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

Updated: Nov 9, 2022

Established in 2019, the Chief Justice Richard Wagner Awards honour outstanding PBSC volunteers across Canada who embody our core values of dignity, equity, and humility.

The 2022 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 ceremonies at the University of Ottawa and L’Université de Montréal where he shared words of heartfelt congratulation and admiration for this year’s recipients and all PBSC volunteers for their commitment to pro bono work and reducing barriers to justice in Canada.

Congratulations to our 2022 Chief Justice Richard Wagner Awards recipients!

Camille O’Sullivan (she/her)

University of Victoria, Faculty of Law

“The Upper Skeena Counselling and Legal Assistance Society is a unique service provider governed by Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en representatives from the surrounding communities. The staff offer legal and advocacy services to individuals across northwest British Columbia. Volunteering with USCLAS through PBSC over the last two years has provided me with invaluable experience and insight into the challenges and joys of legal work in rural and remote areas. I became acutely aware of the barriers to justice faced by individuals accessing legal services in the northwest and am inspired to continue advocating for legislative and policy reform to improve access to justice throughout my legal career. I am so grateful to the staff at USCLAS, the Elders, and my co-volunteers, from whom I have learned so much.”

Mitchell Dawson (he/him) & René Allain (he/him)

University of British Columbia Faculty of Law

UBC ID Clinic

“The UBC ID Clinic has undoubtedly been the most rewarding part of my law school career. While we do help individuals in a very meaningful way, the Clinic is a weekly reminder of the disproportionate barriers our legal system imposes on society’s most vulnerable. We welcome the day the UBC ID Clinic is no longer needed.” —Mitchell Dawson & René Allain

Hannah LaRoy (she/her)

Thompson Rivers University Faculty of Law

“Volunteering with PBSC has enhanced my law school experience in many ways. Not only have I been able to promote awareness of the barriers to access to justice in BC, but I have developed strong connections along the way. I had the opportunity to work with my peers at other law schools which has resulted in relationships that I will maintain throughout my career. I am grateful to have been part of a project where I was able to both educate others and learn more about access to justice.”

Charlotte Sophia Dalwood (she/her)

University of Calgary Faculty of Law

“As a trans woman myself, I am personally familiar with both the importance of having legal documentation that affirms one’s name and gender as well as the difficulties of obtaining it. I chose to volunteer with the Trans ID clinic so I could put my legal education to work reducing those difficulties for other members of my community. Seeing the joy on the faces of the clients I’ve helped is its own reward.”

Allie Harrington (she/her)

University of Saskatchewan Faculty of Law

“Volunteering with PBSC has been an important part of my law school experience. It was rewarding to connect with my community by providing education and services on estate planning. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to work with my supervising lawyer and fellow student volunteers who are passionate about providing access to legal services.”

Hannah Taylor (she/they)

University of Manitoba Faculty of Law

“Having the chance to pursue a legal education is such a gift. Through PBSC, I have been able to share that gift with the community since 1L. In addition to learning from my fellow student volunteers, supervising lawyers and the amazing partnering organizations I had the opportunity to work with - it means so much to have had the chance to start what I hope to be a career of service to the community from day one.”

Eman Waseem Cheema (she/they)

Lakehead University Faculty of Law

"Working as a Pro Bono Students Canada volunteer at the Newcomer Legal Clinic, I learned about the barriers that newcomers face in accessing social and legal services specifically in Northwestern Canada. My placement compelled me to utilize my communication and research skills creatively in order to make information about the Clinic’s services accessible to international students, refugees, and new immigrants to Canada. My work at Newcomer Legal Clinic through PBSC was incredibly rewarding, not only because I was part of an incredibly supportively team and supervised by an empowering lawyer and mentor, but also because it embedded me, my partner organization, and my law school in the city’s valuable social, political, and economic landscape. My placement allowed me to contribute to the community in meaningful and tangible ways in my capacity as a law student. I look forward to carrying this practice of relationship-building into my legal career.”

Zoe Ranjwani

University of Windsor Faculty of Law

“The Trans ID Clinic is the highlight of my 3 years at Windsor Law. I am grateful to have met and learned from amazing clients, volunteers, and lawyers through PBSC and Trans Wellness Ontario. Assisting clients with navigating bureaucratic and financial barriers has exposed me to the systems that continue to interfere with their right to fully participate in society. My experience at the Trans ID Clinic has strengthened my commitment to the Trans and gender diverse community, and I will continue this commitment into my career- working towards a world where this clinic is no longer needed.”

Arthi Kunasingam (she/her)

Western University Faculty of Law

Project Consent

“Over the last three years, Project Consent has been starting important conversations in London high school classrooms about sexual assault and consent. Although these conversations should have begun years ago, I am incredibly grateful to have been part of such an impactful project from its beginning. I was one of the first Project Consent volunteers at Western law in my 1L year, and since then it has truly been the highlight of my law school experience. I have watched this project grow and receive the recognition it deserves across Canada. I am confident we will only continue to shape young minds and make small changes with big impact.”

Alicia Cooke (she/they)

Osgoode Hall Law School

“It has been an honour to support the work of No Conversion Canada and their efforts to ban conversion practices across Canada. I dedicate this award to the many brave survivors who for decades have fought to see an end to these inhumane and unethical practices. I am constantly inspired by the strength and resilience of our community. I extend my deepest gratitude to Nicholas Schiavo who inspires me with his tireless commitment to grassroots advocacy and Douglas Judson who represents the very best of the legal profession.”

Madison Frehlick (she/her)

University of Toronto Faculty of Law Level Indigenous Youth Outreach Program

“I have greatly appreciated the opportunity to work with PBSC and Level’s Indigenous Youth Outreach Program (IYOP) over the last two years. As a member of the University of Toronto’s Indigenous Law Students’ Association, IYOP and it’s mission are of great importance to me and I believe the work done by Level is incredibly impactful – to both the young students who have the chance to partake in the program and to the volunteers who teach the program. Through teaching IYOP, I have learned a great amount about Indigenous Law, but more notably, I have seen the far-reaching impacts of the Canadian justice system on Indigenous youth. What I have taken away from my time with IYOP is that Indigenous legal issues are not merely issues to be dealt with by Indigenous peoples, but rather these are matters for all Canadians to be educated on and care about. Without widespread knowledge on the topic, there can never be meaningful change for Indigenous peoples in the legal system.”

Alexandra Payne (she/her)

Lincoln Alexander Law School

“My involvement as a project lead within the HPARB/HSARB Case Compilation Project has been one of the most meaningful and rewarding experiences for me. I am incredibly grateful for the long-lasting relationships I have built with my fellow volunteers and my lawyer supervisor, as well as the leadership and the teamwork skills I have developed through the project. This experience in the Lincoln Alexander School of Law’s first ever PBSC Chapter has allowed me to set the stage for future volunteers to explore their passion for access to justice and to contribute positively to their legal communities. I plan to bring the skills I have acquired into my future career as a lawyer.”

Srinidhi Akkur (she/her)

Queen’s University Faculty of Law

Martha’s Table ID Clinic

“Partnering with Martha’s Table to run the ID Clinic has been a highlight of my law school experience. As the Team Lead, I had the pleasure of working alongside two lawyers and nine student volunteers to assist homeless and marginally housed individuals in Kingston obtain government-issued identification such as birth certificates and Ontario photo cards. Without these forms of official identification, individuals cannot access essential services like social assistance and medical care. The ID Clinic plays an integral role in improving access to justice and I am grateful for the opportunity to have been a part of it.”

Marjolie Sarazin

Université d'Ottawa Droit Civil

“My experience with PBSC this year was one of the most defining moments of my university career. Access to justice has always been important to me, but it was through working on the project at the Elizabeth Fry Centre that I really gained deep empathy and a strong desire to make a difference for women looking to get more time with their children. I feel that my contribution to the project helped the women understand the steps they needed to take and what needed to be in place to get more access to their children in the future.”

Paige Mihelchic (she/her)

University of Ottawa Common Law

"The opportunity to volunteer with PBSC and its partner organization, Reach Canada, has been an invaluable experience. Reach has allowed me to play a part in making access to justice more of a reality for people living with disabilities by connecting them to legal resources they otherwise may not have been aware of or have had access to. I feel very fortunate to have had the chance to speak with amazing individuals, work alongside an incredible team, develop many new legal skills, and contribute to an important cause in my community. I am looking forward to continuing the promotion of a pro bono culture throughout my legal career."

Michelle Akim (she/her) & Deeshay Heeramun (he/him)

McGill University Faculty of Law

“Through my involvement with Pro Bono Students of Canada, I was able to gain a much more profound understanding of the power we have as jurists and law students to initiate positive change in our communities. Working with Deeshay and our wonderful supervisors, we produced two memos that we hope will help LGBTQ+ asylum seekers trying to navigate the refugee and immigration system.” —Michelle Akim

"As a volunteer with PBSC, I made a meaningful contribution to HELEM Montréal by developing tools for the organization to achieve its mandate of sponsoring LGBTQ+ refugees from the Middle East and North Africa in Canada. I also gained valuable coaching from the supervising lawyers, learned about immigration law and furthered my legal research writing and skills.” —Deeshay Heeramun

Nawal Sassi (she/her) Université de Montréal

“I have the privilege of being part of the wonderful team at the Centre de pédiatrie sociale Atlas (social pediatrics centre), where I contributed to a report on housing conditions in Côte-des-Neiges. I hope that the eye-opening findings of this investigation will help our elected officials address the housing crisis more effectively. I also have the pleasure of co-leading workshops on children’s rights. Each week we hold enriching roundtables on topics like cyberbullying and discrimination, with young people between the ages of 9 and 12. Community involvement is vital to improving access to justice and I’m proud to have contributed to this cause with an organization that achieves this goal so well. A big thank you to Katherine Ferguson, Jacinthe Dion and my teammate Nora Jones for their incredible work and helpful advice!”

Catherine Hoffmann

Université du Québec à Montréal

“I would like to dedicate this award to my daughter Zoé, who, from a young age, has always been sensitive to the reality and challenges faced by marginalized and disadvantaged individuals and groups.

Besides being increasingly lengthy, expensive and complex, the judicial process, and other legal services (mediation, arbitration or preventive law), seem to be out of the financial reach of many litigants. So they end up turning to free legal service providers, like the Clinique juridique Montréal-Nord, where I had the immense privilege of working. My experience at the clinic reaffirmed my desire to bring about real social change to improve access to justice, because, in this context, we mostly see that the public offer is insufficient to meet the need, the courts are bottlenecked and litigants have increasingly fewer means to exercise their rights in court.

I am continuing at the clinic as a legal advice coordinator. I want to thank the management as well as all the volunteer lawyers and clinicians I had the chance to work with and who, like me, are committed to defending and promoting the rights and freedoms of all litigants. Now, more than ever, everyone needs fair, equitable and adequate access to justice.”

Cloe Vermette (she/her)

Université de Sherbrooke

“During the past year, I had the pleasure of participating in the Sensibilisation des étudiant·es du secondaire aux condamnations injustifiées project in partnership with Innocence Canada. As part of this project, I had the opportunity to give presentations on wrongful convictions and the criminal justice system to high school students. This allowed me to share my knowledge of the subject and my passion for criminal law with young people who may one day be inspired to do the same and educate the next group of students on legal matters. I especially appreciated the project’s interactive part. The interest I saw on the students’ faces and heard in their questions made it clear that PBSC is having a positive impact. I’m finishing my university education on a high note with this wonderful project.”

Justine B. Lépine (she/her) & Gabrielle Picard (she/her)

Université Laval

“My time at the Association de Défense des Droits Sociaux (ADDS, association for the defence of social rights) gave me the opportunity to learn more about the little-known reality of people who are unemployed or living in poverty in Quebec. Gabrielle Picard and I helped light the way to social assistance by developing a training session and an explanatory pamphlet on parental contribution. The people I met through PBSC reaffirmed that empathy, objectivity and humility are key qualities I want to embody as a jurist.” —Justine B. Lépine

“During the past year, my colleague and I had the opportunity to team up with the Association de Défense des Droits Sociaux (ADDS, association for the defence of social rights) to improve access to information on parental contribution and social assistance. I was lucky to be assigned to an incredible and inspiring group of people who made this project possible! It was a very rewarding experience that taught me things we don’t learn in school. Working on this project also made me aware of the importance of access to justice and equality for all. I plan to use the many things I learned in my professional career.” —Gabrielle Picard

Ash Arsenault (he/him)

University of New Brunswick Faculty of Law

“Working with the Imprint Trans ID Clinic has been the highlight of my law school experience. More importantly though, it has helped me realize the power we hold, even as students, to improve access to justice in our communities and leave a positive impact in the lives of marginalized people. This work has given me a sense of fulfilment and purpose that I will continue to seek beyond law school and throughout my legal career. I am forever grateful to PBSC for the mark it has left on me, my incredible and dedicated team, and the clients we serve.”

Céleste Lee Branch (she/her) & Anmoldeep Kaur (she/her)

Université de Moncton

“Being a PBSC volunteer has definitely enriched my academic career. I had the opportunity to represent the Moncton area on two occasions and these experiences let me touch on areas of law that I wouldn’t have had a chance to explore otherwise, or that I didn’t know could be of interest to me. The PBSC program has made me aware of issues surrounding access to justice, and helped me better understand its importance and impact in my region. My recent project with the Fédération des jeunes francophones du Nouveau-Brunswick (FJFNB, federation of young French speakers of New Brunswick) helped me step out of my comfort zone and gave me the chance to develop the skill of putting things into lay terms and to be a public speaker for the first time. I am very happy to have had this experience during my university studies and will undoubtedly draw on it throughout my professional career. Working with PBSC is a unique opportunity and I would encourage all students to get involved!” —Céleste Lee Branch

“I am incredibly grateful for my experience volunteering with PBSC at its partner organization, the Fédération des jeunes francophones du Nouveau-Brunswick (FJFNB, federation of young French speakers of New Brunswick). Giving the public accessible legal information is fundamental to advancing the cause of access to justice. As a volunteer, I had the opportunity to make a significant contribution in creating public legal education resources. I want to thank Pro Bono Students Canada and the Fédération des jeunes francophones du Nouveau-Brunswick for this amazing experience!” —Anmoldeep Kaur


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