Winnipeg Free Press: U of M opens pro bono legal rights clinic
The following story by Katrina Clarke appeared in the Winnipeg Free Press on July 26, 2022:
A new pro bono clinic at the University of Manitoba aims to help communities historically under-served by the justice system take on issues ranging from disability rights to Indigenous rights to environmental rights and everything in between.
Brandon Trask, the assistant professor of law behind the Rights Clinic, says the impetus came from seeing rights violations play out within Canada and globally.
“This idea… came from essentially seeing the whittling away of rights in Canada, yes, but around the world, recognizing that there are major barriers to access to justice.”
Trask also has concerns about the “politicization” of rights issues. The recent United States Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade is high-profile issue recently thrust into the public domain.
“The U.S. seems to be — as an observer from north of the border — unravelling,” Trask said. “In Canada, I don’t think that we’re quite as tenuous, but at the same time we have to make sure that we are not just protecting, but advancing, rights.”
Canadians are not immune to rights violations, Trask stressed, noting even on the issue of abortion, access to health care varies across the country.
Raven Richards, a second-year law student from Opaskwayak Cree Nation who is working as a research assistant with the clinical program, sees the clinic as “a great tool” to help marginalized communities access justice. Even taking the step to secure legal counsel can be “intimidating and difficult to initiate” for some, she said.
Richards hopes the clinic will address issues of inequality affecting Manitobans.
“If a community doesn’t have access to clean drinking water, that has to be a charter concern,” she said. “That impacts a lot of lives.”