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PBSC Announces Recipients of the Fifth Annual Chief Justice Richard Wagner Award

Updated: May 1

PBSC Announces Recipients of the Fifth Annual Chief Justice Richard Wagner Award

Established in 2019, the Chief Justice Richard Wagner Award honours outstanding PBSC volunteers across Canada who embody our core values of dignity, equity, and humility. The 2024 awards, sponsored by our National Law Firm Partner McCarthy Tétrault, were presented to this year’s exemplary recipients at Chapter-led events and celebrations across the country.

The Right Honourable Richard Wagner, Chief Justice of Canada, attended the University of Windsor Faculty of Law's award ceremony where he spoke about the importance of pro bono in strengthening the rule of law. He presented the Chief Justice Richard Wagner Award to the recipient at Windsor Law and expressed his congratulations to all PBSC volunteers for their work dismantling barriers to justice across Canada.

Congratulations to our 2024 Chief Justice Richard Wagner Award recipients!


Nico Astrid Golinski (she/they)

Nico Astrid Golinski (she/they)

University of Victoria Faculty of Law

“Volunteering with the PBSC Trans ID Clinic has been, without a doubt, the best part of my law school experience. I have learned so much about serving clients and managing a team, but more importantly, I feel so lucky to have met and worked with all of the amazing clients that our clinic serves. I am very grateful to PBSC for giving me the opportunity to do work that has a positive impact in my community. After graduation, I will deeply miss interacting with our wonderful clients and collaborating with my fellow volunteers on this project.”


Evelyn Kim (she/her/hers)

Evelyn Kim (she/her/hers)

University of British Columbia Faculty of Law

“I feel extremely lucky to have been involved with PBSC for all three years of law school, working with both the UBC ID Clinic and the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA). These experiences have not only developed my client-intake and legal research skills, but also underscored my desire to use my legal education for good. Through PBSC, I have come face-to-face with individuals struggling against extensive systemic barriers to accessing basic human rights. As law students, we are privileged to receive the kind of education that we do. While these projects help alleviate some of today's A2J issues, it is important that we carry these values into the rest of our careers. I humbly reflect on these experiences and hope to use them to continue providing meaningful, inclusive services in the future.”


Danna Houssian (she/her)

Danna Houssian (she/her)

Thompson Rivers University Faculty of Law

"Working as a PBSC student throughout law school has been an incredibly rewarding experience. I have learned so much about access to justice throughout my two placements. Working with the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies this year, and receiving guidance from dedicated supervisors, I learned about the reality of criminalization. I also developed a wide range of valuable research, writing, and analytical skills. My time with PBSC has deepened my understanding of the importance of pro bono work and has reinforced my commitment to advocacy."


Jackson Dahlen (he/him)

Jackson Dahlen (he/him)

University of Calgary Faculty of Law

"My experience leading the PBSC Indigenous Youth Outreach Project at the Siksika Outreach School has been inspiring and fulfilling. I could not lead the project without the support I receive from my team of student and lawyer volunteers, our partner organization LEVEL, and the fantastic staff and students at Siksika Outreach School who graciously welcome us into their classroom. I hope we have achieved our goal of providing access to justice through education and have inspired the students to pursue the legal profession in any capacity they desire!"


Neesha Avanti Persad (she/her)

Neesha Avanti Persad (she/her)

University of Saskatchewan Faculty of Law

“The opportunity to study law is very special. It also comes with an immense amount of

responsibility. Part of this responsibility is the obligation to share information about the law, in ways that respond to the changing context of our communities. As such, I have taken every opportunity through law school to give back and contribute to bettering the community. PBSC has been one of the driving forces for me since my first year of law school. It has been one of the best ways that I could give back, while also working to improve access to legal resources. Over the past three years, I have worked on two different projects: in my first year I worked on the Yukon Right to Learn Project, and in my second and third year I was the project lead for the “Becoming a Lawyer” Project. Through these projects, our teams were able to improve educational legal resources, and also enter classrooms, across the province, to have conversations about how to become a lawyer. I had the privilege of working closely with incredible teams of volunteers – composed of some of the best people I have come to know through law school – and with our Law Society supervising lawyer, Pamela Kovacs, and PLEA coordinator Jonas Kiedroski. I think that PBSC has helped me to truly merge my love of education with the field of law, and I can’t wait to continue working on initiatives like this long past graduation.”


Joshua Gandier (he/him)

Joshua Gandier (he/him)

University of Manitoba Faculty of Law

"During my PBSC experience, I had the pleasure of working with New Directions to provide Wills & Estate Planning information. My first experience with a lawyer was when my family had to navigate the Will and Estate Planning process. Things have come full circle by having the opportunity to create resources that are accessible and in plain language for the supported individuals who New Directions serves. I would like to thank the other U of M students, our lawyer supervisor Krista Clendenning, and the team at New Directions for making this project possible. I am extremely grateful to be recognized for my contributions to this project. I encourage other law students to take up the opportunity of working on a PBSC project. It is a great way to serve a community while gaining valuable experience. Miigwetch!"


Emmaleigh Dew (she/her)

Emmaleigh Dew (she/her)

Lakehead University Faculty of Law

"Volunteering with PBSC has been an incredibly memorable experience. Over the past two years, I have had the privilege of being placed with two different organizations; during my 1L year, I worked with Nishnawbe-Aski Nation (NAN) Legal Services where codified surveys collected as part of the Anti-Racism Anti-Hate: Stories to Heal Relationships Survey Project, in addition to conducting legal research on various aspects of criminal law. In my 2L year, I worked with Lakehead University Community Legal Services (LUCLS) where I directly assisted clients in completing birth certificate applications. Of the client files I was responsible for, nearly all were marginalized members of Thunder Bay or surrounding communities. In working with these clients, I have learned just how difficult it is to obtain these essential identification documents and hope to continue working to improve access to justice throughout my future legal career. I am immensely grateful for the opportunity PBSC has provided me to work with both of these remarkable organizations and will be forever thankful to both Rodi-Lynn Rusnick Kinisky (LUCLS) and Sarah Munsch (NAN Legal Services) for their guidance and mentorship!”


Kathleen Kennedy (she/her)

Kathleen Kennedy (she/her)

University of Windsor Faculty of Law

“Volunteering with Pro Bono Students Canada has been one of the highlights of my time at Windsor Law. In my three years volunteering at the Youth ID Clinic, my team has made a meaningful impact in the Windsor community by assisting marginalized youth in securing identification documentation. Prior to joining PBSC, I was unaware of the harsh reality that many youth in the Windsor community are currently living without any form of government ID, including health cards, driver’s licenses, passports and identification cards. Without identification documentation, these individuals face extreme limitations in their day-to-day lives as they are unable to access basic services and resources. I am grateful that our clinic has been able to make a positive impact on the lives of Windsor’s youth. Overall, volunteering at the Youth ID Clinic has been deeply fulfilling as it has allowed me and my team to make a small difference in the community.”


Kassandra Kurek (she/her)

Kassandra Kurek (she/her)

Western University Faculty of Law

“Project Consent is a public legal education project that educates secondary school students in the London area about the legal definitions of sexual assault, consent, and sexting. My experience working with the project has surpassed my expectations and been incredibly rewarding. As a 1L, I was able to give presentations that allowed me to see the project’s impact on the community in real time. In 2L, I became a project supervisor to help bring the project to even more students and expand the scope of the project to include education about the close-in-age exemption. The project plays an important role in unwinding harmful stereotypes about sexual assault and consent in schools. Through my involvement in the project, I have witnessed the value of public legal education and been motivated to continue finding ways to serve my community, particularly children and youth. I will always cherish my time with Project Consent as a highlight of my law school experience.”


Tawfiq Kuttab (he/him)

Tawfiq Kuttab (he/him)

Osgoode Hall Law School

“My journey with PBSC has surpassed all expectations, offering a very rewarding experience. Assigned to the Rexdale Community Legal Clinic, I found the staff to be exceptionally collaborative, warmly welcoming me and my fellow student volunteer into their team. They entrusted us with significant responsibilities, immersing us directly in the work. In the short time I was with the Rexdale Community Legal Clinic, I was able to connect with many faces and learn about the community. The placement allowed me to make meaningful impacts on clients’ lives by providing them with free legal services that the clinic would not otherwise have been able to provide without its student volunteers. Beyond that, I was able to sharpen my legal skills and pick-up new ones, encompassing everything from legal writing and research to effective client communication. All in all, I know that I will carry the lessons I learned here long into my legal career and my life in general.”


Shelby Hohmann (she/her)

Shelby Hohmann (she/her)

University of Toronto Faculty of Law

“Being a part of the Friends of Ruby Trans ID Clinic has been the most meaningful part of my law school experience so far. I have gotten to meet a number of wonderful clients and make a meaningful impact in their lives. A lot of law school is focused on theoretical issues, but my volunteering with PBSC has allowed me to develop practical skills and kept me grounded during times when I started to lose sight of why I decided to pursue a career in law in the first place. I always look forward to our clinic dates and know that even if I am having a hard day, I will feel re-energized after my shift. I am incredibly grateful to all of the support I have received in this role, and I hope that our clinic continues to expand its reach to help more people in the future.”


Meena Sankarkumar (she/her)

Meena Sankarkumar (she/her)

Lincoln Alexander School of Law

"Volunteering with Elizabeth Fry - Toronto has been an invaluable and rewarding experience. I am immensely grateful to have worked with dedicated individuals who positively impact the lives of women within the community in a meaningful way. Throughout this experience, I have been able to contribute to Public Legal Education projects that gave me the chance to educate others, while also learning more about how to remove barriers for those facing access to justice challenges. I feel fortunate to have had the ability to participate in a program that has genuinely enhanced my overall law school experience."


Ambreena Ladhani (she/her)

Ambreena Ladhani (she/her)

Queen’s University Faculty of Law

"Serving as the Project Lead for the PBSC OpenJustice research project has been a highlight of my journey at Queen’s University. Under the guidance of Professor Samuel Dahan and David Liang, our dedicated team of 11 students assisted in training and refining OpenJustice—a generative AI tool designed to provide accurate answers to complex legal questions. This project not only challenges the stigma surrounding the use of AI and technology in law but also demonstrates the remarkable potential for legal technology to revolutionize access to justice. I am immensely grateful for the opportunity to volunteer with PBSC while advocating for the responsible integration of AI within the legal practice."


Sofia Serine Aissaoui (she/her)

Sofia Serine Aissaoui (she/her)

University of Ottawa Faculty of Law (Civil Law)

“My participation in the PBSC program was one of the most enriching experiences of my legal studies at the University of Ottawa. I received guidance and support from brilliant lawyers passionate about their profession, but above all, I discovered a driven and united family that fights each day to make justice more accessible. I thank my PBSC teammate for his support and meticulous work, as well as the PBSC team and the Outaouais Community Justice Centre (OCJC) for giving me the opportunity to help implement their pilot project. Not only was it an outstanding learning opportunity, it was a true reality check of the legal struggles faced by vulnerable individuals. As my volunteer contribution comes to an end, I am honoured to say that I will continue to commit to this cause. The OCJC opened my eyes to the impact and importance of our actions, which is why I encourage future lawyers to make their contribution in a community context ‘with limited resources but endless need’ as Me Gratton, Director of the CJPO, put it so well.”


Nicholas Tim-Yam Cheung

Nicholas Tim-Yam Cheung

University of Ottawa Faculty of Law (Common Law)

"My experience volunteering with PBSC has been both enlightening and fulfilling; my only regret is not doing it sooner. Working with the RCMP Veterans' Association gave me insight into non-profit law, something I had no experience with, and allowed me to apply the research and writing skills I'd developed in school. I would be remiss, of course, if I did not thank my fellow volunteer, Zoya Konoff, and supervising lawyer, Tanya Carlton. Neither the project nor the experience would be complete without them; I'm grateful for everything I've learnt working together. Thank you, finally, to Glen Siegersma, for the opportunity to work with the RCMP Veterans' Association. I only hope that the work we delivered will serve you well and I have every expectation that the next PBSC volunteer you give this opportunity to appreciates it for what it is."


Amélie Delage (she/her)

Amélie Delage (she/her)

McGill University Faculty of Law

“My experience with Pro Bono Students Canada taught me a great deal about a field of law that receives little coverage in school programs. The International Observatory on Nature’s Rights is innovative in that it promotes a vision of law that can address the environmental challenges of the 21st century. I feel very privileged to have been able to work in such an organization, and with such motivated people using legal tools to bring about social change.”


Célia Elian (she/her)

Célia Elian (she/her)

Université de Montréal

“I had the honour of working in the YWCA’s Legal Information Clinic, with their wonderful team, over the last few months. It gave me the opportunity to contribute to its mission of facilitating women’s access to justice. When I joined PBSC, the access to justice cause was important to me. By working with the YWCA, I was able to take an active role in developing meaningful community involvement by supporting women in legal need, advising them on their legal problems and presenting labour law workshops.

The privilege of being a law student in Quebec brings with it the responsibility of ensuring, throughout our career, that our communities trust in their justice system. It is a mission the YWCA undertakes with great aplomb. I would like to thank our coordinator, Ms. Marie-Ève Desmarais, for her trust, support and dedication to women’s rights.”


Nataliya Nazarova (she/her)

Nataliya Nazarova (she/her)

Université du Québec à Montréal Projet de Droit et soins de santé - UQAM, Legal Clinics 

“Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.” - Ruth Bader Ginsburg

“My involvement in pro bono work is in keeping with my professional goal of popularizing law to make it accessible to our target audience: newcomers to Quebec. As a member of Pro Bono UQÀM’s Droit et Soins de Santé (law and health care) project, I had the opportunity to prepare and give workshops on the rights of users of Quebec’s healthcare system to newcomers in immigration organizations (Aminate, Safima and ALAC). My colleague, Alexis Leblanc-Dussault, and I, as the project leader, succeeded in developing the project and increasing our activities, having gathered 10 students from UQÀM, UdeM and McGill. We also began collaborating with the Ministère de l'Immigration, de la Francisation et de l'Intégration (MIFI). I was pleasantly surprised by the enthusiasm of the non-profit clientele, who asked particularly interesting questions at the end of the workshops. I am grateful to PBSC for this enriching experience and for the opportunity to contribute to the Montréal community.”


Ann Sophie Gagné (she/her)

Ann Sophie Gagné (she/her)

Université de Sherbrooke

“My volunteer commitment at PBSC, in particular in the “Soloparentalité : Un nouveau concept juridique?” (solo parenthood, a new legal concept?) project, greatly enriched my legal education. The experience not only strengthened my legal research skills, but also added access to justice values to my practice, which will continue to guide my legal career going forward. Contributing to popularizing family law gave me a clear vision of the influence that we, as law students, can have on our communities. It also cemented the reason I had initially decided to study law: to be a force for change and to have a positive impact on people's day-to-day lives.”


Simon Fréchette (he/him)

Simon Fréchette (he/him)

Université Laval

“During the past year, I had the opportunity to work on the Projet-École, an initiative by Université de Sherbrooke to raise college students’ awareness of the legal issues surrounding sexual consent. I had the pleasure of working with a large team of inspiring students from our faculty in developing a guidebook and an oral presentation explaining how the regulations will impact the work of future graduates who will be interacting with young people in their professional lives. It gave me the chance to discover the pleasure of sharing my legal knowledge with others, a passion that I will certainly cultivate throughout my career as a legal practitioner.”


Elise Claire Hamill (she/her/hers)

Elise Claire Hamill (she/her/hers)

University of New Brunswick Faculty of Law

“Being a PBSC volunteer has afforded me the privilege to engage in meaningful research, discussion, and collaboration with other individuals dedicated to migrant justice. Exploring this area of the law during a period when these issues are particularly prevalent has been a thoroughly enriching experience. PBSC has not only provided me with the chance to immerse myself in important projects but has also provided opportunities I would not have otherwise been able to contribute to.”


Gabrielle LeBlanc (she/her)

Gabrielle LeBlanc (she/her)

University of Moncton

“Volunteering with PBSC has been incredibly fulfilling. For two years in a row, I had the privilege of working with the EL2ES organization to promote a culture of consent and healthy relationships in all settings. The experience solidified my belief that collaborative work can make a real difference in access to justice. I encourage all students to seize the opportunity to have such a rewarding experience.”

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