Ontario Ministry of Education, Assistant Deputy Minister, Indigenous Education and Wellbeing Division
Denise is the President and founder of the Black Female Lawyers Network (BFLN), known fondly as “Sistahs-in-Law”. The genesis for the organization began in her home in 2006 through a gathering of Black female lawyers focussed on promoting mentorship, providing professional development and fostering dialogue about the unique experiences linked to race, gender and identity for Black women practising law. Under her tutelage, combined with the time and dedication of a group of talented, visionary Black women lawyers, BFLN has evolved into a thriving registered non-profit organization with national membership.
The Annual Sistahs-In-Law Retreat and Fundraiser welcomes over 100 attendees from across the country. It provides a safe space for students and practitioners to convene, share and learn through workshops, networking and mentorship opportunities. The Retreat has expanded through a partnership with the Ontario Justice Education Network (OJEN) to include a program that supports the participation of high school girls who are matched with mentors and develop skills that positively impact their life experience.
Denise commenced her legal career conducting criminal and drug prosecutions with the Province, as an Assistant Crown Attorney in Kitchener and Toronto and with the Federal Prosecution Service in the Department of Justice. She excelled within in the Ministry of the Attorney General to take on the leadership roles as Legal Director of Crown Law Office Civil, and eventually becoming the Legal Director for the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services.
Denise has been a lifelong mentor and coach to many students and legal professionals. She describes it as the passion that led to her interest in education. Currently, she is the Assistant Deputy Minister of the Indigenous Education and Well–Being Division in the Ontario Ministry of Education. She leads ministry teams dedicated to developing policies and promoting programming that creates the equitable, safe and inclusive learning environment necessary to achieve student success. The work of the division focuses on Indigenous education, student well–being, safe and healthy schools, parent and student engagement, and equity and inclusive education.
Denise holds a B.A. in political science and economics from McGill University and a law degree from University of Windsor. She earned her Master’s degree in Adult Education from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto. In 2017, she was recognized for improving the lives of young women and girls as a recipient of the 2017 YWCA Toronto Women of Distinction Award in Law.