Black History Month Spotlight: The Honourable Selwyn Romilly
Throughout the month of February, FSA Members shared their admiration for Black leaders and organizations and created an impressive, extensive recommended reading list. As we post the last of our series, we thank our members for helping us honour this important month.
The Honourable Selwyn Romilly was the first Black B.C. Supreme Court Justice (appointed in 1995). In fact, he was a trailblazer from the start of his legal career, the first Black student to graduate from UBC Law (Class of 1965-1966 Allard School of Law). When Romilly became a judge in 1974, he was the first Black person appointed to any court in B.C. Born in Trinidad, Romilly’s “first choice was to study in England, but friends of his who were studying engineering at UBC convinced him to move to Vancouver” (Allard UBC).
During Justice Romilly’s long and prominent career he became recognized for making major contributions to the development of the law in British Columbia and Canada. In a high-profile case in 2003, Justice Romilly committed Nazi war criminal Michael Seifert, an SS guard, to be extradited to Italy, where he was eventually convicted.
Justice Romilly has been honored with numerous awards and distinctions including from the Harambee Foundation, the Congress of Black Women, the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers, the Black Law Students Association of Canada, and the City of Vancouver.
Considering these many honours and accomplishments, it was widely decried as both ironic and shocking when Justice Romilly was detained and handcuffed by Vancouver police while they were looking for a Black man half his age on May 14, 2021. As a manifestation of the continuing existence of systemic racism, the incident underscored the need for the ongoing work of acknowledging and addressing racism in society.
When contacted shortly after the incident, “Romilly said the department has reached out to apologize, and that he does not plan to file a complaint, but that, ‘they have to learn’” (Global News).
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