CABL, formed in March 1996, is a national network of law professionals and individuals committed to reinvesting in the community.
CABL's continuing goal is to bring together law professionals and other interested members of the community from across Canada to cultivate and maintain The Association of Black professionals in Canada.
The birth of the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers was inspired by the existence and prior experience of two quite different black lawyers organizations, the Delos Davis Law Guild of Ontario (DDLG) and the National Bar Association (NBA).
The DDLG, which is no longer active, was Ontario's first known provincial bar association dedicated to the needs of Black lawyers and judges. The work of DDLG’s members had a positive impact on the founders of CABL who followed in the tradition of the DDLG and wanted to form a national organization of Black lawyers across Canada.
The NBA is the largest national association of predominantly African American lawyers and judges in the United States. Established in 1925, the NBA represents a professional network of over 20,000 lawyers, judges, educators and law students.
In June 1994, the NBA, under the leadership of its president Paulette Brown, held an international meeting in Toronto. The organization was hosted in Toronto by the DDLG. Acting on the spirit engendered by the 1994 stop in Toronto, in August 1995, Canadian Black lawyers Audrea Golding, Chris Wilson, Sonja Salmon (recent graduates. of Osgoode Hall Law School), Sandy Thomas (lawyer with the Department of Justice) and Michael Tulloch (now Justice Tulloch), who at the time had recently entered private practice after leaving the Provincial Crown Attorney's office in Toronto), attended the NBA’s Annual Convention in Baltimore, Maryland. These two interactions with the NBA fostered an interest among them and a number of other Black lawyers in Toronto to establish a national organization in Canada similar to the NBA. Over the course of the year 1995, several discussions and consultations with members of the Black bar in Canada (including, members of the DDLG and Canadian law students) and with representatives of the NBA took place to gather support for the formation of a national Canadian association of Black lawyers, as a means to further professional networking and to help our community. After these meetings, CABL was incorporated in March 1996 as a non-profit corporation whose members would constitute the national association of Black lawyers.
Some of the founding members of CABL included Roger Rowe, Winston Mattis, Sandy Thomas, Patricia DeGuire, Lynda Searles, David Mercury, Sonja Salmon and Chris Wilson. The initial Interim Board consisted of: Sandy Thomas-President; Winston Mattis-Vice-President; Patricia DeGuire-Treasurer; Roger Rowe-Secretary; Sonja Salmon-Member at Large, and; Chris Wilson-Member at Large.
Between its incorporation in March, 1996 and its official launch in January 1997, CABL drafted its provisional strategic plan and participated in the following initiatives:
- Established the Michael Kelly Memorial Award along with the Class of 1990, University of Toronto Faculty of Law, which is a scholarship for 2nd or 3rd year Black law students at the University of Toronto, Faculty of Law in honour of the memory of Michael Kelly (Class of 1990);
- Commenced a monthly speaker series;
- Participated in the University of Toronto's Summer Mentorship in Law Program for visible minority high school students;
- Participated in Each One Teach One's Black Youth Mentoring Program and Career Day;
- Co-sponsored a dinner on November 9, 1996 at the Canadian Bar Association - Ontario (now the Ontario Bar Association) to honour Dr. (now Hon.) Juanita Westmoreland-Traore, Dean, University of Windsor Faculty of Law and the first Black person to attain a law deanship in Canada;
- Co-hosted with the Law Firm of Michael H. Tulloch and Associates a reception for Willie E. Gary, Plaintiff’s counsel in the landmark case of O’Keele v. Loewen Group, a Mississippi decision in which $500 million in damages was awarded to the plaintiff;
- Established further links with the NBA.
CABL was officially launched at its First Annual Conference and Inaugural Dinner held January 24 - January 26, 1997.
The objectives of CABL were to promote the welfare and interests of its members; identify and address the professional needs and goals of Black legal professionals and Black law students; promote academic and professional excellence; foster among Black lawyers and law students a greater awareness of and commitment to the needs of the Black community; procure increased access for Black students to law schools; provide positive role models for youth; give public recognition of the achievements and contributions of individuals and organizations within the community; and to work with other progressive persons and organizations toward the attainment of these objectives.
The theme of CABL’s First Annual Conference, “Giving Back,” highlighted an important part of what CABL is about; namely, acknowledging that all current Black lawyers in Canada are beneficiaries of the hard work of our predecessors and that we have a responsibility to improve our community. The Hon. Selwyn Romilly of the Supreme Court of B.C. delivered the keynote address at the Inaugural Dinner. CABL lifetime achievement awards were presented to Mr. Justice Romilly; Mr. Justice Julius Isaac, Chief Justice of the Federal Court of Canada; Madame Judge Corrine Sparks of the Family Court of the Province of Nova Scotia; the Hon. Lincoln Alexander, former Lieutenant Governor of Ontario; Madame Judge Micheline Rawlins of the Ontario Court Provincial Division; Ms. Beverly Mascoll, owner of Mascoll Beauty Supplies Ltd.; Mr. Lloyd Perry (posthumously), former Official Guardian of Ontario; Ms. Marva Jemmott, Barrister & Solicitor; and Mr. Earl Walls (posthumously) for distinguished community service.
1st Annual General Meeting:
CABL held its First Annual General Meeting on September 13, 1997 at the Canadian Bar Association - Ontario offices with approximately 40 members in attendance. Elections were held. The members elected a Board of Directors consisting of Roger Rowe, Patricia DeGuire, Winston Mattis, Sandy Thomas, Sophia Ruddock, Arleen Huggins and Phillip Sutherland.
In the years following its launch, CABL published a newsletter, continued its monthly speaker series, forged links with other legal organizations such as the Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC), the Canadian Bar Association - Ontario, the Department of Justice, as well as with individual members of the private bar. CABL also raised funds for Camp Jumoke, a camp for children with sickle cell anemia. CABL was also involved in the LSUC’s Feed the Homeless Program. CABL’s activities generally established its presence within the legal community. CABL earned seats on the LSUC’s Equity Advisory Committee and other LSUC committees and since that point has regularly met with the Treasurer of the Law Society and representatives of other legal organizations through its seat on the Treasurer’s Liaison Committee. CABL has worked with each successive Treasurer since Paul Larnek.
CABL made submissions on legal, equity and social justice issues to both the provincial and federal governments. Notably, on Monday, March 13, 2000, the CABL executive met with Hon. Anne McClellan, Minister of Justice, to advocate for the appointment of more qualified Blacks to the federal bench.
CABL also continued its emerging tradition of recognizing leaders in the legal community at its events. On February 26, 2000, under the leadership of president Philip Sutherland, CABL held a gala celebrating all of Canada's Black Judges, then numbering 17. This event was the first documented meeting, in Canadian history of all of the Black judges in Canada actually meeting together in one room. Many of these judges had never met each other previously. Furthermore, the Cable Public Affairs Channel (CPAC) filmed the entire event and exhibited a program on the event.
On February 24, 2001, again under the leadership of president Phillip Sutherland, CABL honoured Black women who have contributed positively to law and the legal profession in Canada.
During the tenure of Hon. Michael Tulloch as president of CABL, CABL formed a consultative group with the executive of the Toronto Police Service to educate the service on issues surrounding police and racial profiling.
In 2002, CABL further cemented its relationship with the NBA during a meeting with the NBA executive, headed by then president of the NBA the late Clyde Bailey, in Niagara Falls, Ontario.
Following on its early experience with the Michael Kelly Memorial Award in November, 2003, CABL established the Honourable Julius Alexander Isaac Scholarship to be administered and awarded by the Faculty of Law at the University of Windsor. This annual scholarship is presented to two qualified Black first year law students at the University of Windsor's Faculty of Law based on financial need, community service and a demonstrated promise of academic excellence. Under the leadership of CABL president Hon. Michael Tulloch, CABL launched the campaign to endow the Isaac scholarship with a fundraising dinner. CABL held additional events to eventually raise the $100,000, corpus needed to endow the Scholarship. Events included a barbeque and silent auction in Toronto. Within 2 years, CABL had successfully raised the required $100,000.00.
CABL continued to fundraise for the scholarship by directing its share of the proceeds of the annual Black Heroes Charity Golf Tournament and Dinner. As of the fall of 2011, the corpus of the scholarship stands over $120,000 and 7 scholarships have been awarded to deserving students.
In 2009 CABL launched the Annual Lucie and Thornton Blackburn Scholarship, sponsored by the law firm Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP, in the amount of $5,000 to be awarded on the basis of financial need to a visible minority student entering his or her second year of study in an LLB or JD program at a Canadian law school. The Scholarship is awarded by a committee chaired by a CABL representative each fall. The Scholarship is named after a Black couple, former slaves in Louisville Kentucky who after fleeing the United States, ended up in Toronto via the Underground Railroad. The Blackburns founded the first taxi company in Toronto in the 1830s and were also the spark for the first racial uprising in Detroit history and the first serious legal dispute between Canada and the United States regarding the Underground Railroad. An impassioned and successful defence of the Blackburns by Upper Canada's Lieutenant Governor set precedents for future fugitive slave cases in Canada.
In 2003, in a move to become more inclusive, CABL accepted a proposal by Sue-Lynn Noel (then a director and later President) and Geary Tomlinson to create a Young Lawyers Division (YLD) of CABL. The successful launch of the YLD gave those young lawyers called to the Bar and leaving their association with the Black Law Students Association of Canada a first home and a collective voice in the direction of CABL. Bringing young lawyers into the CABL fold had the added benefit of widening the scope of perspectives to not only young lawyers but also young lawyers in jurisdictions outside the Toronto area where the majority of CABL members then resided.
One such lawyer, Jacqueline Beckles (herself a future president of CABL), successfully launched a CABL chapter in Ottawa in 2004. CABL (by way of the Ottawa chapter) developed a strategy to give CABL members a voice in bencher elections for the Law Society of Upper Canada and began CABL's tradition of strategic voting and support of bencher candidates that promote CABL objectives.
At its Annual General Meeting in February, 2010 CABL formally launched its BC Chapter with the support of young BC lawyers, (including Karen Ameyaw (President), Zahra Jimale (Vice President), Natasha Allen (Treasurer) and Rashida Usman (Secretary)). A major impetus in establishing these regional chapters was to create opportunities for Black lawyers to network and find support at each stage of their career within their local jurisdictions. The BC chapter consists of approximately 35 lawyers and law students based primarily in the Lower Mainland, Victoria and Kamloops. The BC chapter continues the strong tradition of CABL, foregoing baby steps and striding forward with an impressive roster of activities, including monthly and special events, its own sub-site on the CABL website, and an active social media presence.
CABL continues to make strides towards establishing new chapters, or forming associations with existing local black lawyers groups, in other regions of the country, most notably in Quebec where formal discussions are ongoing to associate existing Black lawyers groups in the Montreal region as a CABL chapter as well as in Nova Scotia to forge closer ties with the alumni of the Indigenous Black of Mi’kmaq Initiative program at Dalhousie Law School.
During the period from 2005 - 2011, CABL has undertaken numerous initiatives, including:
- worked as a founding member of the Coalition, a collection of Black community based organizations formed to address responses to gun violence in the Black community during the so-called "Summer of the Gun" (2005) in Toronto. CABL's delegates to the Coalition included Directors Andrew Alleyne and Lisa Alleyne. The Coalition met with then Premier Dalton McGuinty along with other provincial and municipal leaders to address the issue of violence;
- instituted the Black Heroes Golf tournament, an annual event hosted at a series of golf courses in the Toronto area in partnership with several other community organizations. Attendance at the tournament averages approximately 100 golfers annually;
- hosted a very successful sold out 10th anniversary gala in 2006, followed a few years later by the re-institution of its tradition of an annual gala;
- hosted annual marque Black History Month events in partnership with the Law Society of Upper Canada;
- established a successful website, www.cabl.ca, which acts as a means of two way communication between the CABL Board and CABL members and the broader community;
- hosted a Toast for the 17 Black partners then known to be practicing at the mid-sized and larger Bay Street law firms in October 2010; and
- hosted the National Bar Association on two occasions, including the 2008 National Bar Association International Affiliate Meeting hosted jointly in Toronto, Ontario and in Cuba and a reception, sponsored by Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP for NBA members, including a number of past presidents and current, as part of the American Bar Association conference in August 2011.
CABL continues to build on the strong foundation of its past years, as it expands its efforts to act as a gathering place and voice for the Black legal community.