Trailblazers x uOttawa: Ruth Maniriho Bansoba (LLL ’20): From a refugee camp to the bar

Posted on Wednesday, February 23, 2022

When Tiyahna Ridley-Padmore, BScSoc, and Merryl-Royce Ndema-Moussa, BSc, published their children’s book, Trailblazers: The Black Pioneers Who Have Shaped Canada, the uOttawa alumni brought to light 40 stories of Canada’s Black history that have for too long remained undertold.This February, we’ve teamed up with Ridley-Padmore and Ndema-Moussa to celebrate Black History Month and create new portraits and poems of four Black uOttawa alumni who have made a significant mark on the University.

Meet Ruth Maniriho Bansoba:

illustration of Ruth Bansoba

Ruth is a lawyer,

determined, brave, and smart.

Her passion for justice

is how she got her start.

 

When she was young,

and living in the DRC,

violence and war erupted.

Her family was forced to flee.

 

Determined by the wrongs she’d suffered,

the injustices that she saw,

Ruth wanted to learn her rights,

and that’s what got her into law.

 

The road to get there wasn’t easy,

and law school had its doubts.

Black students weren’t well-supported,

and many would drop out.

 

To aid more Black students to succeed,

Ruth helped launch the Black Law Student Association.

She also worked with more Black youth,

to uplift the next generation.

 

Ruth helps support others,

to reach their full ambition,

with human rights, justice, and belonging,

at the centre of her mission.

 

portrait of Ruth Bansoba

Ruth Maniriho Bansoba’s greatest — though surely not last — achievement has been establishing an admission scholarship awarded to students of diverse backgrounds who are beginning studies in law.

More intriguing is that thanks to her ability to bring people together, she established this scholarship before even finishing her legal studies. “At first, I said to myself this won’t work. Who establishes a scholarship while they’re a student?” But people believed in the idea and, in no time, the funding needed was raised. “Without the support of the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law and of lawyers of diverse backgrounds, the scholarship wouldn’t exist,” she says.

“In my profession, we need more people ‘with names you can’t pronounce,’” says Bansoba, in jest. “I hope there will be sufficiently diverse models available within law so that future generations don’t have to ask the same questions I asked myself.”

Born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Bansoba is the fourth of eight children in her family and the first to go to university. Her family fled the country due to war and spent five years in a refugee camp in Uganda before arriving in Quebec in 2001. As a teen, Bansoba noticed the lack of Black community representation in the legal profession. Not the best student, receiving little encouragement and without models she could identify with, she didn’t find her way to law right away, even if it was her dream. Only after a year teaching French in western Canada did she decide to give herself a chance and start a certificate in law at uOttawa. Deservedly proud, she received her highest average “ever.” Finally, she could believe that her dream of becoming a lawyer was possible.

Bansoba is highly motivated to give back to her community and pave the way for future youth of diverse backgrounds, so that they can enter the legal profession. Called to the Quebec Bar last December, she wishes to encourage diversity and access to justice, whether it means a career in law or benefiting from legal services.

“There are allies everywhere, allies who can help using different ways. But we might not see them if we don’t have an open mind.”

— Ruth Maniriho Bansoba

Bansoba dreams of the day when financial aid to encourage diversity and inclusion in law will be offered at all Canadian universities, coast to coast.

To contribute to the fund, make sure to fill out the donation form.

Back to top