A group of donors, including B.C.’s first Black judge and a sitting provincial court judge, have established a new fund to support Black students studying law at UBC.
The $225,000 fund will create the Allard School of Law’s first-ever student award for incoming Black students.
“I remember when I was a law student, how many jobs I had to have to go to law school, how many loans I had to pay back to go, it was tough — but when you look at the prices today for law school tuition fees, they’ve gone up exponentially, and wages haven’t,” the Hon. Judge David St. Pierre, one of the donors, told Global News.
“I talk to a lot of Black students who say, you know, I’d think about law school but there’s no way I can afford three years of living expenses in Vancouver and law school tuition and books.”
The fund can act as “small first step” in helping ensure the province’s justice system is more representative of British Columbia, he said.
“A representative Justice system is a healthy Justice system. Recent events have brought into focus issues of racial inequality that must be addressed with more than just words,” the donor group said in a statement.
St. Pierre, Selwyn Romilly, Matthew Nathanson, two anonymous donors and UBC all contributed to the fund.
Romilly was both B.C.’s first Black judge and first Black B.C. Supreme Court Judge, while Nathanson is a Vancouver criminal defence lawyer.
“When I got into the profession (Judge Romilly) was there right from the start, and I’m trying to be there right from the start for the people that are coming behind me, you give a hand up to those folks,” St. Pierre said.
Nathanson said there is currently no shortage of qualified and talented Black candidates, but that they may face a variety of barriers — including financial ones — accessing education.
He said the donors were inspired by the efforts they saw to create educational supports for Indigenous students in B.C.
The money will be used to support 15 incoming law students with tuition and fees over the next five years.