Tuesday, September 6, 2022


On August 22, I stepped into classroom J250 for the kick-off event of Orientation for our incoming 1Ls. The room was literally buzzing with excitement, and our newest JD students were chatting and connecting with each other before we even got started. It was a wonderful, energizing moment and I do hope that all of you – upper year students, graduate students, faculty, and staff – will share this sense of excitement and energy as we embark on the new academic year. A very warm welcome (back) to you all! Do stop by to say hello during the Dean’s BBQ, on Thursday, September 8 from 4 – 6 pm (rain date: September 12). Or drop in on one of the monthly coffee hours – look out for “J’s Java” (the first one is scheduled for Thursday, September 29 from 10 am – 11 am).

I began last year’s message by emphasizing that the Faculty, like the University as a whole, is built on the premise that excellence and diversity – of thinking and lived experience – go together. Excellence flourishes in an environment that embraces the broadest range of people, that enables all members of our community to participate fully and to achieve their full potential, that facilitates free expression of diverse perspectives through respectful discourse, and in which high standards are maintained for faculty, students, and staff alike. We are also acutely aware that law schools and lawyers can play a critical role in dismantling systems of institutionalized racism in our society.

And so we place great emphasis on working with all members of our community – faculty, students, staff, and visitors – to facilitate the climate of welcome, belonging and respect that is critical to sustaining our excellence as an institution, and to underscore that it is everyone’s responsibility to do their part to these ends. I could not be more delighted to let you know that Ada Maxwell-Alleyne recently joined us as this Faculty’s first Assistant Dean, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. Ada holds a BA in Anthropology from Harvard University, a Masters in Anthropology from the University of Toronto, and a JD from Dalhousie Law School. She most recently served as the Equity Lead at the Law Society of Ontario. Assistant Dean Maxwell-Alleyne will support the Faculty’s efforts to further embed equity, diversity and inclusivity in our practices and processes. Do feel free to seek her out – I know that she is greatly looking forward to connecting with students, faculty and staff.

Of course, there are many more exciting updates about our community. Our faculty members continue to receive prestigious awards and recognitions. Albert Yoon was named 2022 Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation Fellow, in recognition of his leadership, research and teaching. He is one of five exceptional scholars chosen for their record of work in relation to the foundation’s 2022-2025 Scientific Cycle, Global Economies. Douglas Sanderson was awarded The University of Toronto President’s Impact Awards, which celebrates and honours faculty members whose research has led to significant impact beyond academia. Benjamin Alarie, Osler Chair in Business Law, was named one of 50 ‘Changemakers’ impacting how Canada does business by The Globe and Mail. On the teaching front, the Class of 2022 honoured Professor Ian Lee with the Mewett Teaching Award, presented annually to a faculty member for excellence in teaching.

This year saw the retirement of two faculty members: Professor Bruce Chapman, whose scholarly contributions and teaching interests have spanned Tort Law, Legal Theory, Decision Theory and Rational Choice, Law and Economics, and Corporate Law; and Professor Patrick Macklem, whose scholarly contributions and teaching interests have spanned Constitutional Law, Indigenous Peoples and the Law, International Human Rights Law, Legal Theory and Public International Law. We will miss these two faculty greats. We were thrilled to welcome three accomplished new colleagues: Assistant Professor Abdi Aidid researches and teaches in the areas of torts, civil procedure, and law and technology; Assistant Professor Jean-Christophe Bédard-Rubin’s work explores Canadian constitutional culture from historical and comparative perspectives; and Professor John Borrows, who is a member of the Chippewa of the Nawash First Nation in Ontario, returned to the Faculty as the inaugural Loveland Chair in Indigenous Law. We are excited to be continuing the process of faculty renewal during the upcoming hiring cycle. The Faculty is looking to recruit up to five new colleagues this year, including in the areas of business law and international human rights law.

Turning to our student body, the JD Class of 2025 is another exceptional and diverse cohort of students:

  • 56% of the class is female-identifying;
  • 19% of the class are LGBTQ2S+-identifying;
  • 41% of the class identify as racialized; and
  • 32% of the class were born outside of Canada.

I invite you to take a look at the 1L class profile. In addition to impressive academic credentials, our first-year students bring wide-ranging knowledge and life experiences to the law school. For example, our community now includes an Art History Teacher, Bridge Engineer, Non-Profit Fundraiser, Rabbi, Sports Medicine Trainer, Immigration Consultant, Train Conductor, Chiropractor, and Zoo Educator!

I am delighted to offer a special welcome to all Indigenous 1L students joining us from across Canada. With the assistance of Elder Constance Simmonds, the Faculty’s Elder-in-Residence, the Indigenous Initiatives Office (IIO) will provide a rich array of academic and cultural events for our entire community. Elder Constance and Julie Ann Shepard, our IIO Manager, have already welcomed many of our 1L students through our Reconciliation Reading Circles, and are busy planning for the Indigenous Law in Context Intensive on the Chippewas of Rama Mnjikaning First Nation, Bundle Teachings, Kairos Blanket Exercises, and more. You are welcome to visit the Faculty’s beautiful Medicine Garden located just outside the Hoskins entrance, south of the library. In May, we celebrated the completion of phase one of the garden, which included the planting and blessing of Sacred Medicines. Phase two will commence this year and will include a mural of the Seven Grandfather Teachings. The garden is the inspiration and work of Solomon King, Principal Mason and Founder of Stone Artisan Studios, who is from Neyaashiinigmiing. The IIO will be harvesting Sacred Medicines for ceremony next month.

This year’s graduate students hail from more than thirty-six countries, including Armenia, Austria, Bangladesh, Brazil, Chile, China, France, Germany, Iran, Mexico, Philippines, Singapore, UK, Ukraine and others. Our students have been remarkably successful in winning competitive external grants, such as the prestigious Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship, Trudeau Foundation, SSHRC CGS-D, the Governor General’s Gold Medal, Connaught International Scholarship, and the C. David Naylor University Fellowships. They are a highly accomplished group, who could have elected to pursue graduate studies anywhere, and we are gratified that they chose U of T. Our SJD students again had great success on the academic job market, securing a remarkable number of faculty positions at universities in Ontario, Quebec, and elsewhere. The GPLLM program continues to attract extraordinary and diverse students. This year, they come to us with experience in accounting, banking, finance, HR, insurance, healthcare, real estate, public service, and law, to name but a few. They are professors, entrepreneurs, doctors, heads of legal and compliance, and much more.
Over the past two weeks, our new students have participated in orientation programs designed to familiarize them with the law school and our wonderful community. A big thank you to all the volunteers who contributed to the JD program’s O-Week, including especially the student coordinators, Sophie Fu, Luka Knezevic, and Emily Hean; as well as our Student Programs Manager, Sara-Marni Hubbard and Director of Student Programs, Terry Gardiner. A big thanks also to the Graduate Program staff for enthusiastically preparing to welcome our new SJD, LLM, and GPLLM students to campus and planning a series of orientation events.

As you embark on the new academic year, please bear in mind that there are a number of mental health and wellness supports available within our Faculty as well as at the broader University. The Faculty’s Student Mental Health and Wellness Program Manager, Chantelle Brown-Kent, is available to assist you in navigating these supports, and will continue to embed wellness across our community in line with our JD Student Mental Health Strategy. In addition, we are delighted that Jessie Kussin joined the Faculty’s student services team as our on-location JD Student Mental Health Counsellor. Graduate students are able to access counselling and wellness workshops through the University’s Health and Wellness Centre.

I would like to conclude with a handful of other updates regarding some upcoming events this fall and later in the academic year.
Please join us on September 21st for the annual David B. Goodman Lecture, with Brenda Hale, Baroness Hale of Richmond, Former President, Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. Lady Hale will be presenting "Judicial Independence and Some of its Enemies."

On September 22, we are hosting a Roundtable on Justice Beyond Borders: Justice Abella’s Global Legacy, featuring Justice Susanne Baer (German Federal Constitutional Court), Lord John Dyson (Master of the Rolls and Head of Civil Justice 2010-2016), and Associate Justice Elena Kagan (Supreme Court of the United States). The Roundtable will be moderated by Professor Stephen Toope, Vice-Chancellor, University of Cambridge. The Roundtable will be followed by a dinner at Hart House. A number of tickets for the Roundtable and the dinner have been set aside for students – please look out for a separate e-mail! The Roundtable will be followed, on September 23rd, by a Symposium in Honour of Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella, which is organized around three scholarly papers on areas of law in which Justice Abella has been particularly active: labour law, equality rights law, and public/administrative law. Please join us for presentations by Professors Adelle Blackett (McGill), Paul Daly (Ottawa) and Martha Minow (Harvard), along with comments on their papers.

Another marquee event, the 2022 Grand Moot, is scheduled for September 29. Always a highlight of the academic year, we will have the opportunity to watch our students argue before a distinguished bench. This year’s bench comprises: Justice Nicholas Kasirer (Supreme Court of Canada), Justice Rita Maxwell (Superior Court of Justice of Ontario), and Justice Julie Thorburn (Ontario Court of Appeal). Be sure to mark this very special event in your calendars!

In October, you are all invited to an event celebrating the 90th birthday of James M. Tory Professor of Law Emeritus, Martin Friedland. Four distinguished speakers – Mayo Moran, Robert Prichard, Kent Roach and Robert Sharpe – will offer reflections on Professor Friedland’s wide-ranging contributions to legal scholarship, the Canadian legal system and the administration of justice, public policy, and the Faculty of Law and the University of Toronto. Please join us on October 19 for this wonderful event, followed by a reception featuring a number of special guests.

Before closing, there is one final event, in the second term, for which we ask you to “Save the Date.” On March 2-3, 2023, we will be hosting a conference on Law in a Changing World: The Climate Crisis. The event features speakers from the Faculty of Law, exploring a phenomenon that impacts all areas of law, legal scholarship and legal practice, and all of us as lawyers, whether we think of ourselves as climate law experts or not.

I hope that this year brings fulfillment, enjoyment and intellectual growth for you all!

Best wishes,

Jutta Brunnée, FRSC
Dean, University Professor and James Marshall Tory Dean’s Chair
Associate Member, Institut de droit international

Photo by Alice Xue Photography