Black History Month 2021: The Honourable Justice Lori Anne Thomas: Find People Who Will Help You Through Adversity

The IntelexOne Visible Minorities, Womxn and Allies employee resource groups invited The Honourable Justice Lori Anne Thomas to join Intelex employees for a discussion on her career, the importance of representation in the judicial system and how allyship played a role in her career.   

The Honourable Justice Lori Anne Thomas is a judge in the Ontario Court of Justice (Toronto). Before her appointment, Justice Thomas was a criminal defense lawyer for 11 years. She was the President of the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers (CABL) and was an executive board member on the Criminal Lawyers’ Association (CLA) Board, where she was the only racialized member for four years.

She has made submissions to the Federal Government on proposed criminal law amendments. Justice Thomas is a frequent speaker on various topics at educational events held by the Canadian Institute for the Administration of Justice, Law Society of Ontario, CABL, CLA, Osgoode Hall Law School, Ryerson University and the Public Prosecution of Canada.

The following are some insights from a Q&A that was part of the event.

What advice do you have for anyone facing adversity?

Find the people who will help you through it …the top five people define you. Those five people that surround you day-by-day those are the people who will decide where you go in life.

If you have five good people – even two good people around you – who make you feel good, those [are] people that you go to when you’re having a bad day and they say, “Let’s try to make it better.” [Turn to them] instead of those people who judge you and question you or make you feel like you’re not good enough. Get rid of those people, they are not the ones that are going to help you succeed, they are only going to bring you down. [Surround yourself with people] who make you feel good and push you to do better, have those truth tellers who are supportive [of you] around you.

What call to action can we give to people who want to be our allies?

1) Make yourself aware of what the issues are.
2) Recognize and be aware of discrimination when you see it and call it out.

What does Black History Month really mean [to you]?

In a way it’s great to have a time to highlight black excellence as well as historical obstacles and events that have occurred in black history. Black history is necessary because it’s not part of our everyday. I didn’t learn enough about black history when I was in school and I don’t think it’s enough. Highlighting excellence is fantastic, but it would be great if it was a celebration and the historical aspect was more of 365-day event. That to me would mean that we achieved an optimal recognition in terms of our past and going forward in our present.

Can you offer words of advice for women of color who are dealing with imposter syndrome?

Find people who you can connect with. Find other people of color [women or men]. Find people who are not women or men of color, especially those who are more on the leadership side in your profession, because they will be your allies and give you insight into how they succeeded. It’s not going to be the same experience but it’s going to be some great insight into how they think and how they do things. They will also open your network and connect you with other people.

Even if you have a mentor that doesn’t look like you or have the same experience as you in terms of background, you can certainly complement each other and learn from each other and have a really solid relationship.

Intelex Technologies is joining the celebration of Black History Month 2021 by launching a blog series that shares the first-person experiences of our employees and others and celebrates their accomplishments and contribution to Intelex. Read other Black History 2021 blog posts:

Black History Month 2021 Celebrates the Black Family: Representation, Identity and Diversity

Lorenzo Tennant: Remain True to Who You Are and Never Forget the Obstacles You Have Endured and Overcome to Get to this Moment

Thierry Beaulière: Trust Yourself, Have Faith in your Abilities and Be True to your Morals and your Values

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