Student-initiated fund aims to increase the legal profession’s Black representation
When Frédérique Delapree, Law’05, entered first-year Law in the autumn of 2002, she had two of the three things she needed to succeed: the marks and more than enough ambition to do well. The one thing she lacked was enough money for her tuition.
Fortunately, Delapree received a helping hand that proved to be the difference-maker for her; “I was able to attend Queen’s Law with the assistance of bursaries and scholarships,” she recalls. “I have never forgotten how important that money was to me in my student days.”
Her gratitude for that support goes a long way toward explaining why today, 15 years after graduation, she is “paying it forward” as a donor to the Cecil Allan Fraser Bursary for Black JD students.
That award, which was devised and jointly initiated by Nigel Masenda, Law’20, a past president of the Queen’s chapter of the Black Law Students’ Association, and Daniel Wolfe, Artsci’21, Co-President of the Queen’s Pre-Law Society, commemorates Cecil Allan Fraser, QC, LLB’61 (BA’58). Fraser was the first Black student to graduate from Queen’s Law. He went on to an illustrious career as a Senior Solicitor with the federal civil service in Ottawa, and in 1992 he received the Commemorative Medal for the 125th Anniversary of the Confederation of Canada for his many contributions to his fellow citizens, his community, and the country.
Ironically, unbeknownst to her, Ottawa-born Frédérique Delapree followed in Fraser’s footsteps when she, too, joined the federal civil service. Today, she is in the midst of her career as a Foreign Service Officer with Global Affairs Canada. “I didn’t know Cecil Fraser’s story when I was at Queen’s Law, but I’m glad to have learned it now,” she says. “As a student, I remember looking for faces like mine in the alumni photos that lined the halls of the law school and wondering what their stories were. I’m delighted to honour Cecil Fraser’s legacy by contributing to the bursary.”
It’s clear that many others share those sentiments. Once the students got things started with their campaign to solicit commitments from potential donors, Dean Mark Walters, Law’89, stepped in with a $100,000 contribution from the Faculty. That really got the ball rolling; donations now are coming in from far and wide. Already a total of 68 donations have been made by alumni, friends, and corporations.
“The initiative of Nigel Masenda and Daniel Wolfe and the truly wonderful financial commitments made by our donors will make a real difference for future Black law students,” says the Dean. “Such broad dedication to justice for Black communities is inspiring, really, and the Faculty is thrilled to be able to work with all of them to follow through and ensure that Queen’s Law truly reflects the diversity of Canadian society.”
Donations and commitments to the Fraser Bursary fund certainly reflect that diversity. As Masenda puts it, the impetus behind the initiative quickly became “an organic snowball.” Support has been pledged and received not only from school alumni, but also from interested groups and individuals with no formal ties to Queen’s Law.
Among them is the Toronto-based BlackNorth Initiative (BNI), an anti-racism agency led by the Canadian Council of Business Leaders Against Anti-Black Systemic Racism. Wes Hall, the Council’s founder and chair, says, “We’re proud to support a meaningful initiative to ensure barriers are continuously removed for Black students, creating equal opportunities.”
Walied Soliman, Chair of Norton Rose Fulbright Canada LLP and Hall’s BNI colleague, has also made an individual donation to the Fraser Bursary. “The legal profession succeeds in Canada because of the Rule of Law; however, if citizens don’t see themselves reflected in its advocates and judiciary, the profession will have failed,” says Soliman. “Sadly, Black lawyers and judges remain significantly underrepresented in the legal profession.”
Hasini McRae, Law’05, Legal Counsel with the Hospital for Sick Children (“SickKids”) in Toronto, agrees wholeheartedly with Soliman’s lament. “As a woman of colour, I think the legal profession has a long way to go to be more diverse and inclusive of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour) lawyers,” she says. “I’m happy to support the Fraser Bursary as a necessary step towards addressing the financial inequities that may keep bright students from pursuing a legal education. I look forward to learning about more initiatives taken by Queen's Law to recruit and support BIPOC students.”
Says Greg Richards, Law’79, Counsel with WeirFoulds LLP in Toronto, “Contributing to the bursary provides an opportunity to assist current Black JD students at Queen’s while honouring the memory, leadership, and achievements of Mr. Fraser. It’s a winning combination. The initiative of the students who conceived of the bursary and worked hard to have it established is impressive and deserves our support.”
That message prompted a gift from Katherine Tew Darras, Law’94, General Counsel at New York-based International Swaps and Derivatives Association Inc. (ISDA). “I was excited to be one of the first donors to the Fraser Bursary,” she says. “It’s so important to encourage and expand the Black Canadian presence at Queen’s Law. I encourage all of my fellow Queen’s Law alumni to participate by donating as much as they’re able to this bursary fund.”
Learn more about Cecil Allan Fraser.
To make a gift to the Cecil Allan Fraser Bursary, please visit our online giving web page.
By Ken Cuthbertson, Law’83