Something wasn’t right when Munyonzwe Hamalengwa attended law school in the 1980s. In his class of about 65 students at Osgoode Hall there were only three Black students and there were no African-Canadians in three other classes with similar sizes.
Moreover, there was an absence of Black law professors in Canada at the time and Black campus-based law student organizations.
Before graduating in 1986, Hamalengwa started the Nelson Mandela Law Society that became the Black Law Students Association. He also wrote to Canadian prime ministers, including Brian Mulroney and Stephen Harper, urging them to make judicial appointments that would reflect the country’s diversity.
Hamalengwa’s letters and his advocacy for legal platforms that reflect the make-up of a society form the basis of a new book, The Politics of Judicial Diversity & Transformation, which will be launched tomorrow night in Toronto.
“This book is informed by the perspective that the justice you get depends on the character of the judiciary that you have,” he said. “When you look around today, there are fewer than 30 Blacks appointed to the provincial bench here since 1969. When you look at the Supreme Court of Canada’s judges, you don’t see a reflection of what Canada has become.”
Prior to coming to Canada in 1977 from Zambia via Tanzania, Hamalengwa spent six months in detention as a result of student unrest.
He dedicates the book to his late parents, Timothy and Josephine Hamalengwa.
“Most young people inherit bits and pieces from their parents,” said Hamalengwa who was a 1997 Toronto mayoral candidate. “I inherited a lot by osmosis and by Father constantly telling me I was going to become a teacher or lawyer. He understood that those were the professions that could influence human behaviour.”
The book, which is priced at $50, will be launched tomorrow, Friday, March 30, 7:30 p.m. at A Different Booklist, 746 Bathurst St.
By RON FANFAIR