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Ed Sonshine and his wife, Fran, donated $1-million to Ryerson’s law school to endow a Chair in Race and the Law, which will be part of a racial-justice initiative.Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

The organizer: Ed and Fran Sonshine

The pitch: Donating $1-million

The cause: To create a Chair in Race and the Law at the Lincoln Alexander School of Law.

When Ed Sonshine learned that Ryerson University’s Chancellor Janice Fukakusa had donated $1-million to fund a racial-justice initiative at the university’s law school, he was inspired to do something similar.

Mr. Sonshine and his wife, Fran, are both children of Holocaust survivors and they’ve been concerned about a recent increase in antisemitism. “There’s been a huge rise in antisemitism, really, around the world,” Mr. Sonshine, 75, said from the couple’s home in Florida. “But to my surprise right in good old Toronto and in Canada too. It’s something that I haven’t experienced since I came to Toronto when I was a little toddler.”

The couple decided to follow Ms. Fukakusa’s example and donate $1-million to Ryerson’s law school to endow a Chair in Race and the Law, which will be part of the racial-justice initiative.

Mr. Sonshine, who graduated from York University’s Osgoode Hall law school in 1970, said lawyers have been instrumental over the years in eliminating barriers that promoted intolerance. For example, he said it took a legal challenge to end restrictive covenants that prevented Jews from owning property in many parts of Canada.

“It took a lawyer to take it to court and fight it all the way up to Supreme Court of Canada,” he said. “You never know where these regulations pop up and people don’t even think about it. So law students have to learn about these things.”

While the Sonshines have been active in philanthropy, this is their first gift to a law school and it’s among their most meaningful. “The fact is everybody should be entitled to the same opportunities, and the law is a both a weapon and a shield in ensuring that that happens,” said Mr. Sonshine, who founded RioCan Real Estate Investment Trust. “And I hope, that’s what this chair is going to be teaching young lawyers to be.”

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