Ruth Bansoba
Ruth Bansoba is a 2020 graduate of the civil law program. Image: Ruth Bansoba/Provided
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Ruth Bansoba aims to motivate Black youth to consider a career in the judicial system

The University of Ottawa announced on Jan. 29 that a new scholarship for Black students studying law will be available for the 2020-21 academic year. Created by Ruth Bansoba, a 2020 graduate of the civil law program, the scholarship aims to support Black students in starting their careers in law.

Bansoba, was a founding member of the civil law chapter of the Black Law Students’ Association (BLSA). By creating the scholarship she hopes to motivate Black youth to consider a career in the judicial system. 

“Growing up in Quebec City, I never saw any Black lawyers,” she said. “And once I was in law school there were a few Black students but by second year the number had been cut in half.”

Her motivation behind the scholarships echoes the reasoning behind founding the BLSA during her time at U of O. 

“I realized that there was a major problem [with Black students dropping out], maybe they’re not feeling comfortable or welcomed in that area,” she said. 

“My friends and I got together and founded the BLSA chapter in the civil law section. One of the things we’ve been doing is the Mentor Program, where second or third-year Black law students can mentor first-year Black law students and support them throughout their judicial career.”

Bansoba elaborated on the requirements for applicants, saying the scholarship “is open to students who self-identify as Black, demonstrate financial need, and are involved in the Black community in some way.”

The scholarship is funded in part by Bansoba as well as four lawyers; Alexandre Bien-Aimé, Sabine Uwitonze, Joshua Sally-Harrington, Safiatou Diallo and will reward one student $1,000. 

However Bansoba said they are “hoping to expand the amount and number of students in the next four or five years.” 

Applications close on March 31 for students who have been admitted to the faculty of law, civil law section for Sept. 2021. 

New scholarship available for common law students

The faculty of common law also announced the creation of their own entrance scholarship for Black law students on Feb. 1.

The Black Students Law Scholarship is open to self-identified Black students who demonstrated financial need and have contributed to reducing discrimination for Black Canadians. 

Adam Dodek, the dean of the faculty of common law, wrote in an email to the Fulcrum that the scholarship is to help address “systemic discrimination” in our society. 

“We created this scholarship in response to the heightened awareness over the past year to the need to address systemic discrimination in all aspects of our society including the legal profession, the academy and law schools,” he said.

“For many years, our holistic admissions process has encouraged applicants from diverse backgrounds. To ensure that the student body represents the fullest possible range of social, economic, ethnic and cultural perspectives in our society, the Admissions Committee considers many factors in evaluating applicants.”

According to the faculty of common law website, the Black Law Students Entrance Scholarship, “will provide $10,000 for up to five newly admitted Black law students each year.” 

“The scholarships will be renewable for $5,000 in each of the second and third year of law school for a total value of $20,000 for each student.”

Both the civil law and common law scholarships are looking for continuing donations and applications. 

Applications can be accessed in uOzone under “Online Scholarships and Bursaries.”

Donations for the civil law scholarship and the common law scholarship are open to anyone hoping to contribute.