The Black Law Student Association – a First for the University of Montreal

It is widely recognized by educational institutions that associations provide a very positive influence in the lives of students. Other than making students feel as though they are not alone in what can be a stressful environment, being a member of an association has many advantages, such as making valuable contacts and meeting other people who obviously share the same interests.

The Black Law Student Association of Canada (BLSAC) is an association that is committed to supporting and enhancing the academic, professional and networking opportunities for Black law students. As Omar Ha-Redeye, a fellow Slaw member, once said in a previous article “Completing the Circle of Blood for Future [Minority] Law Students” the BLSAC is here to help the student in need to “fit” in a legal profession where diversity is lacking.

The BLSAC is present in every Canadian province, though more common and more active in anglophone law schools. During the winter of 2010, the Faculty of Law of The University of Québec in Montreal (UQAM) became the first francophone chapter in BLSAC, long after McGill University’s faculty of law joined the ranks of the association. Opportunely for the 20th anniversary of the association, University of Montreal’s faculty of law will be the second francophone university to participate in the National Conference of the BLSAC, taking place in Toronto from March 24-27, 2011, This involvement of francophone universities is essential to bring into the BLSAC network students and young professionals of Quebec, especially given the disparities between Quebec and the other provinces and given the language history within Canada.

The question remains, why did it take so long for Francophone universities to be part of the BLSAC? The answer is simple; after having studied in three of Quebec’s four francophone law schools, I’ve realized and am led to believe that unfortunately minority students do not share the same spirit of association found in anglophone schools. It’s very rare to find a regular student who is an active member of an association. Additionally, the issue of being different, or more belonging to another ethnic group, is still a taboo subject. A perfect example would be the University of Montreal’s Jewish Law Student association which initially faced many difficulties in being recognized as an independent entity. Even today, it remains under the wing of the university’s principal law student association (AED – Association des étudiants en droit). Also, the fact that the University of Montreal previously had a BLSAC chapter that was not sustained points up the difficulties faced in Francophone universities.

BLSAC obviously means a great deal to us Black francophone law students. For so long, we haven’t had the opportunity to really see or understand what goes on in other Law Schools. However, we are now able to interact and grow together throughout Canada. As students at one of the greatest law faculties in the country, we intend to make our association’s mission and membership attractive to any and all law students who feel inclined to join us, even setting an example that will be followed by our francophone colleagues across the ocean. 

Initiated by Ms. Ida Ngueng Feze in the summer of 2010, the creation of our chapter brought together a group of students who were willing and eager to embark on a journey that would make history and confirm that minorities in francophone law schools can be every bit as involved as their anglophones counterparts. Elected for 2010-2012, our board members are all members of various organizations and entities on campus and in the legal community, and play an important role in demonstrating the participation of minorities in the law faculty generally:

  • Jean-Jacques Bertrand ATOKE (Vice-President)
  • Sira COULIBALY (Academic Affairs)
  • Karel DOGUÉ (Public Relations)
  • Armelle FOTSO (Professional Development)
  • Ida NGUENG FEZE (President)
  • Christelle VAVAL (Treasurer)
  • Frédérique YOUMBI FASSEU (General Secretary)

We are planning a Cocktail party on January 20th which will serve to introduce our chapter to the university community. Local lawyers and fellow chapters among others have been invited to come meet us in this convivial setting.

On March 10th, we will hold our first official event, a conference on the Different Faces of Arbitration (“Les différentes facettes de l’arbitrage: perspectives canadienne et internationalle”), which will take place at our Faculty of Law. The event is organized with the support of the Center for Research in Business Law and International Commerce (Centre de Droit des Affaires et Commerce International – CDACI) of the University of Montreal. Many great speakers have been lined up and several participants will be arriving from abroad and will help make for an enriching and fulfilling event. While Pr. Nabil Antaki will moderate the event, Harvard graduate Professor Benjamin Davis who has written extensively on the issues of race and international arbitration will be amongst us. Subjects presented include arbitration in Quebec (Marie-Claude Rigaud), online arbitration in Canada (Nicolas Vermeys), and arbitration in Africa within the Organization for the Harmonization of Business law in Africa (l’Organization pour l’Harmonisation en Afrique du Droit des Affaires –OHADA). For more information on the event, please do not hesitate to contact me at We will be happy to have you with us for both events and all those to come. 

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