Over the past year, JUST magazine has looked back on SOGIC’s history. We’ve reflected on its creation, its evolution, and what it means to its members and alumni today. Unfortunately, in what should have been a year of celebration, SOGIC as an organization has faced significant challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our ability to gather in one place to work and socialize has been removed.
Our annual Pride week celebrations, for the first time in our history, were cancelled. In July, we also said goodbye to one of our own; Master Rob Muir. A much respected and celebrated member and supporter of SOGIC, Master Muir’s passing was a blow to many in an already difficult year.
For this final anniversary article, I have spoken with recent leaders of SOGIC to look to their own past with the organization, and from it share their hopes for the future.
Adrian Ishak was chair of OBA SOGIC for the 2018-2019 term and currently serves as past chair. “I think the most important part SOGIC played for me as a professional was in allowing me to establish a network of queer legal professionals in all walks of practice,” he said. He also emphasizes SOGIC’s instrumentality in raising awareness about the LGBT community within the OBA and nationally. When asked how he would improve SOGIC, he mentioned our trouble retaining members. “Unfortunately SOGIC is viewed by too many of its members as [only] a social group, which has impacted our membership -- what we see is high involvement in the first several years of practice and then a drop.”
Hossein Moghtaderi has been involved with SOGIC since early in his legal career -- going all the way back to his first year of law school. He served as the OBA SOGIC chair in the 2018-19 term and currently serves as secretary with CBA SOGIC. He points to SOGIC’s diverse membership as a strength – and something that needs to be cultivated. “We need to continue to strive to maintain an inclusive and diverse membership. We should also continue to support and engage students across the country.”
Julie DeWolf is OBA SOGIC’s current vice-chair and served as CPD Liaison from 2019-2020. She sought out SOGIC as a way to become more involved with the 2SLGBTQA+ lawyering community. “SOGIC has been a bit of a professional creative outlet for me,” she said “I enjoy brainstorming for events and CPD programs, pulling from my past professional and current academic networks.” She feels strongly that SOGIC should continue its role as an educator and social hub for the community. “I would like to see SOGIC continue to provide quality CPD programs that focus on the rights, obligations, needs, and interests of our community (and it never hurts if those programs are followed by social events!)”
Eric Sadvari is the current chair of OBA SOGIC and the Ontario representative for CBA SOGIC. He first joined the executive based on his experience with a joint family law/SOGIC professional development program on the “All Families are Equal Act.” He wants SOGIC’s voice to stay loud and strong on important issues. “An important role for SOGIC is to be seen and be heard. Whether it is intervening in the Trinity Western [University] case or simply putting on our holiday social, it’s important to have a body that can speak on these issues and provide a community space.” Like Adrian, he also mentioned the need for more senior membership. “Our members are often most involved in their first years of practice. I would like to see our membership grow as our members continue to participate and provide invaluable membership.”
Paul Jonathan Saguil
Paul Saguil was a past chair of the CBA executive and the OBA executive. He was asked to join the provincial executive by Milé Komlen, another past chair in Ontario, back in 2012. He applauds SOGIC’s impact in accelerating conversations about equity and inclusion and working collaboratively with other leaders in the profession. “Over the past 25+ years, we advocated strongly for our community members to be seen and heard it is no longer as unusual to see queer lawyers in positions of leadership.” He emphasized that SOGIC must remain vigilant in defending and advancing rights not only in Canada, but also abroad. “Our community cannot become complacent even as we celebrate our heroes and history-makers and the many important milestones we have achieved. We must still continue to participate proactively in policy and law reform initiatives at every level of government and in every jurisdiction.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Teddy Weinstein (he/they) is a graduate of the University of Windsor, Faculty of Law. They articled for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association before interning at the Legal Resources Centre in South Africa as part of the CBA’s Young Lawyers International Program. They are currently a research LLM fellow at the University of Ottawa Centre for Health Law, Policy and Ethics.