Legal Super Heroes
Manitoba’s Pro Bono Students Canada volunteers fight for access to justice
Pro Bono Students Canada is a national pro bono organization with Chapters at 22 law schools across the country, including the University of Manitoba. The PBSC’s mission is to provide free legal support to people and communities facing barriers to justice. Each year, about 1,500 PBSC volunteers provide approximately 120,000 hours of free legal services to over 400 organizations, courts and tribunals across the country. PBSC matches law student volunteers (“Student Volunteers”) to Partner Organizations to provide free legal support to people and communities facing barriers to justice. By exposing law students to the value of Pro Bono service, PBSC aims to encourage the next generation of lawyers to make pro bono service an everyday part of their practice. Volunteering with PBSC is open to first, second and third year law students.
Volunteers at the University of Manitoba chapter have gained valuable legal experience in clinical settings, on research projects, and as legal interns throughout the Academic Year. Past partners have included the Community Legal Education Association, the Legal Help Centre, and JusticeTrans. PBSC Volunteer Placements are posted each September with details about the type of project, who the project is for, an overview of the project, and the areas of law the placement engages with. Applications are sent out to students with the postings and are due in September as well, with placements starting in October. Exact dates change year to year, but PBSC will email all students prior to each important recruitment date as well as post on its social media and the MLSA Facebook page. The PBSC Manitoba chapter can be emailed at probono [at] umanitoba [dot] ca any time throughout the year for more information in regards to recruitment and volunteering with PBSC.
In 2022 – 2023, the PBSC Manitoba Chapter coordinators were Tyson Priebe (2L), and Ashley Bains (3L). They reported that 68 law students participated in PBSC placements over the last year assisting the following 17 organizations:
- Canadian Civil Liberties Association
- Community Legal Education Association
- Community Unemployed Help Centre
- Creative Manitoba
- Elizabeth Fry Society
- Law Society of Manitoba
- Level Justice
- Manitoba Eco-Network
- Manitoba Association of Rights and Liberties
- Manitoba Harm Reduction Network
- Manitoba Law Reform Commission
- New Directions
- Rainbow Resource Centre
- Resource Assistance for Youth
- Sex Workers of Winnipeg Action Coalition
- Winnipeg Food Council
Developing advocacy & research skills
Students worked on a variety of projects that centred around conducting legal research, creating Public Legal Education materials, and directly assisting clients by providing legal information or referrals. All students involved in PBSC learned about the barriers to Access to Justice that many communities face in Manitoba, and received legal research training. However, the specific communities and barriers that students learned about during their volunteer experiences differed between partner organizations. For example, students placed with the Community Unemployed Help Centre would have learned about communities that face barriers to access to justice from their socio-economic circumstances. These students worked to create plain-language documentation for the advocates that assist these individuals navigate the Employment and Income Assistance (EIA) system, which solidified the students’ legal research and plain-language writing skills.
Supervisors and Student Volunteers
The PBSC-Manitoba Chapter was supervised over the past year by Trina McFadyen, Director of Professional Development. McFadyen graduated from the Faculty of Law in 2000 and practiced law at Thompson Dorfman Sweatman LLP and Great-West Life. McFadyen hands the supervisory reins over this year to Natasha Brown, another alum of the Faculty (Class of 2005), and its new Director of Access to Justice and Community Engagement. Brown, a former family law practitioner, served as Access to Justice coordinator at the Law Society of Manitoba prior to returning to Robson Hall, and was former Legal Director of the Legal Help Centre of Winnipeg. With a Bachelor’s degree in Education, she has long been involved with the Association for Canadian Clinical Legal Education and served as its president.
With Ashley Bains having now graduated (Class of 2023), Erin McIntyre (2L) joins Priebe (now going into his third year) as co-coordinator for 2023 – 2024. Together, they gathered some feedback from fellow law students who volunteered for PBSC last year.
Talia David, who graduates in 2025, volunteered throughout her first year and was placed with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.
Through this placement I assisted with transcription and research for a Bail and Pre-Trial Detention Report. I began by visiting the listening room at the courthouse and transcribing my assigned dates, and I was also given the opportunity to continue researching detention and bail related matters across Canada to be utilized in the report. This was an amazing opportunity to not only learn about the conditions of our justice system, but to also be a part of positive change so early on in my legal journey.
Jordan Wagner will enter his second year of law as class representative and will graduate in 2025. He worked with the Community Unemployed Help Centre, a non-profit organization that provides support and resources to unemployed individuals in the community.
Our team developed an Advocate’s Guide to Employment Insurance. We designed the document to help the organizations advocates better assist clients with their EI claims. Through this experience, I had the opportunity to improve my research skills by analyzing EI legislation. Furthermore, I had the privilege of working with an exceptional and highly skilled team. Lastly, volunteering with PBSC allowed me to further develop valuable teamwork and communication skills. Joining PBSC was one of the best decisions that I made during 1L because of the positive impact that our project can have on the community!
Lauren Martin will also graduate in the class of 2025 and volunteered with New Directions during her first year of law school. She worked on a project aimed at providing access to healthcare for marginalized populations. Her contributions included researching provincial and federal legislation to create a plain language document to ensure that every Canadian understands their rights with regards to healthcare.
I was grateful for the opportunity to volunteer with New Directions during 1L. PBSC allowed me to not only gain valuable hands-on experience and skills, but also discover my own potential to make a tangible difference. It’s an opportunity to challenge yourself, broaden your perspectives, and contribute to causes that resonate with your values. I would recommend to every incoming 1L to sign up with PBSC if they are able!
The PBSC Manitoba Chapter will host its official launch event for the 2023 – 2024 school year on October 6. All law students at the University of Manitoba are invited to watch for an email with details about the program coming from the coordinators this fall.
PBSC Manitoba can be contacted at: probono [at] umanitoba [dot] ca
Information about the chapter is online:
PBSC Manitoba operates due to the generous funding provided by the University of Manitoba and the following various external funders: