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Donald McLeod has tried to be a leader in his community. For that, he has paid a steep price, writes Jamil Jivani. 

Imagine you grew up seeing some of the harshest conditions in your city: public housing and poverty. Like many of your peers, you struggled in school, but a dream to attend university was realized thanks to God’s grace, mom’s love, hard work and student loans. After exceeding all expectations to become a lawyer, you chose to represent clients in the neighbourhoods you once called home, eventually starting a criminal defence and human-rights law practice.

After such an improbable rise, consider how you’d feel when given the opportunity to serve on the judiciary, a pillar in the governmental machine that adjudicates matters of inequality with which you’re intimately familiar. You bring your unique insights into the courtroom and you’re an exemplary member of the judiciary. But because you’re a highly regarded member of a beleaguered community, you feel compelled to do more. Everywhere you turn, you’re reminded of the many problems in need of solutions: drive-by shootings put parents and children in danger of stray bullets, failing schools allow high-potential children to slip through the cracks, viral videos of police misconduct erode trust between cops and communities in need of ethical law enforcement. You’re left to wonder if you should be a voice for change outside of the courtroom, too, and what exactly that would entail.

Jamil Jivani
Senior Fellow at Macdonald-Laurier Institute

Jamil Jivani is an award-winning lawyer and author, who serves as the Government of Ontario’s first-ever advocate for Community Opportunities. He also leads a youth-focused research nonprofit, Road Home Research & Analysis, which is supported by the Pinball Clemens Foundation, and hosts a weekly radio show, “Tonight with Jamil Jivani” on Newstalk 1010.