It is a special honour to introduce the Chief Justice of Ontario, Michael H. Tulloch, to receive the degree of Doctor of Laws, Honoris Causa at this Convocation of Osgoode Hall Law School of York University.
I first met Chief Justice Tulloch when he was one of three Black law students in first year at Osgoode in the fall of 1986. An immigrant to Canada from Jamaica at the age of nine, he faced challenges in Canada — and at Osgoode — but with diligence and determination, he graduated in 1989 and was called to the Ontario bar in 1991. As a lawyer, he practised as a Crown prosecutor and in a successful private practice before he was appointed to Ontario’s Superior Court in 2003 and then to the Court of Appeal in 2012. In December 2022, when he was appointed Ontario’s Chief Justice, he became the first Black Chief Justice in a Canadian province.
While these are all important accomplishments, this Chief Justice is special for other reasons. He has led systemic reviews of the justice system, and significantly recommended more, not less, education for police in Ontario. His 300-page report about policing of Blacks, especially young males, concluded that “Police stops must be based on more than … a Spidey sense.” He provided leadership on legal and judicial committees and lectured about international justice reforms. At Osgoode, he was a member of the committee that designed the new and ground-breaking “Holistic” Admissions Policy to advance Osgoode’s commitment to “opening doors” to the legal profession for unrepresented communities. He was also the unanimous choice to receive the first Lincoln Alexander Award, presented by Osgoode’s Black Law Students Association.
But beyond these important accomplishments, the Chief Justice is a proud father of five children who is active in charitable and community activities. He is also a man of principle and a passionate, sometimes outspoken, defender of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. He believes strongly in mentoring, especially for young lawyers, and his efforts to create connections between and among friends, colleagues and students reflect this commitment. As a trailblazer in Ontario’s legal profession, the Chief Justice stands on the shoulders of earlier Black lawyers, both men and women, who pursued their dreams, undaunted by the setbacks of racism. Like them, the Chief Justice understands that success is not a destination – but a continuous journey of learning and growth. In continuing his life work as a lawyer and judge, and now as Chief Justice Michael Tulloch, he understands that “inclusion is not about bringing people into what already exists; it is making a new space, a better space for everyone.” Congratulations!