After graduating with honours from the Faculty of Law, Civil Law Section, Ruth Bansoba set out to create an admission scholarship for Black students wanting to study civil law at uOttawa. This young alumna dreams of a justice system more representative of our society and is determined to improve diversity and equity in the legal field.
Ruth’s deep passion for law has existed for as long as she can remember and is rooted in her personal history. Born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1993, she and her family fled to a Ugandan refugee camp before finally finding refuge in Canada in 2001.
“I witnessed civil wars and acts of extreme violence,” she says. “Then, in Canada, I experienced and saw discrimination and racism. Everyone reacts to injustice differently. For my part, I saw the field of law as the way to take action against the ones I have witnessed and been the target of. I’m not a Utopian — I don’t see myself bringing about world peace. But I do know I can make a difference.”
She saw the University of Ottawa as an avenue for achieving this goal, and today, she is looking to pay it forward. With help from the University’s Development Office, Ruth created the Bansoba Admission Scholarship as a way to help fuel this change and provide greater opportunities for the next generations of Black law students. She hopes that that down the road, we see more diversity, inclusion and equity in the field of law.
Toward more representation in law
Ruth, who is currently studying for the Bar, has witnessed the severe lack of representation and inclusion in institutions, courthouses and large law firms. Despite her enthusiasm and determination, she reflects on the obstacles she faced and how they’ve led to moments of self-doubt. “When you don’t have role models to fall back on, you wonder if you’re really in the right place,” she says.
She recalls another Black student who shared similar concerns. “She wrote me to say how difficult she found her studies. Law is a very demanding field, which makes it even more important for everyone to feel included and to support one another. It’s hard to explain our experience as racialized persons,” shares Ruth, adding that the other student had left the field before finishing her degree. “I said to myself: we can’t afford that — we have to support each other.”
This inspired Ruth to become a founding member of a Civil Law Section chapter of the Black Law Students’ Association (BLSA) in 2019.
The BLSA spearheaded several initiatives, including a peer mentoring program, which Ruth says is working incredibly well. They also organized several lectures to raise awareness about discrimination, which were widely attended.
Ruth is grateful for the support she received in bringing about these achievements, particularly from the dean of the Civil Law Section, Marie-Eve Sylvestre and assistant dean Pierre Thibault. “I immediately noticed their openness. I’ll never be able to thank them enough,” she says, adding that the Civil Law Section as a whole also helped her set up the scholarship.
“I’m extremely proud that this scholarship was created: not only will it support our future Black students, but also it will allow us to celebrate Ruth’s leadership and her immense contribution to our community,” says Sylvestre. “I’m all the more grateful because this scholarship aligns perfectly with a series of measures we intend to take in order to foster a welcoming and equitable environment for Black and racialized students in the Faculty.”
A helping hand for future generations
Ruth wants those who will receive the scholarship, as well as all members of Black communities interested in studying law, to know that they belong in law school and can forge ahead with confidence.
“I want to tell them that it won’t necessarily be easy, but that the Association, the Faculty and the University are here to support them,” explains Ruth. Thus, the scholarship named after her has two main goals; first, to encourage youth from Black communities to consider law as a career plan. The second goal is to provide financial support in the first year to a Black student who shows commitment to the Black community as well as perseverance and a thirst for success.
Students beginning their undergraduate studies in September 2021 can submit an application for the Bansoba Admission Scholarship for Black Students ‒ Civil Law Section between February 1 and March 31, 2021.
Ruth says she’s pleased to have already witnessed such a great spirit of generosity from the Civil Law Section, lawyers from the Black community, teaching staff, and even from the student body. “I’d like to thank everyone who has already contributed to the fund and who believed in this project from the start. Thank you for being part of the change!” she adds.
To contribute to the fund, make sure to fill out the donation form.