Title: Supportive Ally or Academic Busybody? - how one clinical legal education program attempts to further social justice initiatives
Lead Presenter: Cheryl Milne
Session Abstract: The David Asper Centre for Constitutional Rights at the University of Toronto, Faculty of Law began with a generous donation and the ambitious aim to play a vital role in articulating Canada's constitutional vision to the broader world. The cornerstone of the Centre is a legal clinic that brings together students, faculty and members of the bar to work on significant constitutional cases and advocacy initiatives. After nine years, the Centre has developed a reputation through its intervention and social justice advocacy as a helpful litigant in high level appeals and a supportive partner with advocacy organizations. Projects have included advice on strategic litigation, legislative advocacy and significant interventions in constitutional appeals. Using examples from its clinic projects, the paper will highlight how it supports and develops public interest law initiatives by taking on some of the more difficult legal arguments or by providing in-depth legal research to support the social justice arguments of other organizations representing marginalized communities. As part of an academic institution, the Centre is keenly aware that it does not represent a particular group or constituency and thus must be sensitive to the implications of legal positions it takes on. A key principle in its work is to endeavour to do no harm, especially to those groups who are marginalized in our justice system. Through partnerships with other organizations and collaborations with coalitions of advocacy groups, we aim to ensure that we are involved in the most appropriate cases in the most appropriate way. This paper will reflect on whether we have been successful in this aim.
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