Dear Allard Law Community,
It is with great sadness that I share the news of the passing of the Honourable Selwyn Romilly (LLB ’66). Selwyn was one of the first Black graduates of the Faculty of Law at UBC and he attended law school during the turbulent 1960s when society – and certainly law schools – were incredibly hostile environments for Black youth. These challenging beginnings to his career make his subsequent achievements and contributions to the legal community all the more impressive.
After graduating from UBC, Selwyn found success as a lawyer and was the first Black person appointed to the Provincial Court of British Columbia. As a Provincial Court judge, he could apply the law elegantly and with sophistication without losing perspective of the life story of the person before him. This application of judgment is the very essence of justice. In 1995 he was the first Black person appointed to the Supreme Court of British Columbia. When he retired, he had spent a combined 40 years as a jurist, well-respected and praised by his judicial peers and the legal community for his sense of justice, his high regard for the rule of law and his grace. You can learn more about his career on the Allard Law History Project.
Consistent with his record of overcoming adversity, looking for opportunity, and advancing justice, Selwyn worked tirelessly to instill these values in law students and in young lawyers. He led by example with his character, his words and his actions. He was a passionate role model who inspired students and lawyers, especially Black students and lawyers, to achieve their professional dreams. Dedicated to creating a more representative justice system, he also helped establish Allard Law’s first student award dedicated to supporting incoming Black Canadian JD students.
I will always be grateful to Selwyn for his mentorship of students at Allard Law. The Black Law Students’ Association of UBC co-president, Tinashe Muzah, reflected on Selwyn's legacy: “The Black Law Students' Association of UBC expresses our deepest condolences to the friends and family of Selwyn Romilly. Not only did he have an immeasurable impact on the greater legal community, he profoundly supported the Black students at Allard. Selwyn leaves behind a towering legacy embodied by his incomparable achievements and the people, such as ourselves, whom he mentored, supported, and inspired. May he rest in peace.”
On behalf of the law school and all his friends at Allard Law, I offer our deepest condolences to Selwyn’s family and friends. There is no lawyer of colour in British Columbia, and no judge, who does not know, admire, and highly respect the work and the legacy of the Honourable Selwyn Romilly.
Peter A. Allard School of Law
University of British Columbia