TORONTO, ON JUNE 17, 2021
Pro Bono Students Canada (PBSC) is pleased to announce that it is the recipient of a $100,000 grant from The Law Foundation of Ontario Access to Justice Fund.
The grant will support the Indigenous Human Rights Program, a program created by PBSC and the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres (OFIFC) to combat anti-Indigenous racism and discrimination in Ontario. Under the guidance of an Advisory Council, and with the assistance of volunteer law students and lawyers, the program uniquely offers summary advice clinics and human rights education within Friendship Centres.
"There is a pressing need for free and accessible human rights legal services to be available directly within Friendship Centres,” said Charlene Baglien, Executive Director at the Thunder Bay Indigenous Friendship Centre and member of the program’s Advisory Council. “The legal services provided by the Indigenous Human Rights Program complement the many social, cultural, and other services already provided by Friendship Centres.”
Lawyers and law students delivering legal services through the program receive Indigenous Cultural Competency training from the OFIFC and training focused on anti-oppression practices and trauma informed lawyering. Despite challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, PBSC and the OFIFC launched their first free human rights legal clinic at the Odawa Native Friendship Centre in Ottawa in January 2021. A second clinic at Toronto Council Fire Native Cultural Centre is in development.
“We are grateful to The Law Foundation of Ontario for supporting this important initiative,” said Brittany Twiss, National Director of PBSC. “We are honoured to have the opportunity to work with the OFIFC, Friendship Centres, and our many other partners to support urban Indigenous people in this way and on their terms.”
The program also provides human rights legal education to Friendship Centres and community members, including through the Indigenous Human Rights Podcast, which shines a light on the experiences of Indigenous people who have fought for their human rights at tribunals across Canada.
“This program creates opportunities for multi-directional knowledge sharing. While we know that our Friendship Centre communities will benefit from learning about their rights and options in the colonial legal system, through the OFIFC’s Indigenous Cultural Competency Training we are also proud to educate lawyers and law students on Indigenous worldviews and urban Indigenous communities,” said Nicole Meawasige, Training Manager at the OFIFC.
University of Ottawa law student Angel Larkman adds: “I am a part of the Indigenous community, I have lived and worked all of my life within it and have seen what strength it takes for individuals to say that what happened to them is wrong. The clinics broaden the avenues for those individuals to come forward, and the training involved for law students prepares us to do our work competently, and with respect and humility."
The Indigenous Human Rights Program benefits from support across the human rights and legal sector. Other program partners include the Canadian Human Rights Commission, the Ontario Human Rights Commission, the Human Rights Legal Support Centre, McCarthy Tétrault LLP, the University of Toronto Faculty of Law, the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law, and Osgoode Hall Law School.
“The Law Foundation of Ontario is committed to increasing access to justice for Indigenous peoples,” said Linda Rothstein, The Law Foundation of Ontario’s Board Chair. “We are pleased to support the Indigenous Human Rights Program and look forward to seeing its impact grow over the coming year.”
About Pro Bono Students Canada
PBSC envisions a society with accessible legal systems, where the dignity and rights of every person are upheld. The organization is guided by the three core values of dignity, equity, and humility. Visit PBSC’s website to learn more.
About Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres
The OFIFC is a provincial Indigenous organization representing the collective interests of 29 member Friendship Centres located in towns and cities throughout Ontario. The OFIFC is the largest urban Indigenous service network in the province supporting a vibrant, diverse, and quickly-growing urban Indigenous population through programs and initiatives that span justice, health, family support, long-term care, healing and wellness, employment and training, education, research, and more.
About The Law Foundation of Ontario
Established by statute in 1974, The Law Foundation of Ontario is the sole foundation in Ontario with the mandate of improving access to justice. Through granting and collaboration, the Foundation invests in knowledge and services that help people understand the law and use it to improve their lives. Learn more at www.lawfoundation.on.ca.
Brittany Twiss, National Director firstname.lastname@example.org 647.880.2160