Junior Sirivar – PBSC PartnerPrint
Twenty years ago in Romania, a pogrom forced 24 Roma families from their homes. When the families tried to return, they faced further persecution. A long history of marginalization and prejudice was stacked against them, stoking often violent and discriminatory treatment. The families filed criminal complaints with the local prosecutor’s office, and the Bucharest District Court eventually convicted 13 attackers. But their punishments included suspended prison sentences of three to six months and minimal compensation awards for the families, who’d been frequently referred to as “gypsies” throughout the court proceedings.
Emilian Niculae was a member of one of the Roma families, and fled to Canada after the attacks. In 2000, he sought pro bono legal assistance to obtain adequate compensation for the victims to rebuild their lives. Former McCarthy Tétrault partner, Mark Freiman (now of Lerners LLP), and Junior Sirivar, a partner in the Litigation Group at McCarthy Tétrault’s Toronto offices, worked in tandem with the University of Toronto’s International Human Rights Program (IHRP) to bring the claim forward.
“I truly appreciate the efforts of Mr. Sirivar’s team. I feel glad that one day we can prove what happened in my village and the racism, violence and injustice against my people.”
An application was filed on behalf of the 24 families with the European Court of Human Rights against the Romanian government. After a long struggle, the court released their decision on the case (known as Tănase and Others v. Romania) in May 2009, and accepted the Romanian government’s admission that it was responsible for breaches of the European Convention. The government committed to paying €565,000 in damages to the families, and implementing a number of programs to curb discrimination against the Roma and improve the community’s living conditions. “I truly appreciate the efforts of Mr. Sirivar’s team,” says Mr. Niculae. “I feel glad that one day we can prove what happened in my village and the racism, violence and injustice against my people.”
It’s this kind of effort that makes McCarthy Tétrault a leader among Canadian firms in pro bono work. As PBSC’s National Law Firm Partner, McCarthy Tétrault provides the direct support to get countless projects and initiatives off the ground, but access to the firm’s huge roster of incredible lawyers is just as valuable. And with his dedication to pro bono lawyering and experience in public interest work, Junior Sirivar has become a treasured source of information and support for PBSC students across Canada. After he spoke at PBSC’s National Training Conference in May 2010, students were so excited by Junior’s thoughts on the pro bono ethic that he was invited to keynote program launch events at two chapters in Fall 2010. As a result, Junior spoke to Toronto’s entire first-year class—both Osgoode and the University of Toronto—about the value of pro bono lawyering.
Since that time, he has become a regular speaker at PBSC events. In addition to his extensive pro bono efforts, Junior also devotes much time to community involvement. He sits on the board of directors of the Child Development Institute, which assists children and families through a range of services. Junior has also sat on the board of Combating Hatred, a conference promoting equality and diversity in the legal profession. Junior’s experience and dedication continues to inspire PBSC students across Canada, and we’re grateful for his ongoing commitment to our work and pro bono lawyering in general.