Make Human Rights Education Mandatory for the Legal Profession

  • October 13, 2023
  • Lorin MacDonald

This excerpt is reprinted from Canadian Lawyer Magazine, dated September 15, 2023. For the full article, click here: 

The COVID pandemic ushered in a shocking era — the worldwide exposure of inequities: 

  • Racism: George Floyd’s 2020 murder at the hands (or knee) of the Minneapolis police revealed the sordid intersection of police interaction and racism.
  • Hate crimes: Police-reported hate crimes targeting race, religion, and sexual orientation rose 72 percent from 2019 to 2021 (Statistics Canada).
  • Anti-LGBTQ+: A Washington Post analysis found that more anti-LGBTQ+ bills passed into state law in the first four months of2023 than at any other time in US history.
  • Indigenous residential schools: Since May 2021, over 2,000 unmarked graves at former school sites in Canada have been discovered or suspected.
  • Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD): People with disabilities face a Hobson’s choice when deathcare is easier to get than healthcare and community living support.

Understanding human rights, premised on the belief that everyone has inherent value and deserves equal dignity, is critical to addressing these persistent inequities. The Supreme Court of Canada notes that human rights have a “special, quasi-constitutional status” in our laws. Therefore, they deserve the same status in the Canadian law school curricula, starting in the first year. Forearmed with knowledge and empathy, students will become better lawyers, colleagues, and citizens.