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Funding new scientific frontiers

New Frontiers in Research Fund fuels Queen’s research in topics ranging from Lyme disease to climate change.

Early-career researchers are the backbone of Canada’s research infrastructure. Recognizing this area of research strength and its potential, the Government of Canada has launched the New Frontiers in Research Fund (NFRF) to support early-career researchers as they pursue the next great discovery in their fields.

[Minister Kirsty Duncan]
Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Sport

Seven Queen’s University projects earned a $1.72 million portion of the $38 million in NFRF funding announced by the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Sport, earlier this week. The successful Queen’s researchers are: Chantelle Capicciotti (Chemistry) and Mark Ormiston (Biomedical and Molecular Sciences), Robert Colautti (Biology), Samuel Dahan (Law), Lindsay Morcom (Education), Jessica Selinger (Kinesiology and Health Science), Kevin Stamplecoskie (Chemistry), and Laura Thomson (Geography and Planning).

“I am pleased today to celebrate the very first researchers to benefit from the New Frontiers in Research Fund. Our government’s vision is for our researchers to take risks and be innovative,” says Minister Duncan. “We want our scientists and students to have access to state-of-the-art laboratories and equipment, and we want the halls of academia to better reflect the diversity of Canada itself. This new fund will help us achieve that vision.”

Drs. Capicciotti and Ormiston are studying how cancer cells change the sugars that they express on their surface to avoid detection by the immune system. The researchers will work to develop technology to screen hundreds of sugar structures, with the ultimate goal of creating new cancer therapies that function by boosting an individual’s immune response.

As a member of the Canadian Lyme Disease Research Network (CLyDRN) based at Queen’s, Dr. Colautti is leading a diverse and multidisciplinary group of researchers to disrupt the way that tick-borne diseases are identified and managed in Canada. Their approach includes the use of handheld DNA sequencers and cloud computing for rapid detection of known or potential tick-borne pathogens, summarizing this information into a risk assessment framework for medical practitioners, public health officials, and the general populace.

Professor Dahan, in collaboration with Xiaodan Zhu (Electrical and Computer Engineering) and a team of 25 data scientists, Artificial Intelligence researchers, and law students, is working on an open source AI-tribunal for small claims in Ontario. This digital dispute-resolution platform will provide predictive legal services and negotiation support for self-represented plaintiffs. The NFRF funding will help develop the first stage of the product, focusing on severance pay and termination negotiation.

Using the skills of an interdisciplinary team of Indigenous and non-Indigenous scholars and visual and digital media artists, Dr. Morcom and her team will work to create a network of virtual reality spaces across the country. The newly-created spaces will be used to stage cross-cultural, interdisciplinary, and cross-generational encounters.

Dr. Selinger has formed an interdisciplinary team that combines expertise in fundamental human biomechanics, clinical rehabilitative medicine, and applied robotic control. The research has the potential to revolutionize the next generation of rehabilitation strategies by focusing on how people re-learn to walk after a stroke.

Focusing on a new area of research, Dr. Stamplecoskie and partner Guojun Liu (Chemistry), are researching new electrochemical devices, capable of capturing the tremendous amount of energy available in rainfall, waves, and evaporating water. The research is working to create new devices capable to meeting global energy demands.

Dr. Thomson has amassed an interdisciplinary team that will integrate modern glacier research practices and inter-generational perspectives on climate, to improve environmental monitoring in Canada’s high-Arctic. This initiative will provide open-access, real-time climate data for the first time in this part of the Arctic, and provide public access to rare historic data.

All of the Queen’s projects are funded under the Exploration stream of the NFRF program. The second stream is the Transformation stream that provides large-scale support for Canada to build strength and leadership in interdisciplinary and transformative research. The third stream, International, will come online later, according to Minister Duncan.

“Through the NFRF program, early-career researchers at Queen’s are bringing new ideas and methodologies to critical issues from Lyme disease to climate change,” say Kimberly Woodhouse, Interim Vice-Principal (Research). “Importantly, they are increasing the potential impact and application of their work by collaborating across disciplinary boundaries.”

For more information, visit the NFRF website.

Don’t miss out on research funding opportunities, subscribe to the University Research Services Funding Opportunities listserv.

Queen’s names first Distinguished University Professors

Recipients recognized for international research and teaching excellence.

2018-19 Distinguished University Professors
2018-19 Distinguished University Professors: (Left to right) Top row: Donald H. Akenson, Stephen Archer, Nicholas Bala. Middle row: Susan P. C. Cole, Cathleen Crudden, John McGarry. Bottom row: Ram Murty, R. Kerry Rowe, Suning Wang.

Queen’s University recently awarded its highest research-related honour to nine faculty members internationally recognized for contributions to their respective fields of study. Each recipient was named a Distinguished University Professor for exhibiting an outstanding and sustained research record, teaching excellence, and significant and lasting contributions to Queen’s, Canada, and the world.

“The work being done here at Queen’s in many different academic disciplines is contributing to our understanding of the world and the overall global body of knowledge in many fields,” says Daniel Woolf, Principal and Vice-Chancellor. “To celebrate this level of world-class excellence in research and teaching, it is my pleasure to designate nine of our most accomplished faculty members as Distinguished University Professors.”

The group of individuals chosen are the first to receive designations under the Distinguished University Professor Program, which was made official by the university’s Senate in 2017-18. Each year, the program’s advisory committee will invite nominations from the campus community, review the submissions, and make recommendations to the principal, who then determines successful nominees.

“Choosing this year’s recipients, from what was an impeccable pool of nominees, was no easy task,” says Principal Woolf. “That said, it served as a wonderful opportunity for me to learn even more about the breadth of work taking place here at Queen’s, and the incredible faculty driving it forward.”

Each recipient will soon add an honorific name to their title, to be selected from a list of Senate approved names. For the first set of designates, this process will take place shortly.

The inaugural group of Distinguished University Professors includes:

  • Donald H. Akenson, Distinguished University Professor, Department of History
  • Stephen Archer, Distinguished University Professor, School of Medicine
  • Nicholas Bala, Distinguished University Professor, Faculty of Law
  • Susan P. C. Cole, Distinguished University Professor, Queen’s Cancer Research Institute
  • Cathleen Crudden, Distinguished University Professor, Department of Chemistry
  • John McGarry, Distinguished University Professor, Department of Political Studies
  • Ram Murty, Distinguished University Professor, Department of Mathematics and Statistics
  • R. Kerry Rowe, Distinguished University Professor, Department of Civil Engineering
  • Suning Wang, Distinguished University Professor, Department of Chemistry

Visit the Principal’s website to learn more about the Distinguished University Professors Program, its advisory committee, and selection of honorific names.

Queen’s Law launches Graduate Diploma in Immigration and Citizenship Law

A ground-breaking program at Queen’s Law is poised to transform the training of individuals seeking entrance to the immigration and citizenship consulting profession.

Announced today, the Immigration Consultants of Canada Regulatory Council (ICCRC) has named Queen’s University Faculty of Law as the sole accredited English-language provider of a new graduate diploma program to train prospective immigration and citizenship consultants. Delivered primarily online and including an optional blended format (online/onsite), Queen’s Law will launch its new Graduate Diploma in Immigration and Citizenship Law in January 2021.

This program will be aimed at training students to write the ICCRC’s Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant Entry-to-Practice Exam. Upon successful completion of this exam, graduates may apply to become a member of the ICCRC and, subject to successfully completing the registration process and being admitted to the Council, would then be permitted to offer immigration and/or citizenship advice and/or representation for a fee.

“Immigration and refugee applicants are among the most vulnerable consumers of Canadian legal services,” says Sharry Aiken, Queen’s Law Professor and Academic Director of this new program. “Their first language may not be English or French; they may not be familiar with our legal system. It’s crucial that those helping them are qualified, trained, and rigorously assessed.”

“We are in a unique position to develop and design this program, building on the success of our two existing online programs, the undergraduate Certificate in Law and the Graduate Diploma in Legal Services Management,” says Dean of Law Bill Flanagan. “This is a historic moment for the law school, placing Queen’s Law as an international leader in online legal education. Traditionally, law schools have focused primarily on training lawyers. At Queen’s Law we have taken the lead in thinking broadly about what legal education can be, from offering a range of courses in law to undergraduate students to developing a graduate level program to train legal professionals in key business skills. Our new Graduate Diploma in Immigration and Citizenship Law is a natural extension, putting Queen’s Law at the forefront of innovation at Canadian law schools.”

“We’re making a major contribution to the quality of services and representation in this area,” Professor Aiken says. “The federal government has expressed concerns about the quality of current services, which our program directly addresses.”

With an anticipated intake of about 500 students a year, the Graduate Diploma in Immigration and Citizenship Law will be a 66-week program, currently planned as nine courses covering everything from the foundations of Canadian immigration law to ethics and professional responsibility, along with best practices for managing an immigration/citizenship consulting business. Entry to this new program will require an undergraduate degree (or equivalent) and a high level of English language proficiency.

“We are building a program that will help set a new and much higher regulatory standard for immigration and citizenship consultants in Canada,” Dean Flanagan says. “With over 500 hours of instruction in the program, built by immigration and citizenship experts like Professor Aiken and supported by professional instructional designers and course developers, we aim to help transform the quality of immigration consultant services in Canada and abroad.” 

The program will also be available in French, developed by the Université de Sherbrooke to be launched later in 2021. Queen’s Law will work closely in collaboration with the Université de Sherbrooke in the development of the program.

“Ensuring immigration and citizenship consultants are properly trained and highly skilled is the first step to ensuring that immigrants to Canada are treated equitably and humanely throughout every step of their journey here,” Professor Aiken says. “We’re proud to be at the centre of a program that will increase the quality and reliability of immigration services and increase access to justice for those who often need it most.”

** Please note that this program is under development, and will require the approval of Queen’s Senate and the Quality Council of Ontario before it can be offered.

New dean of the Faculty of Law announced

Queen’s University announced today the appointment of Mark Walters as dean of the Faculty of Law for a five-year term effective July 1, 2019.  

[Mark Walters]
Mark Walters succeeds Bill Flanagan as the dean of the Faculty of Law for a five-year term effective July 1, 2019..

An alumnus and former faculty member of the Queen’s Faculty of Law, Dr. Walters is currently the F.R. Scott Chair in Public and Constitutional Law at McGill University where he researches and publishes in the areas of public and constitutional law, legal history, and legal theory. He is also a leading scholar on the rights of Indigenous peoples, with a special focus on treaty relations between the Crown and Indigenous nations. His work in this area has been cited by Canadian courts, including the Supreme Court of Canada, as well as courts in Australia and New Zealand. 

“Legal education and practice is poised for enormous change,” says Tom Harris, Interim Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic). “Dr. Walters has a depth and breadth of experience in research, teaching and academic leadership that will enable Queen’s Law to continue its momentum as one of Canada’s leading law schools.”

Prior to joining McGill, Dr. Walters was a faculty member at Queen’s for 17 years, serving as the first associate dean (Graduate Studies and Research) where he led the launch of the Queen’s doctoral program in law.  He co-chaired the faculty’s strategic planning committee, and wrote a detailed history of the Queen’s Faculty of Law as part of the faculty’s 50th anniversary celebrations. Before his tenure at Queen’s, Dr. Walters taught at Oxford University after practicing law in the area of Aboriginal title and treaty rights. 

Dr. Walters has a Bachelor of Arts (Political Science) from Western University, and is a  graduate of Queen’s Law.  He attended Oxford University on a Commonwealth Scholarship where he pursued graduate studies in law, completing his doctorate before being called to the Ontario Bar.

Dr. Walters has held a number of research and visiting fellowships, including the Jules and Gabrielle Léger Fellowship (SSHRC), the Sir Neil MacCormick Fellowship (University of Edinburgh), the Herbert Smith Fellowship (Cambridge University) and the H.L.A. Hart Fellowship (Oxford University). He is the recipient of the Canadian Association of Law Teachers’ Award for Academic Excellence (2006) and the Queen’s Award for Excellence in Graduate Supervision (2012).

“I am thrilled by the opportunity to return to Queen’s to lead the law school in the next phase of its remarkable development,” Dr. Walters says. “It will be such a privilege to work with faculty, staff, and students who are committed to excellence and innovation in legal education and research, and who are passionate about law’s promise in building a more just society.”

Principal Daniel Woolf made the offer of appointment, following a comprehensive search process chaired by Interim Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) Harris.  

The principal and provost extend their sincere thanks to Bill Flanagan for his exceptional 14-year tenure as dean, and to the members of the Principal’s Advisory Committee for their commitment and sound advice.

Awards Gala to honour trailblazers and community builders

[QUAA Awards Gala recipients]

A former governor of the Bank of Canada, a legal advocate for same-sex couples, and the country’s first Inuk heart surgeon are among the honorees at the upcoming Queen’s University Alumni Association (QUAA) Awards Gala.

“These recipients are trailblazers and community builders,” says Jeremy Mosher (Artsci’08), volunteer president of the QUAA. “Through volunteerism or their jobs, they have made a significant impact on Queen’s, their cities, and the country.”

Chancellor Emeritus David Dodge (Arts’65, LLD’02) is receiving the Alumni Achievement Award, the highest honour bestowed by the QUAA. Dr. Dodge had a high-profile career in federal public service, serving as both the deputy minister of health and deputy minister of finance, before being named the governor of the Bank of Canada in 2001. He served as Queen’s chancellor from 2008 to 2014.

Past recipients of the Alumni Achievement Award include NASA astronaut Drew Feustel (PhD’95); former Royal Bank of Canada chief executive officer Gord Nixon (Com’79, LLD’03); and former Princeton University president Shirley Tilghman (Arts'68, DSc'02).

Donna May Kimmaliardjuk (Artsci’11) will receive the One to Watch Award. The former president of the Queen’s Native Students Association is Canada’s first Inuk heart surgeon. She received an Indspire Award and serves as a role model to her community and Indigenous youth.

Kirsti Mathers McHenry (Law’03) is receiving the Alumni Humanitarian Award. She and her wife, Jennifer, are the driving force behind Ontario’s All Families Are Equal Act, which passed in the provincial legislature in 2016. It improved the rights of same-sex parents in a number of ways, including no longer forcing couples who use assisted reproduction to have to adopt their own children.

A total of 11 awards will be handed out. Other recipients include: 

The Queen’s University Alumni Association Awards Gala will take place on April 6 at Ban Righ Hall. For more information or to purchase tickets to the event, visit the Queen’s Alumni website.

Queen’s Women’s Network promoting workplace equity and career growth

Staff event one of a number of campus activities celebrating International Women’s Day.

Members of the Queen's Women's Network accepting an equity award
Members of the Queen's Women's Network displaying an award they were presented by the university for their work to advance equity on campus.

International Women’s Day is an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of women and to encourage action on gender equity in our own communities and around the world. On Friday, March 8, the Queen’s Women’s Network (QWN) will mark the occasion by bringing women faculty and staff together to foster deeper connections, and promote women’s professional advancement on campus.

“Building a strong professional network is an important factor of career progression and job satisfaction,” says Carlyn McQueen, QWN event co-organizer, and Information and Project Coordinator in the Office of the Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic). “There are many bright and inspiring women at Queen's, and this event offers an informal opportunity to connect with other women on campus.”

The QWN event will include a brief introduction to the group – which strives to promote career development, challenge stereotypes, advance inclusivity and equity, and amplify women’s voices across campus. It will also include opportunities to connect with experts in career advancement, as well as information on resources and training opportunities available at the university. Women and self-identifying women faculty and staff interested in joining the QWN event can register online.

“Our focus this year has been to support women in their career growth at Queen’s through a series of events designed to encourage connections, build leadership skills, and promote on-going learning,” says Colleen Brown, QWN event co-organizer, and Coordinator (PCI Compliance and Operations). “Our efforts lend to the broader theme of this year’s International Women’s Day – #BalanceForBetter – which is a call-to-action for driving gender balance across the world.”

Groups across Queen’s are also marking International Women’s Day with campus events. Among them are:

Feminist Legal Studies Queen’s (FLSQ) in the Faculty of Law is hosting its annual International Women’s Day conference on March 8 and 9, which will feature discussions on gender, racial, Indigenous, and economic equality, as well as food security, and sustainability around the world. Distinguished Professor of Law, Angela P. Harris, of the University of California (Davis) Law School, will deliver the keynote lecture. Members of the student, university, and Kingston communities are all welcome to learn more and register to attend.

Queen’s Women in Computing (QWIC), a student group within the School of Computing, is hosting a Women in Tech: International Women's Day Celebration panel discussion on March 8 featuring women alumni working in the field of computing across a number industry sectors. Interested students may visit the QWIC Facebook page or the specific Facebook event page for more information and to RSVP.

On Saturday, March 16, the Queen’s Society of Graduate and Professional Students (SGPS) International Students Affairs and Equity and Diversity Commission will jointly host the Queen’s International Women’s Conference to celebrate women’s leadership in international graduate research. The event is free for Queen's students, staff, and faculty, and will include student and alumni panel discussions about scholarly accomplishments and career futures, as well as professional development workshops and keynote lecture by Jill Scott, Vice-Provost (Teaching and Learning) and Interim Associate Vice-Principal (International) at Queen's University. Learn more about the event and about how you can attend.

To discover or submit more International Women’s Day celebrations, visit the Queen’s University Events Calendar.

Virtual exhibit examines the digital future

Showcasing innovative Queen's technology projects that could change the way we live.

Close-up of hands using computer (courtesy of Glenn Cartens Peters, Unsplash)

Last fall, experts and audience members gathered at Queen’s University to discuss the future of research, knowledge sharing, and the student learning experience in the digital age at the first-ever Principal’s Symposium.

Hosted by Principal and Vice-Chancellor Daniel Woolf, and emceed by CBC Radio’s Nora Young, the symposium examined advances in artificial intelligence, data analytics, and data governance, as well as how ongoing digital transformation is influencing post-secondary students, Indigenous communities, and people in developed and developing countries.

“The speakers and panelists at our symposium shared a broad and detailed picture of how digital innovation is reshaping learning and discovery both here in Canada and abroad,” says Principal Woolf. “With their insights in mind, as well as those being revealed by researchers and students at Queen’s, we can build upon our institution’s digital framework and take advantage of the opportunities future technologies will surely present.”

The symposium also marked the launch of a supporting virtual exhibit – Imagining Our Digital Future – to highlight digital planning initiatives currently underway at Queen’s and in the Kingston community.

“For decades, Queen’s faculty and students have been leveraging technologies to advance learning and research,” says Principal Woolf. “Technological innovation will continue to change how we live, so our ongoing exploration of this new frontier is not only important, but essential to the future of knowledge, truth, and healthy societal progress. Sharing our ideas and efforts across disciplines will help us stay concerted in our efforts to create an open, inclusive, collaborative, and innovative digital future.”

The virtual exhibit features over 40 digital technology projects happening at Queen’s and in Kingston that have the potential to impact our daily lives, and create previously unimaginable learning and research opportunities across the disciplines – with plans to showcase new projects on an ongoing basis.

Currently, featured projects include everything from “smart” surgical instruments that will help doctors more efficiently remove cancerous tumours and state-of-the-art camera technology used for analyzing human movement, to online database technology used to help preserve Indigenous heritage and art or reunite communities with their history. There are also projects focused on augmented reality and VR simulators, ambient and artificial intelligence, astroparticle physics research, archaeology, surveillance, and more.

Faculty, staff, students, and Kingston community members engaged in interesting digital initiatives are welcomed to submit their project for possible inclusion in the virtual exhibit. Contact the virtual exhibit curators using the online form.

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.


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