Community Legal Assistance Society
Imagine my surprise when I was assigned my first (supervised) client exactly one week after starting at the Community Legal Assistance Society (CLAS)! Thanks to the SLS Public Interest Advocacy Summer Fellowship, I had the opportunity to spend my 1L summer working in the Mental Health Law Program (MHLP) at CLAS in Vancouver. During my Fellowship, I represented clients who had been involuntarily detained under the BC Mental Health Act (MHA) as they challenged their certification before the Mental Health Review Board.
I interviewed clients, reviewed medical and other records, obtained collateral information, and interviewed witnesses. At the hearings themselves, I cross-examined the clients’ treating psychiatrists, examined-in-chief my own clients, and presented closing arguments on my clients’ behalf. I also provided summary legal information over the telephone to patients about their rights under the MHA. In the other component of my Fellowship, I conducted legal research into possible constitutional challenges relating to the MHA. My Fellowship was an excellent balance of oral advocacy and legal research, which will both be important skills for my future legal practice.
I would strongly encourage any U of T Law student to apply for a Fellowship to be able to seek out these kinds of amazing opportunities. My 1L summer with CLAS was everything I had hoped for and more, and I cannot thank CLAS, the SLS, and U of T Law enough for making this incredible experience possible.
Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation
Thanks to the SLS Fellowship, I was able to spend my summer working at CERA or the Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation. CERA is a small organization with the unique mandate of promoting human rights and fighting discrimination in housing. My Fellowship experience was incredibly rewarding. In my role this summer, I handled intake and communicated with many clients facing stressful situations and discriminatory behaviour by landlords or other tenants in their buildings. The discrimination could have happened in applying for housing or at any point during their residence. I had the opportunity to speak to so many clients and learned advocacy skills that I know I will take with me. My work included advocating with landlords and explaining how discriminatory behaviour is not tolerated under the Ontario Human Rights Code. I also participated in drafting applications at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario and performed research on various topics such as the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Beyond life in the office, I had the chance to attend a hearing at the Ontario Court of Appeal and various seminars for housing workers throughout the city. Without the SLS Fellowship, I would not have had the opportunity to work with CERA in this capacity and I am grateful to both the SLS Fellowship Program and CERA’s staff for welcoming me and giving me an amazing introduction to a career which combines social justice issues and the law.
Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted
The SLS Fellowship allowed me to work with the Association In Defence of the Wrongly Convicted (AIDWYC), a non-profit organization in Toronto which works to exonerate those who have been wrongly convicted of serious crimes and to prevent future wrongful convictions through education and justice reform.
This summer, I undertook an intensive research project investigating wrongful convictions and other miscarriages of justice faced by Indigenous accuseds. After several months of primary and secondary research, I drafted a 30,000 word research paper titled “A Crisis of Conscience: Miscarriages of Justice Faced by Canada’s First Peoples”. Pending final revisions, we hope to publish a short version in a legal journal and the full version as an e-book, to serve as a resource for defence counsel representing Indigenous clients.