Program Manager Sherry McGratten discusses the role of the National Office in developing National Projects.
WHAT WE DO
Most of the projects run by National Office (usually referred to as “National Projects” or “National Office Projects”) are long-term projects. National Office forms partnerships with various organizations and lawyers to run projects that continue year-after-year. Often, students from multiple chapters are involved in National Office Projects.
PROJET EN DROIT DE LA FAMILLE
Le projet en droit de la famille (PDF) aide les parties à un litige qui ne peuvent se permettre les services d’un avocat ou d’un représentant juridique dans les tribunaux de la famille du pays. Au moment du lancement du programme en 1998, le nombre de parties à un litige non représentées dans les tribunaux de la famille était en hausse, et cette tendance problématique se poursuit encore aujourd’hui. Le PDF représente maintenant un élément essentiel du réseau des tribunaux de la famille des villes canadiennes, ce projet permettant d’offrir des services juridiques gratuits à des personnes qui n’auraient d’autre choix que de se débrouiller seules dans le système.
We need identification for many things, including accessing social services, renting an apartment, cashing a cheque, applying for a job. Without a permanent address however, it can be a real challenge to keep ID safe, and to replace lost or stolen ID. ID clinics therefore provide a critical service to homeless and marginally housed individuals — helping them obtain birth certificates, government ID cards and health cards and providing targeted legal referrals.
CCLA RIGHTS WATCH BLOG
Students from every PBSC chapter across Canada monitor civil liberties abuses, posting their findings on a blog run in partnership with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. Students monitor an assigned area and post to the RightsWatch blog. Students post to the blog once weekly on various civil liberties abuses on topics of discrimination, national security and privacy, freedom of expression and association.
The Wills Project aims to help people who cannot afford a lawyer to make a will and powers of attorney both for their property and for their personal care. Eligible clients (meeting certain income, asset and inheritance requirements) work with law students who are supervised by a lawyer to draft the will and powers of attorney.
TAX ADVOCACY PROJECT
The Tax Court of Canada Advocacy Project was developed in 2011 at the suggestion of the Chief Justice of the Tax Court of Canada, as a response to the significant number of unrepresented appellants appearing before the Court. The project enables law students under the careful supervision of tax litigators from Dentons LLP, McCathy Tétrault, and Aird & Berlis LLP, to gain practical experience representing low-income taxpayers. Working in pairs to represent appellants in the informal procedure (claims under $25,000), students meet with their clients, gather evidence, prepare arguments, and appear before the Court.
PLACEMENTS EN MILIEU COMMUNAUTAIRE
Bilingual Program Officer Stéphanie Nowak discusses working with PBSC Chapters to develop projects and implement the program.
what we do
Most of our projects are "chapter projects", meaning projects unique to each PBSC chapter. Chapter projects cover public legal education, legal research, client intake and document assistance, internships, and advocacy. Program Officers at the PBSC National Office support Program Coordinators in chapter project development and implementation.
PUBLIC LEGAL EDUCATION
These placements provide students with an opportunity to develop and deliver legal education materials (e.g., FAQs, info sheets, etc.), workshops and seminars to low and middle-income individuals, newcomers, survivors of violence, and other target audiences. Volunteers provide legal information in an accessible format about a particular area of law. These placements are most appropriate for upper years, and are carefully supervised by a lawyer to ensure the content is accurate.
Research and writing projects include the reviewing and monitoring of pending legislation, writing legal memos or analysing current policy questions, and writing for media such as newsletters or blogs. These projects are often great for first years, though some more sophisticated writing projects could appeal to upper years. The CCLA Blog Project, or research on a pro bono appeal for a lawyer are all examples of a research and writing project.
CLIENT INTAKE & DOCUMENT ASSISTANCE
These projects involve sitting down with clients of partner organizations or clinics to collect their personal information and the facts of their case, and in some cases providing them with legal information or helping them complete court forms or other documents. These projects are good for upper years, who love client contact. They are structured in such a way that the students are getting very close supervision from the lawyer supervisor wherever the intake is taking place, which is usually at a legal help centre or clinic setting. Another version of this kind of project is the Family Law Project, where students provide document preparation assistance for litigants in family court.
In an internship, a PBSC student is placed with a highly regarded legal organization to perform a series of discrete, legal tasks throughout the program year, supervised by a lawyer. Students will also have opportunities to observe the goings on of the organization and to be integrated into the organization as an “intern.” The internship model is attractive to our partners because it allows them the flexibility of not having to develop one discrete project during the summer, as well as the benefit of having ongoing student support on issues that arise over the course of the program year.
Advocacy projects allow students to represent clients before tribunals and courts, under the very close supervision of lawyers. Advocacy projects are exciting, extremely challenging to set up and labour-intensive to run. Since they involve the delivery of legal services to clients, all of PBSC's advocacy projects are run with the support of the National Office.
sur les questions d’intérêt public
Bourses d’études sur les questions d’intérêt public Le programme de bourses d’études sur les questions d’intérêt public, créé par la Fondation du droit de l’Ontario (FDO), offre aux étudiants la possibilité de faire un stage dans un organisme d’intérêt public qui n’aurait pas autrement les ressources financières lui permettant d’accueillir un étudiant stagiaire. La FDO a pour mission de favoriser l’avancement des connaissances juridiques, d’encourager l’excellence au sein de la profession et de faire progresser l’idéal d’un système juridique véritablement accessible à tous. En créant et en soutenant le programme, la FDO a pour objectif d’aider les étudiants en droit à choisir des carrières en droit axées sur l’intérêt public tout en répondant aux besoins des communautés. Le programme est accessible aux étudiants de toutes les facultés de droit du Canada. Pour de plus amples renseignements, voir le site de la Fondation à l’adresse : http://www.lawfoundation.on.ca/fr/ce-que-nous-faisons/fellowships/. À l’Université de Toronto, PBSC administre deux programmes de bourses d’études visant à soutenir l’emploi d’été d’étudiants en droit dans divers organismes communautaires et d’intérêt public.