February is when we celebrate Black History Month in Canada. The House of Commons officially recognized the occasion in 1995 following a motion introduced by Jean Augustine, the first Black woman elected to Parliament. In 2008, Donald Oliver, the first Black man on the Senate, moved to have the Senate recognize February as Black History Month, which met unanimous approval. In 2022, the theme of the occasion is “February and Forever: Celebrating Black History today and every day”, which focuses on how the daily contributions of Black Canadians have made Canada a more successful and inclusive nation. That’s why we’re paying tribute to one of our customers, Philip U. Okpala, a lawyer who has greatly supported his local community in Hamilton, Ontario.
Becoming a pillar for his community
Philip graduated from the Law Society of Ontario’s bar admission program in 2007 and decided to establish his law firm in Hamilton. At the time, there was only one other Black lawyer in Hamilton who practiced civil litigation, Philip’s area of expertise. So, after setting up his firm, he was met with tremendous love from the Black community in his new home. When he first moved, Philip remembers how:
“People would make appointments just to come and see the new Black lawyer in town, and some even insisted on paying a fee, which of course I refused.”
He became a pillar of support for the local community, visiting many schools and churches to spread his words of encouragement, showing Black Canadians that they can become lawyers too.
Growing to help others
Philip’s firm, Main Street Lawyers LLP, focuses on helping a wide variety of clients with residential and commercial real estate, civil litigation, and immigration. However, what makes his firm stand out from the rest is Philip’s dedication to mentoring other lawyers. Over the years, he has mentored over 20 Black lawyers. Because he has encouraged many of them to establish their practice in Hamilton, there is now a support network of former mentees who all help each other in their respective areas of practice and influence. So, not only has Philip become an icon for the Black community in Hamilton, but he has also been actively strengthening and building that community by bringing more Black lawyers to his current home. Ultimately, he strives to further grow Main Street Lawyers LLP in the future, so the firm can be in a stronger position to reach out and continue to help more people of colour.
Support from a local partner
Our partnership with Main Street Lawyers LLP makes their day-to-day tasks easier as they pursue their goals. Philip notes that Cogeco Business has helped his firm save costs, while also praising our “excellent technical and customer support.” Additionally, he also appreciates the mobility that our voice solutions provide, Philip says:
“I can conveniently work from anywhere in my office and still have access to my phone system.”
Since his communication solutions are securely managed by us, Philip has more time to focus on his mentoring and contributing to the Black community in Hamilton. And with the ability to work from anywhere, he also has the flexibility his mentees need.
Another aspect of his partnership Philip appreciates is the relationship with his Account Executive, Mike Leitch, a fellow Hamiltonian. Because they have a shared understanding of their community, they are able to have the same vision for growing and supporting regional efforts.
As we celebrate the contributions of Philip and other Black Canadians this February, it’s important to remember that their achievements deserve to be highlighted every day—especially before and after Black History Month.