Faces of Ontario law firms altering ‘dramatically’

It wasn’t that long ago that the practice of law was largely the preserve of white males, wrote columnist Jim Middlemiss in the National Post July 21. While they still dominate the ranks of partners at large law firms, the reality is that the face of those practising law is changing – at least in Ontario.

In fact, a report for the Ontario legal regulator, the Law Society of Upper Canada, says it’s changing “dramatically”. What isn’t changing though is the ability of women and visible minorities to crack the pay scale to the same extent as white males.

Ironically, the research is based on the 2006 long-form census, which the federal government wants to modify by increasing the number of long forms sent to people, but eliminating the mandatory nature of replying. The proposed changes have caused a ruckus in Ottawa [and with York faculty members].

The study by Michael Ornstein, a sociology professor in York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies and director of the Institute for Social Research, shows the value of the long-form census for researchers. His report found there has been a “dramatic increase” in the number of lawyers who are visible minorities. Today they make up 11.5 per cent of lawyers practising in Ontario, compared with 9.2 per cent in 2001. That’s still well below the 23 per cent of the population provincially that comprises minorities, and below the 30 per cent of those with university degrees, suggesting there’s still a long way to go.

Ornstein’s report says the “progress of visible minority lawyers can be seen in the dramatic increases in the percentage of lawyers between the ages of 25 and 34.” While in 1981 they accounted for two per cent of the profession, today they account for 20 per cent. “This trend will continue as older, predominantly white lawyers retire,” Ornstein writes in his April report.

Theatre group announces new critics’ award

The Canadian Theatre Critics Association is reviving the award for outstanding theatre criticism, wrote the National Post July 21.

“The Nathan Cohen Award is a way of recognizing some of Canada’s best critical writing at a time when the whole notion of writing skill, authority and expertise is under attack,” said association president and York theatre Professor Don Rubin, former head of the Graduate Program in Theatre Studies. “Outstanding writing in our field is often lost these days both in traditional media (which has been cutting back on space for criticism) and in the democratic ocean of the Internet. Our profession needs to push back.”

The Nathan Cohen Award, named for the father of Canadian theatre criticism, will be presented every two years to a critic who writes in newspapers, magazines, literary journals or Internet publications. The deadline for this year’s competition is Aug. 15. Winners will receive $200 and a plaque in October.

Regulators withhold key elements in plans to tackle offshore spills

The watchdog agency that oversees oil drilling off the coast of Newfoundland is keeping secret key information about how companies would respond to a spill, including details about who would be in charge of the cleanup and where spills are expected to drift, wrote Postmedia News July 20.

Canadian regulators insist they are being as transparent as possible within the law. But critics say the lack of full disclosure is inexcusable at a time when the public’s confidence in offshore drilling has been shaken by the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

Gail Fraser, a professor in York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies, said the Canadian public has a right to know about projects that could pollute Canada’s natural resources. “We’re permitting these operators to pollute in federal waters. These are public resources, and the potential impact of these various impacts can be enormous,” said Fraser.

In recent testimony before a parliamentary committee, Fraser explained how she had been stymied in several attempts to obtain information from the board on oil spills and other pollutants. Fraser notes that under the Atlantic Accord act between the Newfoundland and federal governments, oil companies can veto the disclosure of any information provided to the board.

Writing the wild adventure at the Barrie Public Library

Instructor Nancy Hallas (BFA Spec. Hons. ’80) is a published children’s writer, a member of the Canadian Society of Children’s Authors, Illustrators & Performers and a visual artist, wrote Simcoe.com July 20 in a story about her upcoming visit to a local library. She holds a bachelor of fine arts from York University and has been instructing programs for children and youth for a number of years.

Scholarships help moms

Three young mothers received a $1,000 scholarship in June for their postsecondary education, wrote The Mississauga News July 20.

Best Start Health Coalition in Peel helps graduates of two of its programs via the annual scholarship named in memory of Shirley Gurowka, founder and president of the coalition, who died in 1996. Her family and friends have continued to fundraise to keep the award available for young mothers.

Brampton’s Blessing Charles received the award for a second time. She is scheduled to graduate from nursing at York University this year. She has three children and made use of the weekly, two-hour Healthy Start Program.

On air

  • James Morton, adjunct professor in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, spoke about Conrad Black’s bail hearing on CTV News July 20.
  • Leo Panitch, Canada Research Chair in Comparative Political Economy in York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, spoke about a proposed wage freeze for 700,000 Ontario provincial employees, on Global TV July 20.