Justice Michael Tulloch of the Ontario Court of Appeal received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Ryerson University in Toronto at a graduation ceremony last week. In his address after receiving the honorary doctorate, Justice Tulloch told graduating students of the problem of systemic discrimination in Canada and called for meaningful change. The following is an excerpt from his address:
We are all very lucky to be Canadians, and I can say that I am proud to be a Canadian and to live in a society where the Rule of Law prevails. We should desire a just society where all children, regardless of their backgrounds, colour or creed are able to dream, make those dreams a reality, and see themselves as inextricably tied to the well-being and equity of all members of society.
We must also come to grips with the reality that while Canada is indeed a great country, the greatness of this country is not experienced in the same way by all its inhabitants. In fact, many in this country are experiencing significant individual and systemic discrimination. For instance, First Nations, racialized communities, religious minorities, newcomers, LGBTQ2+ communities experience a very different lived experience on a daily basis. Some of us exist in two very different solitudes, where there are large economic, social and cultural disparities, which at times result in psychological, emotional and physical distress. In many cases, the negative effects of these social and economic disparities often lead to a cycle of multi-generational poverty and economic dependency that is difficult to overcome.
These are all challenges that we must address and rectify in order to have a truly just society. I have confidence in our collective generations’ ability and capacity to eliminate these disparities.
But we need to have the courage and the political will to do so. We need to confront our privilege, because those of us who find ourselves in relative privilege often feel that other peoples’ suffering or problems are a result of their own choices and not our concern.
The reality, however, is that we are inextricably tied together as a community. It is therefore incumbent on us to be concerned about the well-being of people both within and outside of our own communities and be a part of making meaningful change for everyone