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Editor-in-Chief and Obiter Dicta’s Advertisement Committee,This letter concerns the Davies ad on the back of the last issue where the “D” in Davies is struck through and replaced with a graffitied “SL” rendering the word “Slavies”. It has come to my attention that this is an informal, hyperbolic nickname that some students who have articled there have coined to refer to the workload they experienced during their time with the law firm. In this ad, Davies appears to be re-claiming this reputation and re-positioning it as just part of their story--the other being that they play just as hard and students learn a lot in the process.
I take a real exception to the fact that there are people for whom this joke would even be funny and that this offensive retooling of a name gained enough momentum to take hold in the sub-culture of law students. This is beyond my control and not something that is likely to change until attitudes regarding offensive speech and awareness of its impact change.
That Davies saw fit to run an ad invoking the shameful, genocidal, dehumanizing practice of forced, unpaid, lifelong labour and suffering that was essential to the power the Western world now enjoys is despicable.
What is even more offensive is that the legacy of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, is still alive and well with regard to disparities in access to employment, education, wealth and justice that the descendants of slaves still suffer. It is beyond distasteful for them to jokingly compare the rarified privilege (however rigorous) of working at a Bay Street lawfirm with this history.
It chills me to imagine the decision-making conversation around launching this ad campaign. I imagine either no one voicing an objection to the ad or an objection being met with “we don’t want anyone applying here who can’t take a joke anyway”. So either the potential to offend was not considered or it was dismissed as an acceptable loss. The prospect of either scenario is beneath what I expect from a responsible law firm.
What further distressed me was that my school’s student-run newspaper would elect to run such an ad. Imagine the name of the law firm was not “Davies” but instead rhymed with a particular concentration camp and there were students who saw fit to nickname the firm with that camp’s name? Would an ad with that re-tooling be seen as an appropriate message to inflict on the Osgoode community for the sake of ad dollars?
I find this ad extremely offensive and will read any subsequent running of it as racial harassment as laid out in the Ontario Human Rights code (the relevant excerpt is attached below). I will be writing a letter to Davies as well and encourage likeminded Osgoode community members to let them know that this ad is offensive and illegal and does not depict Davies as a firm that prioritizes equity.
Osgoode Hall Law Student
According to the Human Rights Code:
Racial harassment can happen when someone:
*makes racial slurs or jokes
These kinds of behaviour are wrong even when they are not directed towards you, because they hurt people and make them feel uncomfortable. They can make living and working together very difficult.
To the Editors of the Obiter Dicta,I saw that the Obiter Dicta publishes a Davies ad in which the “D” is crossed out and it says Slavies. I get that we need sponsors for the Obiter Dicta, but I really think that the ad is totally inappropriate and ignorant. No one at Davies works for free. In fact, they get paid upwards of $1450 a week for the work they do.
I think that this ad does not acknowledge that there are still people in the world that do huge amounts of labour for no pay, AND that there are people in the world, at Osgoode, whose ancestors were slaves. I understand that this ad is meant to poke fun at the work ethic that Davies promotes but it disregards a long and horrible history of forcing others to work for no pay.
Osgoode Hall Law Student
To the Editor-in-Chief of the Obiter Dicta,It has come to our attention that the advertisement we recently placed in the Obiter Dicta made some students and faculty believe that we were making light of the very serious subject of slavery.
The intent of the advertisement was instead to try to suggest that the nickname students have used for our firm for many, many years should not dissuade students from considering applying to us for summer or articling positions. We were aiming for some selfdeprecating humour. It did not occur to our team that we would be seen as making light of slavery, rather than simply poking fun at ourselves. Obviously it should have.
We thank those who brought this to our attention and accept their criticism. We sincerely apologize to those who were offended. We will not run the advertisement again.
Director, Student Affairs
Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP