Photos from the 2016 SABA Gala // The Circuit

Hundreds of lawyers come together for the cause of social justice

By Precedent

On Wednesday November 23rd, 2016


What: The 2016 South Asian Bar Association of Toronto Gala
The Liberty Grand, Toronto
November 15, 2016

When Rais Bhuiyan began his keynote speech at the South Asian Bar Association’s Awards Gala, the sounds of clashing cutlery gave way to silence. The audience of more than 380 lawyers, judges and politicians listened intently as the Bangladeshi man recounted the harrowing details of a hate crime. In 2001, he was living in Dallas — and 10 days after 9/11, a white supremacist on a mission to kill Muslims in retaliation for the attacks shot him in the face at close range.

He survived, but in his address at the Liberty Grand last week, spoke of forgiving the man. “It’s natural to want to fight back,” he said. “There’s nothing shameful in having that instinct. But sometimes, instinct does not serve us well in the long run.”

That compassion is why SABA had invited Bhuiyan to speak.

“When we asked Rais to join us, Trump had just been nominated as the Republican candidate,” says Ranjan Agarwal, a partner at Bennett Jones LPP and SABA’s President. “Trump’s fear-mongering, especially against Muslims, prompted us to think about Rais’s message of peace and forgiveness as a response to hate crimes. Our objective is to be an organization that, amongst other things, advocates for social justice.”

To that end, adds Agarwal, the group also doles out awards each year “to showcase South Asian talent.” At this year’s gala, Attorney General Yasir Naqvi humbly collected SABA’s Toronto Legal Excellence Award. And the Canadian Association of Muslim Women in Law received SABA’s Toronto Diversity Award.

As Bhuiyan’s speech came to a close, he reflected on the importance of an organization like SABA. “I’m not only here to share my story with you,” he concluded, “but to thank you for protecting the rights and liberties of South Asian communities. I can’t even fathom what an organization like SABA could have provided me 15 years ago.”

The South Asian Bar Association of Toronto is dedicated to promoting the objectives of South Asian members of the legal profession. To find out more, please visit the SABA website.