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Action for Justice: Announcing PBSC’s Second Annual Chief Justice Richard Wagner Award Recipients

Updated: Nov 9, 2022

The Chief Justice Richard Wagner Awards were launched in late 2019 to celebrate outstanding PBSC volunteers across Canada who embody our core values of dignity, equity, and humility.

This year’s awards were presented to all 23 remarkable recipients at our first-ever National Volunteer Appreciation Event, held virtually on March 26th and hosted by our National Law Firm Partner, McCarthy Tétrault. The Right Honourable Richard Wagner, Chief Justice of Canada, was in attendance and shared moving remarks on the importance of pro bono work in the legal profession, as well as the important role of law students in facilitating equitable access to justice.

Over the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has created many complexities and uncertainties for non-profit and access to justice organizations. We are grateful to all our volunteers for prioritizing #actionforjustice during this time.

Congratulations to our 2021 Chief Justice Richard Wagner Awards recipients!

Derek Baker

University of Victoria Faculty of Law

“Working on the Trans ID Clinic project with UVic’s Pro Bono Students Canada Chapter has been one of the most fulfilling experiences of my time at law school. I greatly value the opportunity volunteering with PBSC has provided me to make a tangible and meaningful impact in the lives of the folks we assist with changing their government identification to correctly reflect their name and gender identity. I have also been so fortunate to work with such a conscientious team of volunteer students and lawyers, of who I would be remiss not to acknowledge and thank for their contributions to our clinic.”

Alexandra Comber

Thompson Rivers University Faculty of Law

“My involvement as a PBSC volunteer enriched my law school experience, providing meaning and purpose far beyond what can be found in a classroom. I forged deep-rooted and lasting relationships with my fellow volunteers, my supervising lawyer, and members of the community. I feel incredibly fortunate to have been a part of an amazing team of individuals who inspire me to seek equity and justice for those who need it most.”

Heather Taskey

University of Calgary Faculty of Law

“Working with #NotInMyCity through PBSC has highlighted the need to raise awareness of both the issue of human trafficking and how the law can indirectly and inadvertently hamper access to justice. Presenting our work to the Alberta Human Trafficking Task Force showed me that even as law students, we can help enact change not just on an individual client basis, but on a structural level.”

Victoria Chiu & Lee Klippenstein

University of Alberta Faculty of Law

“I was able to explore all my interests in completely new ways as a PBSC Volunteer with LawNow Magazine! I never figured I'd be able to combine my interest in weddings with my love of the law, and I loved having the ability to take my projects with LawNow in unexpected directions that could also provide the public with valuable legal info.” - Victoria Chiu

“I am passionate about access to justice and have found the process of distilling complicated legal issues into easily-comprehensible articles to be incredibly rewarding. It is no secret that legal writing can be cryptic, and translating the law into clear and accessible language can be a struggle. My work with LawNow has helped me to develop plain-language writing skills and to focus on comprehensibility. I aim to continue developing these tools throughout my legal career.” - Lee Klippenstein

Gillian Harrington

University of Saskatchewan Faculty of Law

“My experiences with PBSC and PLEA over the last 3 years have been incredibly rewarding. Educating students in my community on topics of consent, healthy relationships, and other legal issues that come up in the context of relationships was so important to me and the Consent Project team. I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to work with the legal professionals, volunteers, teachers, and students who made it all possible!”

Carleena Cavallo

University of Manitoba Faculty of Law

“I am an Indigenous first-year law student at Robson Hall who is enthusiastic and passionate about volunteering with PBSC, and not-for-profit organization New Directions. Working on a legal analysis of a Federal Bill and a Provincial Strategy aimed at reducing Indigenous children in care and the sexual exploitation of youth in Manitoba was rewarding and eye opening to the current issues going on within our society. This experience came with many new skills that I will take forward in my life.”

Sharon Tathgur

Lakehead University Faculty of Law

“This year has been very memorable, and working with Northwestern Ontario Women Centre (NWOWC) was certainly an important part of my experience as a law student. I worked alongside my amazing mentor in assisting vulnerable women through their innumerable challenges. NWOWC’s goal is to increase women’s access to knowledge, skills, and resources so they can proceed to make informed decisions when dealing with their legal issues. I continue to be inspired by the wide range of work NWOWC undertakes and hope that I can carry it forward through my professional career.”

Alexandra McMichael

University of Windsor Faculty of Law

“The process of changing one's name and gender marker is just one example of a systemic practice that serves to exclude and marginalize Trans people. The Trans ID Clinic is a necessary service that aims to bridge this gap for gender-affirming identification, while recognizing that the ultimate goal should be to do away with any bureaucratic measures that disproportionately impact Trans people, altogether. The clinic wouldn't run without the unpaid labour of WE Trans volunteers, Windsor Law students, and the valuable lived experience of community members. I am so grateful to have been a part of it for the last two years.”

Irena Djukic

Western University Faculty of Law

“I am incredibly grateful for my PBSC volunteer experience with the partner organization, Legal Line. An important step towards advancing access to justice starts with providing accessible legal information to the public. As a volunteer, I had the opportunity to meaningfully contribute to the development of public legal education resources. Thank you to both Pro Bono Students Canada and Legal Line for this opportunity!”

Veromi Arsiradam

Osgoode Hall Law School

“I dedicate this award to Asian and migrant sex workers and massage parlour workers – those with us and also in memory of all those who have lost their lives because of anti-Asian racism, sexism, and whorephobia. Being immersed as an ally in Butterfly’s incredible support network has provided me invaluable exposure to community-led advocacy. It has been an honour to contribute through PBSC to the struggle for sex workers’ rights, human rights, migrant rights, and more. I extend my deepest gratitude to Elene Lam and Sandra Ka Hon Chu, who inspire me with their passionate advocacy.”

Graeme Wyatt

University of Toronto Faculty of Law

“Through my time as a PBSC volunteer, I have met an incredible community of individuals, contributed meaningfully to a cause that I hold very dear, and forged a passion for public interest and disability rights that will last the duration of my career.”

Tony Yin

Queen’s University Faculty of Law

“It has been an absolute pleasure serving as the project lead for the Pro Bono Radio project this year! Promoting access to justice and providing legal information to the public have always been a high high priority for me. I am very glad I got to achieve those goals this year through the Radio project where I got to use some of my creative skills and make some (hopefully) entertaining shows!”

Roxanda Mirzac

Université d'Ottawa Droit Civil

“My work with the Association de solidarité et d’entraide communautaire de la Vallée de la Gatineau opened my eyes to the real injustices that low-income individuals experience. Knowing that my work will allow some people to exercise their housing rights in order to regain decent living conditions was a constant motivation during the project. Today, I can be confident that I have provided the organization with all the legal tools and knowledge necessary to support its members with their housing issues.”

David Westcott

University of Ottawa Common Law

“Knowing legal rights is a crucial first step to accessing justice. This is why I have enjoyed being a part of The Legal Clinic’s Sexual Harassment in the Workplace project. Thanks to Pro Bono Students Canada, I taught students and professionals what sexual harassment is, how to address it, and how to prevent it. With the help of my amazing Lawyer Supervisor, Anne-Marie Langan, I helped combat sexual harassment at its source by teaching young persons and established professionals how harassment-free workplaces are not only ideal—but a legal right. I hope the people we reached this year took our message to heart, and go on to create safer, more inclusive workplaces.”

Sergio Rodriguez Barajas

McGill University Faculty of Law

“The CRIC as an organization seeks to facilitate the experience of immigrants and newcomers to Quebec and Canada by providing an array of services. The placement provided my team and I with the opportunity to work for a legal clinic where we were the key source of legal information. Since the clinic was new, there were no precedent memos or legal research guides for us to fall back on, this required us to conduct the full legal research for the legal issues our clients faced. From consumer protection law to family law matters, my team and I have provided accessible legal information to the Montreal community in an effort to combat the existing access to justice crisis faced across Canada which has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 Pandemic.”

Nora Jones

Université de Montréal

“When I decided to go to law school, my goal was to work with communities where access to justice is an issue and to discover how I could become an agent of change. My experience with the Y des femmes has not only allowed me to play an active role and help women in Montreal better understand their rights, it has also confirmed that I want to do what I can to enhance access to justice and help disadvantaged communities.”

Jean-Guilhem Tovar

Université du Québec à Montréal

“By reviewing the cases of individuals who were being blamed for criminal acts they denied committing, I was able to use the knowledge I was developing and it served as a constant reminder of the reasons I had decided to study law. It also allowed me to establish relationships with practitioners committed to the public good. This experience will constantly remind me that being a lawyer is a profession, a calling, and not simply a business or a profit-generating enterprise like any other, and it will push me to remain committed to this ideal, day in and day out, when I become a practitioner, so that the fight for access to justice and the defence of civil liberties are never relegated to the background. ”

Alexandra Bedkowska Fabre

Université de Sherbrooke

"During the past few months, my colleagues and I have had the opportunity to team up with Innocence Canada to work on the Sensibilisation des é du secondaire aux condamnations injustifiées project. It was a very rewarding adventure! First through face-to-face presentations, then by creating informative short videos, I had the opportunity to hone my public legal education skills while introducing curious and lively students to the world of law and its weak points. Since the education of future generations is important to me, it was a real pleasure to promote access to justice and Innocence Canada’s noble mission to young people who are very motivated to make a difference."

Laura Guaragna

Université Laval

“My placement with Mérule pleureuse Québec allowed me to help the victims of this devastating fungus found in buildings understand their rights and obligations as well as their options. Thanks to the PBSC program, I was able to contribute in a significant way to making justice more accessible to disaster victims and develop legal research skills that will serve me well throughout my studies and my career as a lawyer.”

Peyton Carmichael & Hannah Russell

University of New Brunswick Faculty of Law

“My experience volunteering with PBSC has been extremely positive. I came to law school because I wanted to help people and PBSC has given me the opportunity to do just that. Through this experience I have been able to contribute to improving a marginalized community's access to justice. Even if it was just in a small way, I felt as though my legal education was being put to good use. I hope that this is something that I can continue throughout my entire career” - Peyton Carmichael

“Volunteering with Pro Bono Students Canada has been a wonderful experience. I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work alongside a great team, develop my skills in legal research, and contribute to a worthwhile cause in my community.” - Hannah Russell

Alice Beauchamp

Université de Moncton

“As a PBSC volunteer, I had the opportunity to learn a great deal about an area of law that was previously unknown to me and to pass on this knowledge through conferences organized by the Association acadienne des artistes professionnel.le.s du Nouveau-Brunswick. I am so grateful that our team was as supportive as it was throughout the project and that I had my first experience as a speaker within such a welcoming organization.”

We would like to give special thanks to McCarthy Tétrault for sponsoring PBSC’s 2021 national award program.


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