Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Robert Sutherland, Canada's first Black lawyer

Robert Sutherland (1830–1878) was the first known graduate of colour at a Canadian university, and the first Black man to study law in British North America. A graduate of Queen's University, Sutherland qualified to practise law in Ontario under the then prevailing system of apprenticeship and examination. He studied at Osgoode Law School and practised law for 20 years in Walkerton, Ontario.

He was very successful; on death in 1878, Sutherland's left a large bequest (his entire estate of $12,000) to Queen's University, roughly equivalent to the institution's annual operating budget.  This bequest saved Queen's from failing due to a losses in a banking collapse.


15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Nice piece of legal history thanks for the post. I still wonder why there are not more lawyers of colour considering Canada's affirmative action policies within law schools. Medical and dental schools have certainly made an effort to encourage visible minorities to attend and so have many other professions. But law is still the profession that seems to be dominated by the "good old boys"!

Anonymous said...

What affirmative action policies? I applied to and graduated from an Ontario law school within the last 5 years. There are some things in place for aboriginal students but I don't remember anything for anyone else.

Anonymous said...

And note, he was a great success too!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous #1 doesn't know what he's talking about. Look at the graduating classes in Ontario/Canadian law schools in the last 15 years - it ain't the "good old boys" anymore. For one thing, more than 50% of law school graduates are women.

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