Schulich School of Law at Dal­housie Univer­sity

Meet An­gela Sim­monds, Eq­uity & Ac­cess Man­ager, Nova Sco­tia Bar­ris­ters’ So­ci­ety

The Coast - Career Minded - - PAID CONTENT -

An­gela Sim­monds’ path to law school wasn’t a con­ven­tional one. When she ar­rived at Dal­housie Univer­sity’s Schulich School of Law in 2014, she was 38, mar­ried, the mother of three chil­dren and work­ing part-time.

That sum­mer, the Nova Sco­tia Bar­ris­ters’ So­ci­ety hired her to carry out a com­mu­nity-based re­search project on North and East Pre­ston res­i­dents’ con­cerns that their land was be­ing ex­pro­pri­ated by the City of Hal­i­fax.

The prob­lem dates back 200 years, when Black Loy­al­ists were given land with­out le­gal deeds in North Pre­ston by the govern­ment. Res­i­dents with­out deeds can’t legally pass on prop­er­ties to their fam­i­lies, which means their land could be sold off by the Crown.

As a re­sult of her re­search, Sim­monds wrote a re­port ti­tled This Land Is Our Land: African Nova Sco­tian Voices from the Pre­ston Area Speak Up. For her con­tin­u­ing ef­forts on this project and her com­mit­ment to hu­man rights, the Nova Sco­tia Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion hon­oured her in 2017 with its Dr. Burn­ley Al­lan “Rocky” Jones Award.

And on Oc­to­ber 20 in Toronto, she’ll re­ceive a Pathfinder Award from the Cana­dian As­so­ci­a­tion of Black Lawyers, which hon­ours those who have used their le­gal ed­u­ca­tion in a non-tra­di­tional man­ner to make sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tions.

Sim­monds grew up in Cherry Brook, an African Nova Sco­tian com­mu­nity out­side Hal­i­fax. She’d al­ways had a pas­sion for help­ing youth and was hired as a com­mu­nity out­reach worker in the pub­lic school sys­tem in the Pre­ston area.

“I be­gan see­ing sys­temic in­sti­tu­tion­al­ized racism in the schools, and I wanted to be at the table to ef­fect change,” says Sim­monds. “I re­al­ized that law was the best way to be in­cluded in those con­ver­sa­tions.”

Law school was chal­leng­ing, and there were times when Sim­monds ques­tioned if she could fin­ish. But giv­ing up wasn’t an op­tion. “My hus­band, Dean, and I in­stilled in our chil­dren the value of hard work and con­tin­u­ously tell them if you don’t achieve a goal on the first try, you sim­ply try again,” she says.

All through first year she worked part­time, and for the re­main­der of law school she worked as the com­mu­nity li­ai­son for the Nova Sco­tia Bar­ris­ters’ So­ci­ety while stay­ing ac­tive in her com­mu­nity. “It was chal­leng­ing to jug­gle law school, work and a fam­ily—I didn’t sleep much!”

Sim­monds con­tin­ues to be in­ter­ested in so­cial jus­tice, ac­cess to jus­tice for ev­ery­one and ad­vo­cat­ing for her com­mu­nity, not just in Hal­i­fax but all of Nova Sco­tia. “I’m ex­cited about mak­ing a change as a lawyer as well as a com­mu­nity ad­vo­cate. I am very aware that re­spect and priv­i­lege come with a law de­gree.”

“I wanted to be at the table to ef­fect change. Law was the best way to be in­cluded in those con­ver­sa­tions. —An­gela Sim­monds

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