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mental to its development. Justice Walkem’s role in the development of that
law is similarly inspiring. Louise Mandell, Q.C., recounts in these pages
how Justice Walkem’s practice furthered the “golden thread” of the common
law by involving work for and on behalf of individuals and peoples disempowered
within the legal system. Again, the role of counsel in
addressing historical wrongs and giving voice to those without one is at the
core of the common law’s development. It is a work very much in progress
and made to progress by advocates.
We also learn in the tribute to Justice Walkem that both of her parents
were residential school survivors. As we write this piece, Canada’s flags fly
at half-mast and 215 pairs of children’s shoes on the Art Gallery steps in
Vancouver provide a solemn and sobering remembrance for the Indigenous
children whose remains have been recently located at the Kamloops Indian
Residential School. This horrific and devastating discovery only adds to the
enormous work that lies ahead for lawyers (and others) tasked with reconciliation,
healing and recognition of Aboriginal rights and culture. People
are hard at work making this happen, but the work is not going to be easy.
History, it seems, is sometimes unfathomable.
The appointment of Justice Walkem may truly be the “ray of hope” Ms.
Mandell describes. But one might have thought that the appointment of
Judge Selwyn Romilly to the Provincial Court in 1974 and then to the British
Columbia Supreme Court in 1995 was a similar step in the right direction,
given that he was the first Black person appointed to either court. His
appointment was likely a similar “ray of hope” for the Trinidadian community
47 years ago. But here we are in 2021. We still have an awfully long way
to go as a society when it comes to matters of race. Even in our January
1996 edition we noted that Justice Romilly made a daily outing onto the seawall
in Stanley Park. How horrible, then, that 25 years later, now retired and
while enjoying that very same seawall, he found himself unlawfully
detained and handcuffed by members of the Vancouver Police Department
on the dubious basis that he shared the same skin colour as someone causing
a disturbance in the area. Handcuffed. That’s right. Justice Romilly
received apologies from the police department and the city, but how can
such a thing even happen in 2021?
Addressing this injustice in an open letter to the city and the police
department dated May 17, 2021, Vancouver criminal lawyer Joven Narwal
led the charge:
History repeated itself last Friday, with the wrongful arrest of the Honourable
Selwyn Romilly (“Hon. S. Romilly”).
In 1974, Valmond Romilly, the younger brother of Hon. S. Romilly, who
also later became a provincial court judge (“Hon. V. Romilly”), was