About BLAC

OUR TEAM

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J. Michelle Farrell

General Counsel & Executive Director

Michelle began practising law in 1998 and has been called to the bars of Ontario and New York.  After graduating from the University of Ottawa Faculty of Common Law, she began her career in the Department of Justice Legal Excellence program.  Michelle has served in leadership positions with the Toronto Police Service, the Ontario Provincial Police and the York Catholic District School Board where she advised on legal issues as well as on large-scale change and cultural transformation.  In private practice, she represented clients at all levels of court in youth justice, child protection and civil litigation matters.  Michelle is a frequent lecturer and mediator.  She has served on many volunteer boards and is currently serving on the boards of the Ontario Basketball Association and the Kensington Market Jazz Festival.

Michelle’s commitment to working within the Black, African-Canadian communities began as a young student, born and raised in Scarborough, ON in a family who understood that Canada’s promise of being a just and equitable society was not yet realised.  Throughout her career, she has challenged anti-Black racism in its many forms.

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Danette A. Edwards

Legal Director

Danette attended Osgoode Hall Law School at York University and was called to the Ontario Bar in 2002. She acquired broad legal experience in the clinic system, the provincial government and in the private sector. She has extensive litigation experience and has argued cases before all levels of court in Ontario, including the Divisional Court and the Court of Appeal. She has appeared before various administrative tribunals, such as the Social Benefits Tribunal, Social Assistance Review Board, and the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board.

In her role as Legal Director, Danette brings her passion, skills, and experience to assist in empowering community. Fundamentally, Danette believes in Dr. Walter Rodney’s vision of a unified Black people and is therefore committed to building alliances across Black communities to combat anti-Black racism.

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JOSH LAMERS

Executive Lead

Josh Lamers (he/him) is one of the co-creators of the Collective of Child Welfare Survivors (CCWS) and is a core member and the Executive Lead of CCWS. Josh is a Black queer organizer, activist, law student, and child welfare survivor/abolitionist. Josh spent the first 3.5 years of his life in and out of foster care in rural Ontario until experiencing further racial displacement in adoption to a white home in another predominantly white rural town.

Josh’s community and academic work centres the intersections of Blackness, Disability and madness, child welfare survivorship, queerness and transness. Josh is the co-creator of various Black radical spaces that organize against anti-Black racism in institutions like post-secondary education. Josh’s award-winning research centres the abolition of child welfare through the experiences of Black child welfare survivors and families. Josh has his Bachelor and Master of Social Work from X University, and is currently a Juris Doctor Candidate at University of Windsor in his final year.

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Lesa Medhin

Office Manager

Lesa Medhin is responsible for day-to-day office management at BLAC. She is committed to leading and working with dynamic staff, students and volunteers to carry out BLAC’s mandate to combat anti-Black racism in Ontario.

Over the past 20 years, Lesa has worked as a Law Clerk for personal injury, family law and estate law firms in Toronto and as a Provincial Program Coordinator and Administrator for multiple specialty legal clinics in Ontario. As an author, Lesa has also published literature on topics related to the Black Feminist Theory, Critical Race Theory, Black motherhood and families, and Anti-Black Racism.         

Lesa holds a Law Clerk Diploma from Centennial College and a Diploma (Hons.) in Business Administration from the Toronto School of Business.

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SHEVAUN PIERRE

Intake Coordinator/Paralegal

Shevaun Pierre (she/her) is the Intake Coordinator/Paralegal at the Black Legal Action Centre (BLAC). She is a graduate of Seneca College of Applied Arts and Technology.

Prior to joining BLAC, she worked in the Provincial Offences Court, Court Services and Prosecutions departments. Shevaun has sat on the Property Standards and Animal Services Appeal Committee and the Youth Justice Committee of the Boys and Girls club in Durham Region.

Shevaun has participated in discussions regarding anti-Black racism in literature and has worked towards amplifying Black voices in literature.

Shevaun is committed to community, equity, and diversity and working towards combating anti-Black racism in Ontario.

 

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Tahirah Reynolds

Intake Worker

Tahirah Reynolds (she/her) is an emerging therapist with a background in psychology, currently pursuing her Master of Social Work at the University of Toronto with a focus on mental health and health. Her focus is on centering the experiences of Black youth and families impacted by structural barriers and violence. Tahirah has also provided support to BLAC’s community partner CCWS, offering services to Black families affected by anti-Black racism within the child ‘welfare’ system.

She also currently provides psychotherapy at a non-profit organization in the GTA, providing care through the frameworks of abolitionism and anti-oppressive practice. In addition to providing psychotherapy, her experience is informed through research specifically focusing on the global experiences of underserved communities such as sexual health, HIV prevention, gender-based violence, and climate change. Tahirah’s passion for art and painting seamlessly integrates into her therapeutic approach, offering creative avenues for healing and expression.

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PIERA SAVAGE

Staff Lawyer

Piera Savage (she/her) is a Staff Lawyer at BLAC. She is committed to working towards racial equity by advocating for our clients and breaking down systemic barriers to equality.

She began working in the clinic system prior to her call to the bar in 2016, starting at Parkdale Community Legal Services in the Social Assistance Violence and Health division, and then expanding her practice to housing, immigration and employment law as an articling student. Piera then worked at West Scarborough Community Legal Services for four years with a focus on Housing, Social Assistance, and Immigration law.

At BLAC, Piera continues her work by representing individuals at the Landlord and Tenant Board, Human Rights Tribunal, and Social Benefits Tribunal. She approaches her work from an anti-racist, anti-oppressive, and trauma-informed lens.

Piera is a graduate of Concordia University and Osgoode Hall Law School. Outside of work, Piera loves to sing, cook, and write.

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SHERIDAN SMITH

Staff Lawyer

Sheridan Smith (she/her) is a Staff Lawyer at BLAC. She is committed to using the law as a tool for advocacy and change.

Sheridan’s commitment to assisting others extends beyond her legal career. With over a decade of involvement in community-based and educational programs, Sheridan has developed spaces that facilitate solutions, awareness and promote positive change. Her experiences extend across borders, embracing communities not just in Ontario but also across the Caribbean and the UK.

Sheridan’s journey began with a degree in Social Work that established a strong basis for her pursuit of justice and advocacy. Since finishing law school and becoming a lawyer in 2022, Sheridan has combined her Social Work legal knowledge, and approaches problems with a mix of creativity and determination to help clients find solutions that work for them.

At BLAC, Sheridan practices prison law and human rights law, dedicated to upholding the rights of individuals within correctional facilities and in broader societal contexts.

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Sheldon James

Staff Lawyer

With a passion for advocating for marginalized families and individuals, Sheldon has demonstrated a commitment to equity and faith in the justice system’s ability to address the needs of historically underserved communities.

His unique perspective on diversity and race relations, shaped by living, working, and attending school in both the United States and Canada, further enriches his approach.
Sheldon’s legal acumen spans litigation and transactional law, earning him a reputation for unwavering commitment to achieving favorable outcomes for clients.

Beyond his legal prowess, he actively engages in community service and pro bono work, striving to make a positive impact beyond the courtroom.

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Anil Philip

Community Legal Worker

Anil Philip (he/him) works as a Community Legal Worker at the Black Legal Action Centre (BLAC). He has a bachelor’s degree with honours in Criminology from York University. Anil has always been passionate about community advancement since his adolescence. He was actively involved in various extracurricular activities during high school, which gradually led him to become interested in community service.

Anil was born in Canada and has lived in Ontario for over 15 years, where he has continuously searched for opportunities to give back to his community. He has volunteered with educational groups such as the Sexual Education Centre (UTM SEC) at the University of Toronto Mississauga campus. Additionally, he was the Social Justice Chair for York University’s Caribbean Student Association (CSA), where he facilitated several community forums and initiated an annual Christmas drive for low-income families.

Anil is a natural problem solver and innovator who is passionate about improving his community, serving the people, and making a difference.