unintentional erasure of Black Prairie history – one short answer is that the collection of race-based data in Canada remains a large task at hand. We see this within the legal profession in Alberta even today.

Several Black lawyers have recently blazed trails within our profession, one of whom is Kene Ilochonwu, who is believed to be the first Black Bencher in Alberta; but, this cannot be confirmed as race-based data was not historically collected by the Law Society, and the current race-based data collected about lawyers is voluntary. While this has not at all detracted from the celebration of Kene’s appointment, it is a necessary reminder of the importance and value of preserving Black history for future generations. At this critical point in history, we cannot afford for any more of our stories to go missing.

Articling Placement Program
The Articling Placement Program (the program) is now available to assist articling students who are in untenable or unsafe articles due to harassment or discrimination with exiting their current position and finding replacement articles. The Law Society is piloting the program in 2022, with the goal of gathering more information from participating articling students and firms/organizations to make refinements and recommendations for future use.

Articling students have the right to be free from harassing and discriminatory behaviour and have the right to report their circumstances without fear of reprisal or negative impacts. While coming forward about these issues will always be difficult, the program is intended to reassure articling students that reporting their issues will not lead to the loss of articles. The program’s default position is that articling students are believed.

Engaging the Program 

An articling student or anyone seeking information about the program can contact the Law Society’s Equity Ombudsperson for an initial, confidential conversation to discuss their experience of harassment or discrimination.

During these confidential conversations, the articling student can ask questions, discuss their concerns and gather information on possible next steps. It is an opportunity for the articling student to understand the resources and supports that are available to them, as well as assess their options.

Once the articling student decides to engage the program, the Equity Ombudsperson will respond as quickly as possible since the student may be in an untenable or unsafe situation. If the Equity Ombudsperson concludes that the articling student’s experience has met the program criteria for establishing harassment or discrimination, the Law Society will take steps to quickly end the current articles and will contact the previous principal. The work to find replacement articles will begin as soon as the articling student is formally in the program.

The Law Society has recruited a roster of 10 law firms that meet specific eligibility criteria and are willing to offer replacement articles to articling students through the program. View a full list of the participating roster firms on our website.

For more information on the program, view our website and FAQ. If you are an articling student wanting to find out more about whether your circumstances qualify for the program, please reach out to the Equity Ombudsperson for an initial conversation via email or phone at 587.391.6596.


The program was developed in response to the results of the 2019 articling survey, which revealed that approximately one-third of respondents reported experiencing harassment and/or discrimination during recruitment and/or articling.

However, many of these articling students do not report the behaviour and continue in their articling positions because of:

  • a perceived lack of support in the firm/organization; 

  • no safe reporting structure in the firm/organization; 

  • a fear that raising these issues or formally reporting them within the firm/organization may negatively impact their reputation;  

  • the power imbalance between lawyers and articling students; 

  • the potential loss of the articling position and future call to the bar. 

Since the Law Society requires students to article before being called to the bar, we must do our part to make articling experiences as safe as possible. We have established a Respectful Workplace Model Policy that law firms and organizations are encouraged to adapt and use.

Where discriminatory or harassing behaviour has already occurred, articling students should be able to inform the Law Society without fear of reprisal or negative impacts. This is where the program comes in.
New Report from Alberta Law Reform Institute (ALRI)

The report recommends that the Wills and Succession Act be reformed to allow a child to apply for family maintenance and support from the estate of a person who stood in the place of a parent. This closes a gap in the law by ensuring that all children would be treated equally under the law and that their best interests would be the main consideration.

The recommendations are based on widespread consultation from the public and legal community and would make the Wills and Succession Act, consistent with other provincial legislation.
Court of Queen's Bench Announcements

In 2019, the Court of Queen’s Bench initiated a pilot project with Justices conducting Estate Early Intervention Conferences. These were intended to facilitate the orderly conduct and early resolution of litigation in estate matters. Read the full announcement for more information on the current policies and procedures relating to that project.

Subject to any issues arising in particular matters between the date of this announcement and the date of a hearing that may require an adjournment due to COVID issues affecting that particular hearing, the court schedule for the week commencing Feb. 7, 2022 will proceed as outlined in the full announcement.
Provincial Court Announcement

In response to the continued spread of the Omicron variant in the province, the Provincial Court of Alberta has implemented these measures. Revised protocols will be updated to the COVID-19 Court Information Page as soon as available.
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