Pro Bono Students Canada is a national organization that provides free legal services to non-profit organizations and low-income Canadians in 20 cities from coast to coast. For over two decades, PBSC has been training law student volunteers to help vulnerable Canadians with their essential legal needs. Partnering with courts, community organizations and law firms, we offer innovative, high-impact placements in all areas of the law. We annually offer 500+ diverse projects, which provide our students opportunities to engage in different types of pro bono work including: public legal education, advocacy, legal research, and client intake/document assistance. Below are some examples of the diverse projects we offer.
helping families in crisis
The breakdown of a relationship can be the most difficult time in a person’s life, particularly when children are involved. Through the award-winning Family Law Project (FLP), PBSC volunteers have been providing legal services to low-income Canadians facing family breakdown since 1998. PBSC volunteers help to redress the chronic family justice crisis by providing legal information, filling out court forms, and helping self-represented litigants navigate the legal system.
serving indigenous communities
In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission called on Canadians to participate in the reconciliation process. PBSC responded by creating two dozen new projects that serve Indigenous communities. Our students deliver workshops and develop legal information materials on issues of relevance to Indigenous communities (e.g., status cards, Gladue sentencing reports, matrimonial property on reserves, hunting and fishing rights). In addition, volunteers assist on projects documenting Indigenous legal traditions.
responding to gender-based violence
Gender-based violence remains prevalent throughout Canada. PBSC runs numerous projects that provide legal support and services to survivors of intimate partner violence, sexual assault and harassment. Student volunteers accompany survivors to court appearances, create legal resources for survivors, and run legal information workshops at women’s shelters. PBSC volunteers also lead workshops on consent, working to prevent future violence by teaching university and high school students about sexual assault law and affirmative consent.
replacing missing id
It can be challenging to keep track of personal identification documents when you do not have secure housing. Lost or stolen ID is not just an inconvenience; it can act as a barrier to accessing medical care, applying for social assistance, or securing housing. PBSC runs multiple ID clinics across Canada, helping marginalized people obtain health cards, birth certificates, provincial photo cards and social insurance cards. In addition, some of our ID clinics specialize in assisting trans-identified individuals with gender marker and name change applications.
supporting self-represented litigants
Whether in small claims court, before the Immigration and Refugee Board, in tax court or at a social benefits tribunal (to name a few), large numbers of people find themselves engaging in adjudication processes without lawyers representing them. PBSC students increase the capacity of legal clinics to serve greater numbers of clients by doing in-take, research and drafting under the supervision of clinic lawyers. They also produce plain language legal materials to help litigants navigate the legal processes, and even advocate on behalf of clients on select projects.
end of life planning
When PBSC’s Wills Project launched in the 1990s, it primarily served people living with HIV. Today, the project operates in several Canadian cities, providing legal services to people living in poverty, seniors, and people with serious medical issues. Our volunteers draft wills and powers of attorney. They also deliver legal education workshops about wills and estates.
legal education for new canadians
Newcomers to Canada often describe feeling like ‘strangers in a strange land.’ They may face language barriers, be unfamiliar with Canadian customs, and they may be uncertain about the integrity of our justice system. PBSC volunteers educate new Canadians about our legal system and they also assist refugee claimants to prepare for their refugee hearings, and with applications on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.
In addition to these projects, PBSC also have projects focusing on homelessness and housing, criminal law, supporting children and youth, human rights and civil liberties, tax advocacy and many more.
For more information on our projects and project development, please visit our Chapters page and reach out to your local chapter.