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Take Down the Racist Cover of Canadian Lawyer Magazine and Issue an Immediate Apology

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In an ironic move to talk about diversity on the bench, the most recent issue of Canadian Lawyer magazine comes with a blatantly racist cover image. This image plays on unconscious stereotypes of black men as aggressors and as dangerous, and contributes to a long history of negative representations of black masculinity in society and in the law. Please sign and share this petition demanding an immediate apology and retraction from Canadian Lawyer magazine.

Canadian Lawyer recently issued a non-apology in response to our concerns (you can see it posted below). The following has been the reaction to their statement:

Dear Editor Cohen,

Your response is duly noted.  Unfortunately, we find it underwhelming and disingenuous.  We have several comments with regard to your response.

1)            We wonder why specific letters and comments relating to your flawed cover were not published.  To issue a response without providing the impetus behind it seems to deny an opportunity for real dialogue and transparency.

2)            Your cover artist, Liam Brazier, has acknowledged on Twitter that the man behind the door was supposed to be a ‘poc’, person of colour. (“…I chose to include a “poc” just as I chose to include a brunette woman, no point did mag relay that it was askew with article”)

3)            Even if Mr. Brazier had not confirmed the ethnicity of the figure, shadows do not operate in the way you claim – skin colour does not turn brown in the absence of light. 

We are troubled by the fact that your recent response is a non-apology that seeks to ignore our real concerns by stipulating that such concerns are the result of a ‘misinterpretation’. Such a response demonstrates to us a troubling lack of regard for a significant portion of your readership that took the time and effort to bring this issue to your attention. It also demonstrates a lack of concern for the issue of diversifying the judiciary with respect to visible minorities who make up an even less significant portion of judges than women.  Regardless of your intent, your actions have left us with a troubling caricature of a black man as a symbol of the “old boys” network that acts to keep women off the bench – a symbol that is in contradiction to reality since black men make up a very small percentage of judges in Canada. Both the troubling and factually incorrect aspects of the image leaves us wondering about the extent of your magazine’s commitment to diversify the bench in regards to visible minorities and women.

We are simply asking that Canadian Lawyer magazine acknowledge the problems associated with the cover, particularly the fact that the image reinforces negative attitudes and stereotypes about visible minorities and women. Such an image has no place in your reputable magazine nor as an accompaniment to a serious news story about the need for greater diversity in the judicial selection processes. 

Despite this, we believe that this situation provides a unique opportunity for Canadian Lawyer magazine to highlight its commitment to diversity and its readership, a readership which includes those from all different backgrounds. We believe this can be accomplished by Canadian Magazine issuing a sincere apology, retracting the image from their website and including an article in its next edition further examining the issue of gender and racial homogeneity of the upper echelons of our profession.


We look forward to your response.


Jason Chung is a graduate of McGill University’s Faculty of Law.  Ngozi Okidegbe is a 4th year student at McGill University’s Faculty of Law.

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