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Law student plans to make her country disability-friendly

[Hiwot Mekuanent]
With funding from the MasterCard Foundation, PhD student Hiwot Mekuanent is using her evidence-based study and scholarship at Queen’s Law to find the right solution to end discriminatory laws and practices in Ethiopia. (Photo by Andrew Van Overbeke).

Hiwot Mekuanent will be applying her doctoral work at Queen’s Faculty of Law to help improve the lives of people with disabilities in her homeland Ehtiopia. Admitted into the school’s PhD program as an “exceptional faculty leader” from the University of Gondar, she has received a Mastercard Foundation at Queen’s University Scholarship to complete her studies.      

With an LLM in human rights law from Addis Ababa University, she also has over six years of experience in the area. She is a lecturer and the director for the Disability Studies and Service Directorate at the University of Gondar, where she focuses on creating conducive learning and working environments for students and employees with disabilities. 

Hiwot Mekuanent recently spoke about the focus of her dissertation, how she became an expert in the area, and her plans for the future. 

Tell us about your research. 

My research focuses on the issues that people with disabilities and their families face in Ethiopia. My dissertation critically examines Ethiopia’s institutional and legal framework that governs the rights of persons with disabilities. Specifically, I explore why Ethiopia still has discriminatory laws and institutional frameworks while committed to both domestic and international human rights instruments that guarantee equality for persons with disabilities. For example, the Ethiopian Custom Authority enacted a directive that allows persons with disabilities to import a personal-use car duty free. While this provision may seem progressive, it only benefits persons with disabilities who appear at the Social Affairs Office in person and claim their rights. So in practice, it discriminates between persons with different types of disability.  

What led you to the area of human rights law, and more specifically to disability rights law? 

My brother has an intellectual disability and I’ve seen him face a number of challenges throughout his life. This has made me passionate about dedicating my education and career to breaking down barriers for persons with disabilities. I started with my undergraduate thesis that explored the “Rights of Persons with Disabilities under Ethiopian Legal System.” I built on this knowledge in my master’s degree in human rights law obtained from Addis Ababa University, where I wrote my thesis on the “Right to Education of Children With Intellectual Disability and its Implementation in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.” Particularly, my master’s degree allowed me to see the different concepts and issues of disability from a human rights perspective. I started to think about the international instruments and guarantees that protect the rights of persons with disabilities. Moreover, my experience serving as the director of the Disability Studies and Service Directorate of the University of Gondar exposed me to different laws and procedures that are discriminatory to persons with disabilities and challenged me to explore them in greater depth. My academic foundation and first-hand experience in the directorship role at the university are my main inspirations to continue my studies of discriminatory laws and practices in Ethiopia. I truly believe that evidence-based study and scholarship is the best way to find the right solution. 

What are your future plans after graduation? 

My plan after graduation is to continue to actively engage in disability advocacy work. I believe that it is important to turn my knowledge and expertise in the area of human rights law into practice. I would like to establish an organization that is dedicated to creating disability-friendly environments in public institutions. I am sure that my four years of PhD studies under guidance from Queen’s Law faculty will help me reach my goals and that I will gain important new perspectives from Canada that will shape my future. 

What do you like best about your Queen’s Law studies in Kingston thus far? 

I receive excellent supervision from my advisors, Professor Ashwini Vasanthakumar (Faculty of Law) and Professor Heather Aldersey (School of Rehabilitation Therapy). I appreciate their guidance and support of my research. What I like best about Queen’s Law is the Lederman Library and full support of faculty in accessing the plentiful resources in the library. 

What do you like to do outside the classroom? 

Outside of the classroom I enjoy spending time with my husband and two children. As a mom, taking care of my family and helping my children grow is important to me. I believe I have the responsibility to help shape the next generation be the best they can be to take care of our world. 

Experienced clinic lawyer takes the helm at Queen’s Legal Aid

[Blair Crew]
Blair Crew has been appointed as director of Queen’s Legal Aid (QLA). He takes up his new position on Monday, Jan.7. (University Communications)

Blair Crew brings a wealth of experience in clinical education to his new role as director of Queen’s Legal Aid (QLA). As review counsel at the University of Ottawa Community Legal Clinic (Faculty of Common Law) since 2005, he has been responsible for all aspects of supervising student caseworkers in cases brought before various courts and review boards. As a sessional professor at Ottawa’s Faculty of Common Law for the past 15 years, he has taught Sexual Assault Law, Criminal Law and Procedure, and the Law of Evidence. Since 2016, he has served as a panelist on the Government of Ontario’s pilot program that provides independent legal advice for survivors of sexual assault. He holds an LLM from Cornell University (2005), an LLB (Magna Cum Laude) from the University of Ottawa (1998) and an Honours BA from the University of Toronto. 

Before assuming the directorship of QLA on Jan. 7, Blair Crew spoke to Queen’s Law Reports about his motivation for delivering pro bono legal services, his previous experience as a clinic supervisor, and his plans for leading the largest of the school’s five clinics. 

What interests you most about providing legal services to low-income people?

Economics provides one of the most significant barriers to access to justice in Canada’s legal system. Courts of every level, including members of the Supreme Court of Canada, have recognized that the cost of legal services in Canada has now gone beyond what is affordable even for people who have a moderate level of income. People of low income often face discrimination and an inability to access legal services based on factors such as race, gender identity, or disability, including mental health challenges or addictions. 

I feel that is a real privilege to be able to use a legal education to address these barriers to access to justice. When billable hours are not a concern, the students and I are free to explore every avenue, and to put in as much work on a case as is required to achieve a fair legal result, without being bound by the limitations imposed by what a client can afford.  

How have you previously supervised clinical program students?

For more than 13 years, I was review counsel at the University of Ottawa Community Legal Aid Clinic, the equivalent of QLA. While I was primarily responsible for the clinic’s Criminal Division, I also have extensive experience before the Landlord and Tenant Board and Criminal Injuries Compensation Board. 

My approach to supervision begins with the notion that I should be directly accessible to the students. Most of my weekly schedule is reserved for direct consultation with students. I strongly believe in letting students take the lead in developing both a legal strategy to resolve a client’s legal problem, and a plan for effective communication with the clients about that strategy. 

It has been my personal practice to attend at courts or tribunals when a student has an actual hearing or trial: clients almost universally require direct and immediate legal advice from a lawyer in the last minutes before a trial or hearing begins. That said, I have learned that I can  “sit on my hands” as an observer when I am present at a trial, as a student who is well prepared can think their way through almost any situation that arises. By being present, I am able to provide meaningful feedback on what many students describe as one of the most thrilling experiences of their time at law school.   

What attracted you to Queen’s Legal Aid? 

I am excited about the depth of opportunities for file work that QLA presents to students. Between group leaders, litigation students participating for course credit, and volunteers, QLA provides opportunities for as many as 96 students a year to gain practical, hands-on legal experience. Easily the most attractive aspect for me of working at QLA is the opportunity to act as a mentor for these students.

I am also attracted to the model of having five co-located clinics operating under the umbrella of the Queen’s Law Clinics, and the opportunities for collaboration that this presents. In addition to the added convenience for clients who may require services from more than one of the Queen’s Law Clinics, I am looking forward to the having access to the insight that the staff and students of the other clinics will provide.  

By joining the staff of QLA, I am joining a team of experienced staff with a demonstrated record of being strong role models to students. Part of my role includes mentoring students beyond their time at Queen’s Faculty of Law. It has been fulfilling for me to watch my former students become partners, associates and sole practitioners, particularly in the area of criminal law, at many of Toronto’s and Ottawa’s leading firms. I enjoy being able to use these connections to assist students seeking out articling and early career opportunities.   

What are your plans for the clinic as the QLA director?

QLA has a long-standing tradition of excellence in providing both legal services to the community and hands-on experiential learning opportunities for law students. My first plan is to take some time to learn what it is about QLA that has contributed to this effectiveness and reputation. I also recognize that both methods of delivery of legal services and philosophies of experiential education are always evolving, and that any law practice needs to innovate to stay current.  

Beyond that, I am new to Kingston. I look forward to being able to renew and strengthen connections between QLA and other agencies that are involved in the justice system and/or the provision of services to low-income people, including other clinics funded by Legal Aid Ontario and social services agencies. I find that having people at such like-minded agencies in my cell-phone contacts list always increases the range of options I can present to clients seeking practical solutions to legal issues.

Breaking new ground at the intersection of AI and law

The Conflict Analytics Lab is uniting experts across the globe with cutting-edge technologies that tackle some of law's toughest challenges.  

[Samuel Dahan, Faculty of Law]
Professor Samuel Dahan is the director of the Conflict Analytics Lab, which will offer “opportunities to educate the next generation of lawyers, negotiators and mediators.” (Photo by Garrett Elliott)

Conflict Analytics is taking off. 

“It’s hard to describe how fast this is growing,” says Samuel Dahan, Assistant Professor at Queen’s Faculty of Law and head of its nascent Conflict Analytics Lab.

Conflict Analytics is a notion that began with Dahan before he joined Queen’s, and that has grown rapidly since then. 

“The idea of extracting data from negotiation settlements and cases, converting it to knowledge that is understandable and can be acted on, and using that to help people not only in legal practice is one I’ve been intrigued by since my time as a PhD student at Cambridge, and then while I was at the Court of Justice of the European Union,” he says. “It’s not just a question of creating information of use to lawyers, but also providing guidance for parties and organizations involved in a dispute, such as consumer or employment negotiation.” 

Dahan brought this idea to Queen’s when he joined the faculty in 2017, having already found collaborators, including Jonathan Touboul of the College de France; Aymeric De Moncuit of the Court of Justice of the European Union; Maxime Cohen of NYU Stern; Colin Rule, founder of eBay’s online dispute resolution platform; and David Restrepo Amariles of HEC Paris. While the idea behind the project has remained consistent, the list of collaborators has continued to grow. The Conflict Analytics Lab, the first of its kind, now has the largest consortium of experts on data analytics and dispute resolution.

Through a partnership with the Smith Scotiabank Centre for Customer Analytics and the Centre for Law in the Contemporary Workplace, a team of more than 25 law students and data scientists is working feverishly on data entry and coding in order to develop an open source AI-tribunal for small claims in Ontario. This digital dispute-resolution platform would be aimed at providing predictive legal services and negotiation support for self-represented plaintiffs.

Professor Kevin Banks, Director of the Centre for Law in the Contemporary Workplace, has played an important role in the project. 

“Professor Dahan is taking the centre’s work in bold new directions,” he says. “He joined the faculty as a centre affiliate, and the work he’s doing with the lab will support our mandate to advance the thinking around workplace law, particularly rights adjudication, at a national and an international level.”

But what does it all mean? 

“This is a project that quickly moves from academic work to something with real-world applications,” Dahan notes. “Key to this is our work on applied research – using the machine-learning system we’re building to create a dispute resolution service for people who cannot afford to be represented. There are several applications of the technology, for instance, dispute resolution, consumer complaints, contract negotiations and trademark analysis.”

“To take an example,” Dahan continues, “look at consumer disputes. Companies spend excessive amounts of money to solve customer disputes, and struggle to build consistent dispute-resolution processes. We are collaborating with several industries, including the hospitality and banking sectors, to develop a cutting-edge neural network system. We’re going to use it to analyze this vast volume of information so that we can start to provide guidance for customer services on what happens in some cases, as well as identifying best practices for resolving disputes. 

“What if there was a tool for customers that let them see what the history of similar disputes was? Or for businesses to see what the most likely result of a resolution would be? How would that change how the business responds to a customer who has a problem? And how much time and energy would it save, on a mass scale, if we could streamline these processes?” 

These are big questions – and perhaps big solutions – that apply to all of the applications that the Conflict Analytics Lab is working on. 

“That’s the philosophy that also drives the idea of a tool for an open AI resolution tribunal, as well as a system to let us see whether Canadian, French and European case law are consistent,” Dahan says. 

On a smaller scale, the lab is currently using cutting-edge text analytics to help one of the largest train builders in the world to improve their contract drafting and negotiation strategies. 

“This is a smaller project, but one that will really serve as a proof of result for the project,” Dahan says. “We are taking past negotiations over contracts in this specific industry, building a database, and then moving on to analytics that will help administrators enter into contracts with a solid idea of what has resulted in success in the past.” 

Beyond these direct applications, the Conflict Analytics Lab is also serving as an incubator, creating a home for legal technology entrepreneurs to foster and grow their own projects. 

“We’re excited to be creating an ecosystem for future projects,” Dahan says. “Mariella Montplaisir, an adjunct professor at the University of Ottawa, is working with us on her Solvr project, an online dispute-resolution system, and we are looking forward to more partnerships like this in the future.” 

All of this, of course, involves substantial research – and will generate some foundational work on data analysis and dispute resolution in the academic sphere.

“As an academic, I’m excited at the potential here to produce substantial work that will extend the benefits of the project far beyond our collaborators and to an international audience of scholars dealing with both the issues surrounding labour law, and also how data and analysis can fuel a better understanding of our field,” Dahan says. 

That, in turn, will fuel the final mandate of the lab: education. 

“This brings us full circle,” Dahan says. “We’re creating practical tools for the legal and other industries, but are we informing them? This work can create powerful ways for people to understand and use data, but the education component of this is vital and cannot be overlooked. Beyond the tools, there are opportunities here to educate the next generation of lawyers, negotiators and mediators. At the end of the day, meaningful work is about change, and change is something that has to happen at the user level.” 

The project is also creating opportunities for students: Maddy Sequeira (Law’21), and Shane Liquornik (Law’20), are two of Dahan’s first hires as research assistants for the project. 

“It’s exciting as students to have the opportunity to play a role in shaping the way in which technology and law can interact and advance the field of dispute resolution,” they say. “As next-generation lawyers, the lab has exposed us to the benefits of embracing innovations in the legal field.”

Bill Flanagan, Dean of Queen’s Law, is delighted with the Lab and its remarkable progress since Dahan’s arrival at Queen’s. 

“Samuel has taken a leadership role in creating a space where we are leveraging both technology and creative thinking in developing highly innovative and low-cost ways to deliver legal services,” he says. “The lab is putting Queen’s Law on the forefront of thinking and research on the application of AI to dispute resolution, developments that hold major potential to address some of the chronic access-to-justice challenges in Canada and around the world.”

Learn more about the Conflict Analytics Lab.

This article was first published on the Queen's Law website.

Welcoming Indigenous staff voices

Queen’s has added new staff positions to provide greater support to Indigenous students and those working with Indigenous communities.

In recent years, Queen’s has been devoting additional resources to supporting and recruiting Indigenous students at Queen’s. This effort has only increased since the release of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission task force report, which featured multiple recommendations (6, 9, and 14) centred on hiring more Indigenous staff and offering greater support to students.

The Gazette sat down with some new members of the Queen’s community (or, in some cases, familiar faces in new places). Please note this is not a complete listing of Indigenous staff members of the Queen’s community, and many positions supporting Indigenous students continue to be posted on a regular basis.

Office of Indigenous Initiatives

Haley Cochrane, Coordinator

[Queen's University Office of Indigenous Initiatives Haley Cochrane]
Haley Cochrane. (University Relations)

Job number one for Kanonhsyonne (Janice Hill) when she was appointed Director, Indigenous Initiatives in 2017 was to determine which supports she needed to fulfill her mandate.

Haley Cochrane was the first person she hired, in May 2018. Prior to joining Queen’s, Ms. Cochrane worked at another Ontario university in an Indigenous recruiting capacity.

“When I saw this position, it was appealing because of all the Indigenous work happening at Queen’s and the momentum that has already been built,” she says. “It has been a pleasant surprise to see just how much is going on here, and how many allies there are. That kind of commitment makes the work more fulfilling.”

Since that time, Ms. Cochrane has been instrumental in the recruitment of a Cultural Advisor and a Knowledge Keeper to the Office of Indigenous Initiatives, and spearheading many other events and initiatives such as the recent Indigenous Knowledge Symposium.

Ms. Cochrane was raised in Whitby and she is of mixed ancestry. Her father is from England, and her mother is Algonquin from Pikawakanagan First Nation (Golden Lake), in the Ottawa Valley area. Haley is a member of the Bear clan. 

Te howis kwûnt (Allen Doxtator), Cultural Advisor

[Queen's University Office of Indigenous Initiatives Allen Doxtator]
Te howis kwûnt (Allen Doxtator). (University Relations)

Te howis kwûnt (Allen Doxtator) sees his role as focused on education, and bridging the divide between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Peoples.

“There has to be a lot more opportunities for Indigenous Peoples to teach at schools so that people are more aware of the truth of what has happened to Indigenous Peoples in Canada,” he says. “We are not trying to make people be oppressed by what we’re saying – we are trying to make people understand why we are oppressed. We need to be able to pull ourselves together – both Indigenous Peoples and settlers – and stand up for each other, and support each other.”

To that end, Mr. Doxtator is encouraging Indigenous Peoples on campus to share their stories and ensure their stories are presented in their own words. He also encourages non-Indigenous People to speak up and take action to support Indigenous Peoples, rather than dwell in the past or take pity.

“I am a strong believer in change and being able to make ourselves change, especially as Indigenous People,” he says. “We can make ourselves not feel that oppression of colonization, and it can make us grow into a better and stronger people and find our way back to our way of life.”

Mr. Doxtator originates from Oneida First Nation of the Thames near London, Ontario, and is a member of the Bear Clan. He brings more than 45 years of experience as a social worker and in related fields to his role at Queen’s.

Grey Thunderbird (Tim Yearington), Knowledge Keeper

[Queen's University Office of Indigenous Initiatives Grey Thunderbird Tim Yearington]
Grey Thunderbird (Tim Yearington). (University Relations)

“It’s about helping people learn and remember,” Grey Thunderbird (Tim Yearington) says of his new role. “It’s about helping people learn and remember the traditional ways, which are really about being better people.”

In his first four weeks, Mr. Yearington has had many opportunities to do this. He has helped host education sessions with staff, advisory sessions with PhD candidates conducting Indigenous research, and participated in recent Indigenous events on campus such as the Knowledge Symposium and Research Workshop. But the process is not always so formal.

“Sometimes we just meet people out and about and have conversations with them about what they’re going through, what they’re struggling with, or what they want to learn,” he says. “In the academic environment, which is about head space and intellectual thinking, we try to balance that out by helping people understand how to learn through their hearts, their being, and their spirit. We also help people break down their fears and barriers so they can learn about traditional Indigenous knowledge and let go of their preconceived notions.”

Mr. Yearington is Algonquin-Métis from Kitchizibi (the Ottawa Valley). He previously worked for Correctional Services Canada in Kingston.

Faculty Resources

[Queen's University Faculty of Health Sciences Cortney Clark]
Cortney Clark. (University Relations)

Cortney Clark, Indigenous Access and Recruitment Coordinator, Faculty of Health Sciences

She began in a new position focused on recruitment, student support, and academic and cultural programming at Queen’s Faculty of Health Sciences in August. This new role was created following recommendations from the faculty's Truth and Reconciliation Task Force and from multiple student requests – in fact, when Ms. Clark was hired, she was given a large stack of ideas and offers of support from students.

“There are so many exciting things going on within our faculty – both Indigenous and non-Indigenous initiatives – to address gaps within higher education,” Ms. Clark says. “For instance, later this month we are hosting the National Indigenous Health Sciences Circle to demonstrate our allyship and leadership on this important topic, aimed at driving greater representation of Indigenous Peoples among the health professions in Canada.”

She works closely with other Indigenous student support advisors on campus, ensuring a wide breadth of coverage for Queen’s and Queen’s programs during recruitment activities, and ultimately for overall student recruitment, support, and success through their time here at Queen's.

Ms. Clark is of Mohawk descent and is a member of the Wahta Mohawk Territory in Northern Ontario.

Ann Deer, Indigenous Recruitment and Support Coordinator, Faculty of Law and Smith School of Business

[Queen's University Ann Deer Goodes Hall Smith School of Business Faculty of Law Chipewyan McCrimmon Amanda Kerek]
Ann Deer (centre) speaks with master's student Chipewyan McCrimmon (left) and Smith School of Business staff member Amanda Kerek (right). (University Relations)

“It has to be a team effort in order to be successful,” Ann Deer says, as she reflects on the key lesson she has learned in the two years since she was hired at Queen’s.

Her role has evolved in that time – what started as a recruitment-focused position for three separate faculties has now become centred on recruitment and Indigenous student support for Smith School of Business and the Faculty of Law.

That teamwork approach extends not only across faculty lines – it also extends to students. A pair of Indigenous students - Chipewyan McCrimmon, a student registered in the Master of Management Innovation and Entrepreneurship program, and Lauren Winkler, second-year Juris Doctor degree student – a planning a new conference focused on economic reconciliation to help create greater community resilience and economic prosperity for Indigenous Peoples. Ms. Deer is supporting this initiative with the coordination of administrative assistance from the Faculty of Law and School of Business.

“I am really excited about the support I have received for new ideas to engage the students,” she says, referring to both the conference and an annual start-of-term gathering she organizes for Indigenous students.

Another way she has engaged both students and community is through a series of coffee chats that she launched in the Faculty of Law. This initiative has resulted in a relationship with Akwesasne Mohawk Territory where students make an annual trip to learn about its unique Indigenous court system.

She notes Queen’s is ahead of the curve in its Indigenous recruitment and outreach – when she encounters other school recruiters, many have one person for the entire institution. Mr. McCrimmon, who is Dene and originates in the Northwest Territories, noted the fact that Smith had its own Indigenous support person was a key reason he decided to enroll.

Ms. Deer is Mohawk of the Wolf Clan, and hails from Akwesasne Mohawk Territory.

Four Directions Indigenous Student Centre

Adamina Partridge, Indigenous Events & Programs Coordinator

Adamina Partridge’s first couple of months at Four Directions have been busy. 

In addition to the re-opening of Four Directions following its expansion and renovation, Ms. Partridge has been organizing a number of cultural events including an exercise event based on Indigenous powwow dancing and a traditional Anishnaabe hand drum-making workshop.

Ms. Partridge is Inuk from Kuujjuaq, Québec, though she has lived among various Indigenous communities growing up. She hopes to bring some of her culture into the programming mix at Four Directions.  

“We are hoping to have an Inuit feast coming up if we can get some northern foods in, such as caribou, and possibly some Inuit events next semester,” she says.  

Ms. Partridge also notes she has had the opportunity to share her culture with students, and learn from them. One Inuit student at Queen’s has expanded her knowledge on traditional sewing projects, for example. 

[Queen's University Four Directions Indigenous Student Centre Keira LaPierreAdamina Partridge]
Keira LaPierre (left) and Adamina Partridge (right) of Four Directions Indigenous Student Centre. (University Relations)

Keira LaPierre, Indigenous Recruitment Representative

While recruiters such as Ms. Clark and Ms. Deer focus on specific programs and faculties, Keira LaPierre helps to paint the overall picture of Queen’s Indigenous supports for prospective students.

Ms. LaPierre’s role connects her most frequently with high school students considering Queen’s. Her expertise mainly lies in the Indigenous admission policy at Queen’s, and in explaining the university’s Indigenous support resources including Four Directions.

“Indigenous students want to know about services we provide and ensure they won’t be disconnected from community during their time here, especially if they have strong ties and may be leaving home for the first time,” she says. “Having a centre like Four Directions is very beneficial to these students, and we want to ensure they access the people and spaces we have here.”

Ms. LaPierre is not on campus much throughout the fall, as she is mainly on the road giving presentations and speaking with prospective students and their families. Her work takes her as far as James Bay in Northern Ontario, though most of her time is spent in eastern and southern Ontario.

Ms. LaPierre is Algonquin, with her father hailing from the Golden Lake area near Pembroke.

Other Indigenous staff and faculty at Queen's
Wednesday, Apr. 11, 2018 - Inclusion in the classroom (Dr. Ian Fanning)
Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2017 - New support for Indigenous students near and far
Wednesday, Jun. 21, 2017 - Two 2017 Queen's National Scholars announced

Queen’s Prison Law Clinic’s Supreme Court appearance a ‘return to roots’

[Paul Quick, QPLC]
 Paul Quick (Law’09), is a staff lawyer at the Queen's Prison Law Clinic who serves as its litigation counsel. (University Communications)

A decision by the Supreme Court of Canada to grant the Queen’s Prison Law Clinic (QPLC) leave to intervene in two appeals this fall is being hailed as an important step forward for the clinic in its efforts to advance prisoner rights.

In many ways, it’s “a return to the QPLC’s roots,” says Paul Quick (Law’09), a staff lawyer at the clinic who serves as its litigation counsel. “The clinic has been representing prisoners and advancing prisoners’ rights in the courts and before tribunals for over 40 years, and that gives us an important perspective and particular expertise in these issues.”

The clinic has sharpened its focus on applications for judicial review to Federal Court since Quick joined the QPLC staff in 2016. He says doing so was a “natural starting point” for building the QPLC’s litigation capacity and expertise.

Having thus far achieved exemplary success in these efforts, the clinic is ramping up its activities, taking on a wider variety of prisoners’ rights issues and placing greater emphasis on human rights and constitutional issues and remedies, as well as appellate-level interventions. It was with those goals in mind that Quick and faculty advisor Lisa Kerr reached out to top-notch external counsel who agreed to assist the clinic pro bono in seeking leave to intervene at the Supreme Court in Chinna v Canada and in the hearing of three related cases, known as “the standard-of-review trilogy.” 

Both matters deal with fundamental questions that promise to have long-term effects on Canadian law. The former – to be heard on Nov. 14 – involves the scope of the constitutional right of access to habeas corpus, while standard-of-review trilogy – to be heard over three days in early December – concerns the framework for the substantive review of administrative decisions by the courts. 

Pro-bono counsel will represent the QPLC at the hearings. 

Nader Hasan of Stockwoods LLP will be lead counsel representing QPLC with Quick in the Chinna matter, while Brendan Van Niejenhuis, also of Stockwoods LLP, will represent QPLC in the standard-of-review trilogy. Quick notes that the clinic is “very grateful for their excellent work in both cases.”

The QPLC is instructing counsel on the arguments to be made, and students have conducted extensive research to support the development of those instructions and the proposed legal arguments.

“This exciting SCC litigation is being assisted by QPLC’s Advanced Prison Law pilot course,” says QPLC Director Kathryn Ferreira( Law’01). “In Law 419, four upper-year students with a required clinical background gain intensive experience assisting with court litigation matters and in helping to develop the legal strategy and evidentiary records for potential test cases.”

The Advanced Prison Law pilot course is unique in Canada. “It’s the QPLC’s hope that it will become a regular offering,” Quick says.

The inaugural class includes four students. David Reznikov (Law’19), who’s one of them, lauds the small class size. 

“It’s wonderful to have the opportunity to work closely with a staff lawyer who serves as a mentor while you’re gaining hands-on legal experience, appearing before panels and tribunals, and interacting with inmate clients, many of whom wouldn’t otherwise receive legal counsel,” says Reznikov. “I chose Queen’s Law because of its strong clinical programs, and I haven’t been disappointed. There’s no question that being involved with QPLC has been the highlight of my Queen’s Law experience. And these two Supreme Court appeals are excellent examples of the meaningful impact the clinic is having.”

*This article was first published on the Faculty of Law website

Dean of the Faculty of Law search committee membership announced

On behalf of Principal and Vice-Chancellor Daniel Woolf, Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) Tom Harris is pleased to announce the membership of the committee that will advise him on the present state and future prospects of the Dean of the Faculty of Law:

  • Tom Harris (Chair), Interim Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic)
  • Lori Stewart (Secretary), Executive Director, Office of the Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic)
  • Barbara Crow, Dean, Faculty of Arts and Science
  • Ann Deer, Indigenous Recruitment and Support Coordinator
  • Shai Dubey, Adjunct Assistant Professor & Distinguished Faculty Fellow of Business Law
  • Ben Fickling, Law Students' Society Representative
  • Amy Kaufman, Head Law Librarian
  • Lisa Kerr, Assistant Professor
  • Erik Knutsen, Professor and Associate Dean, Academic
  • Deanna Morash, Assistant Dean of Administration and Finance
  • Sheila Murray, Chair of the Faculty of Law Dean’s Council
  • Stephanie Simpson, Executive Director (Human Rights and Equity Offices) and University Advisor on Equity and Human Rights
  • Gregoire Webber, Canada Research Chair in Public Law and Philosophy of Law

Principal Woolf extends his thanks to the members of the committee for their willingness to serve.

 

 

“Words that are lasting”

The Faculty of Law has unveiled a permanent art installation in their lobby, paying tribute to Indigenous Peoples.

[Queen's University Faculty of Law Indigenous art]
Recreations of seven wampum belts are now hanging from the ceiling of the Faculty of Law building. (University Communications)

Every time students, faculty, staff, and visitors enter the Faculty of Law building, they will be met with a reminder of the original inhabitants of the land on which Queen’s sits.

This spring, the faculty launched a competition to commission a piece of Indigenous art to reside in the Gowling WLG Atrium. The goal of this installation was to portray the relationship between Indigenous Peoples in Canada and the law.

“I know that the entire Queen’s Law community is thrilled with this beautiful addition to the school’s atrium, a moving recognition that Queen’s University is situated on the traditional territory of the Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee peoples, as well as an important tribute to Indigenous legal systems,” said Dean Bill Flanagan.

Artist Hannah Claus’ proposal, “Words that are lasting”, was announced as the winner in May, and she spent the summer preparing the art piece, which includes recreations of seven wampum belts suspended from the lobby ceiling.

“I spent a fair bit of time tracking down different individuals to ensure I had permission to reproduce the wampum belts, so there was some time spent getting in touch with different people,” she says. “The wampum belts that I selected to reproduce vary in function: some relate to governance structure within the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, and others represent nation to nation agreements between the Haudenosaunee and the Anishinaabe – the two main Indigenous groups who inhabit this area.” 

  • [Queen's University Faculty of Law wampum belts Hannah Claus Indigenous art]
    The seven piece installation can be viewed from the lobby and from all levels of the main staircase. (University Communications)
  • [Queen's University Faculty of Law Bill Flanagan]
    Bill Flanagan, Dean of the Faculty of Law, spoke about the importance of reconciliation and Indigenous law. (University Communications)
  • [Queen's University Faculty of Law Hannah Claus art]
    Hannah Claus speaks about her art installation. (University Communications)
  • [Queen's University Faculty of Law Indigenous]
    Students, faculty, staff, and community members attended the unveiling. (University Communications)
  • [Queen's University Faculty of Law Indigenous]
    Back to front, left to right: Principal Daniel Woolf, Bill Flanagan, Brandon Maracle, David Sharpe, Hannah Claus, Shelby Percival. (University Communications)

Ms. Claus is a visual artist of English and Kanien'kehÁ:ka / Mohawk ancestries and a member of the Tyendinaga Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte. She teaches contemporary Indigenous art as a sessional lecturer at Kiuna, a First Nations post-secondary institution, in Odanak, Québec.

She is hopeful the art will both give Indigenous students, faculty, staff, and visitors something that relates to them when they enter the building, and encourage non-Indigenous people to learn more about the populations and cultures who live where they have chosen to study.

“I hope that the installation creates an Indigenous presence as soon as you come into the space,” she says, noting that wampum belts are a memory device that belongs to Eastern Indigenous nations' oral cultures. “As the artwork was being installed, a professor from an Indigenous Law course came out onto the stairs to see, and was very excited – he says he intends to bring his class down to the lobby at the start of term going forward.”

The installation of this public art piece is an important element of the Faculty of Law’s multifaceted response to the Calls to Action of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

The ceremony was video recorded and can be streamed

Input sought on future of the Faculty of Law, search for next dean

[Bill Flanagan, Dean, Faculty of Law]
Bill Flanagan, Dean, Faculty of Law

Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) Tom Harris announced today that Bill Flanagan’s term as dean of the Faculty of Law will end on June 30, 2019, and that Professor Flanagan has indicated that he does not wish to be considered for another term.

Provost Harris will chair a committee to advise Principal Daniel Woolf on the present state and future prospects of the Faculty of Law, and on the selection of the next dean. 

“I encourage all members of the Queen’s community to provide input regarding the Faculty of Law, and to suggest individuals to serve on the advisory committee,” says Provost Harris.

Please send all submissions and advisory committee suggestions to the Office of the Provost, via email, to provost@queensu.ca, by Thursday, Sept. 20. Respondents are asked to indicate whether they wish to have their letters shown, in confidence, to the members of the advisory committee.  

Law grad recognized for advancing reconciliation at Queen’s

[Bill Flanagan, Douglas Cardinal and Jason Mercredi]
Jason Mercredi (Law'18), right, displays his Dean’s Key while posing with Dean Bill Flanagan and honorary degree recipient Douglas Cardinal outside Grant Hall following the Faculty of Law convocation ceremony. (Photo by Greg Black)

For many years before pursuing a legal education, Jason Mercredi worked with several organizations dedicated to advancing Aboriginal rights. It was his involvement with Treaty 1-11 that familiarized him with treaty histories and law, and influenced him to study law in the first place.

“I wanted to be in a position where I could make ‘yeses’ happen for Indigenous people, and that’s why I chose to go to law school,” he says.   

During his three years at Queen’s the Mushkegowuk Cree from Winnipeg has honoured his heritage within the law school and the university, making “enormous and transformative contributions.” At this year’s convocation, he was awarded the Dean’s Key for best embodying the school’s community values, collegiality, professionalism and service.

As a Queen’s student, Mercredi volunteered with the university’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Task Force, worked collaboratively with Queen’s housing department to inspire a First Nations housing policy, helped implement more awareness and access to first-term and emergency bursaries, and he also gave guest presentations on Indigenous history. His work with the TRC Task Force culminated in a presentation of its final report and recommendations to the university community on March 21; a historical milestone commemorated with an event that day at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre.

“Jason has been a key leader in helping to shape the faculty’s and the university’s response to the TRC’s calls for action," says Dean Bill Flanagan. "Ever articulate, persistent and thoughtful, it has been a privilege to work closely with Jason over the past three years, and I look forward to his continued engagement with the law school as he launches what will no doubt be a remarkable legal career.”

“Jason worked extremely hard to help advance the goal of reconciliation by making positive changes at Queen’s,” adds Cherie Metcalf, who worked with Mercredi during her term as the Faculty of Law's associate dean (Academic) . “It was not easy work for Jason to constantly speak to Indigenous issues at the faculty and on campus. Jason dedicated a lot of his energy as a Queen’s Law student to work that was important to making the faculty a better place – not just for Indigenous students, but for all of us.”

Indeed, Mercredi’s time at Queen’s Law was replete with accomplishments. 

In the fall of 2015, he advocated for, and was elected to, the first seat on the Law Students’ Society (LSS) for an Aboriginal Student Representative – a position created to give a voice to First Nations, Métis and Inuit perspectives within the law school. He also was a voice on the LSS to endorse the Canadian Council of Law Deans’ response to the TRC calls to action, leading to the later creation of a Truth and Reconciliation Committee within the LSS. 

Moreover, he was instrumental in the drive to allocate an LSS surplus fund to the establishment of the Queen’s LSS Aboriginal Entrance Award, now an endowed fund in perpetuity to support Indigenous students coming to Queen’s Law. 

In his first year, Mercredi and fellow Indigenous student Ashley Pitcher (Law’17) created and continuously championed the Indigenous Law Students’ Alliance at Queen’s Law, now a strong student organization that will continue to be a force in the school. In 2016, he was elected as the law students’ representative on the Queen’s Senate. 

Mercredi organized and presented a number of Indigenous culture-based and issue-related workshops, including a panel on Legal Efforts of Reconciliation in March, and he played a strong role in the organization and execution of the Kawaskimhon Moot hosted at Queen's Law two years ago. In addition, he has been active in endorsing and encouraging the work of staff recruiting and supporting Indigenous students at Queen’s.

“More difficult to quantify is Jason Mercredi’s service to the school as a positive presence,” wrote one of his nominators for the Dean’s Key award. “Jason was never afraid to raise difficult questions or challenge issues, but always ultimately focused on finding solutions and paths forward. Queen’s Law is a better place for his having been here.”

Queen’s Law Clinics keep growing

Increasing number of experiential learning opportunities benefits both students in the Faculty of Law and the Kingston community.

The five Queen’s Law Clinics currently offer students in the Faculty of Law a total of 218 experiential learning opportunities each year. This growth means there are 46 per cent more credit, volunteering, summer, and articling opportunities than there were in 2014.

[Queen's Law Clinics]
The Queen's Family Law Clinic assists self-representing Family Court litigants by completing their documents, helping them negotiate the Family Court process and referring them to other family justice resources. (Photo by Greg Black)

The clinics provide legal services in business law, family law, elder law, poverty law and prison law. Student caseworkers and volunteers work under the supervision of the directors and review counsel to meet the needs of clients who would otherwise have difficulty affording legal advice.

Since 2015, the clinics have operated out of the same building in downtown Kingston and Karla McGrath has served as executive director since 2017.

“Like all good roommates, we do our own thing but we also find ways to share resources, realize efficiencies, and explore what each other has to offer,” says McGrath, who is also the director of the Family Law Clinic.

The biggest growth has been in the Queen’s Elder Law Clinic (QELC), the first clinic of its kind in Canada. The clinic, formed in 2010, had eight credit students in 2014; this fall, 16 student caseworkers mentored by three student leaders will help seniors in southeastern Ontario with a variety of issues related to aging, including files like elder discrimination, abuse and neglect, while also gaining skills which apply to other areas of the law, including planning wills and powers of attorney.

“The aging demographic is no secret. For the first time ever, Canada’s senior population is larger than the number of children in this country. So all services for seniors are in high demand,” explains Blair Hicks, director of the QELC. “Past student caseworkers have been diligent and creative in finding ways to alert the community to our service. Those efforts, and word-of-mouth from satisfied clients, have meant that the number of applicants continues to rise each year.”

Hicks says that the expansion of QELC will mean an even greater opportunity for Queen's Law students to have an impact in the community.

“With additional student caseworkers, QELC can now serve more low-income clients in a shorter time,” she says.

Hicks, a Kingston estate planning practitioner, began as a part-time review counsel before becoming the clinic’s director on a part-time basis in April 2017. As part of the clinic’s expansion, her position is now full-time. 

The Queen’s Family Law Clinic (QFLC) opened with eight caseworkers and in 2018-19 and Violet Levin (Law’20) will be one of 12 student caseworkers at the clinic. Since June 2016, QFLC students have helped 245 people to navigate the family justice system, including completing more than 750 court forms relating to divorce, support, custody, and access.

Levin believes that “the best way to learn is to actually apply yourself in the field and experience itself is not something you can learn out of a textbook.”

Hicks agrees.

“For the law school student body as a whole, every additional academic or summer position increases the number of students who will graduate with a clinical experience under their belt – something that is greatly valued by potential employers and students alike,” she says.

The Queen’s Business Law Clinic has continued to expand each year to the point where the number of student positions has more than doubled in four years. Clinic Director Morgan Jarvis (Law’10) cites student demand, that couldn’t have been met without generous alumni support, for the growth.

This fall, four second- and third-year students at the Queen’s Prison Law Clinic will pilot a new advanced clinical course. The prison law clinic is unique to Queen’s, enabling students to assist inmates in one of seven institutions in the Kingston area.

“This new course will provide an opportunity to develop advanced advocacy and litigation skills through intensive involvement in the test-case litigation practice carried on by the Queen’s Prison Law Clinic and by having carriage of more complex prison law files,” explains Kathy Ferreira (Law’01), the clinic director.

Queen’s Legal Aid, the longest-running clinic, continues to offer the most student positions: 100 in total. 

Queen’s Law Clinics can expand because of continuing support from Legal Aid Ontario, the Law Foundation of Ontario, Pro Bono Students Canada, the Class of Law’81 Clinical Programs Fund, the United Way, and alumni and industry sponsors.

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