Canadian Lawyer

November 2020

The most widely read magazine for Canadian lawyers

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14 FEATURE CROSS EXAMINED WHILE MANY CANADIANS would not look to the United States as a place to learn about equality, this was never the case for Donna Young. Young has learned many lessons about how equality can be advanced through the law south of the border. She recently returned from the U.S. after several decades with the hope to put these lessons into action in her new role as dean of the faculty of law at Ryerson University. When Young was a young law student at Osgoode Hall Law School in the early 1990s, academics did not seem like a realistic option. At the time, there were just one or two Black law professors in Canada, and her interests in critical race theory made her an outlier. She decided, though, to find out what was happening in the U.S. in this area, in what turned out to be a formative experience. Young drove 12 hours to the second annual critical race theory conference in Wisconsin. She crashed on her cousin-in-law's couch and found a group of scholars who were delving into issues that were on the cutting edge of legal academia. It was there that she met Derrick Bell, who was the first Black law professor at Harvard Law School. Bell turned to Young and told her she needed nist legal scholar Martha Fineman, who was teaching at Columbia and Young met in a feminist reading group, solidified her interest in academics. Young soon accepted a position as a visiting professor at the Albany law school and began her 25-year legal academic career in the United States. While Young taught in many areas, including criminal law, employment law, federal civil procedure, gender and work, race and rape culture, her work with the Association of University Professors was where her commitment to academic freedom really took hold. Young took leave from her academic role in 2014 and accepted a staff position as the senior program officer with the AUP's department of academic freedom, tenure and governance. Young says she saw many examples of to think about going into the legal academy. "It was the first time that anyone had ever suggested that I become a law professor," Young says. While Young did find professors at Osgoode who became mentors, she credits Bell with planting the idea in her head that never left. After graduating from law school, Young worked in various positions outside of academia in Canada, including articling at labour boutique Cornish Roland and at the Ontario Human Rights Commission. But Young soon gravitated back to the United States and legal academia. Initially, she went with her partner to New York as he studied for his LLM at Columbia Law School, in what was supposed to be a temporary move. Young worked at the New York City Department of Labor Relations. But another chance encounter with femi- "I was so turned off administration. It was eye-opening how bad administrators could be and I really was more of a critic of administration." COMING HOME TO ADVANCE EQUALITY Ryerson law school's founding commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion convinced Donna Young to come back from the United States

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