Pro Bono Rights Clinic to launch at the University of Manitoba Faculty of Law on July 26, 2022
The University of Manitoba Faculty of Law will launch its Rights Clinic at Robson Hall (“Rights Clinic”) on July 26, 2022.
This novel initiative – supported by a grant from the Manitoba Law Foundation – will have a specific focus on assisting Manitobans with rights-advancing issues and cases in the areas of environmental rights, Charter rights, Indigenous rights, disability rights, and privacy rights, amongst others.
The Rights Clinic will play an important role in providing pro bono legal services to marginalized and under-served individuals, communities, groups, and organizations while also acting to increase public awareness about rights-related topics and concerns.
“Access to justice is a problem in Manitoba, and anything we can do to assist those who can’t afford a lawyer or qualify for Legal Aid fulfills our special responsibility as a law school to increase access,” said Dr. Richard Jochelson, Dean of Law at the University of Manitoba.
Prof. Brandon Trask, an assistant professor at the Faculty of Law and an adjunct fellow with St. John’s College, is the founder of the Rights Clinic and will serve as its supervising lawyer.
Trask was motivated to focus on rights issues in part due to recent global events. “Recent trends toward the deterioration and politicization of rights are highly concerning. This clinic will do its utmost to advocate for the protection and advancement of rights,” said Trask.
Trask explained that the Rights Clinic will have four main components to it:
1) case-focused advocacy through tribunals and courts;
2) non-litigation advocacy, raising public awareness about vital rights issues;
3) rights-related academic research, in the form of a mini “think tank”; and
4) informational presentations and seminars so that members of the public can be better informed about their rights and the rights of others.
The Rights Clinic will partner with organizations throughout Manitoba to raise awareness about rights issues and to join forces with regard to assisting with social-change movements.
The clinic will offer students at the Faculty of Law a unique clinical-learning opportunity. Participating law students will learn practical legal skills including interviewing clients, performing tailored legal research, document drafting, developing written arguments, and making submissions in court or before various tribunals.
Prof. David Ireland, Director of Clinics at the Faculty of Law, explained, “The Faculty of Law is expanding its clinical suite of courses to include a number of new student clinics where students conduct real world legal work under the supervision of lawyers. The Faculty is excited to offer students this new opportunity as we engage with our community partners and continue to connect our students to real world legal practice.”
Second-year Juris Doctor student Raven Richards, who is from Opaskwayak Cree Nation and is working as a research assistant for the Faculty of Law’s clinical program, said, “Accessing legal counsel can be intimidating and difficult to initiate, and the clinic will be a great tool to bridge the existing barriers the public has with obtaining legal services.”
Jayden Wlasichuk, a second-year Juris Doctor student, and Prachi Sanghavi, a third-year Juris Doctor student, have also been assisting Trask with preparations for the launch of the clinic. “The Rights Clinic will be extremely supportive as its objective is to serve people from all socio-economic backgrounds, ensuring that people who have been historically excluded from accessing legal services are given a chance to do so,” said Wlasichuk.
“By normalizing the conversation around lesser-known or stigmatized topics, the clinic will foster an inclusive, conscientious, and supportive community,” Sanghavi added.
In the coming weeks, the Rights Clinic will launch a public online application process through its website to consider which cases and clients it will be able to take on in its first year of existence.