Canadian Lawyers Abroad – Avocats canadiens à l’étranger: Using Law to Improve Lives

For this edition of the Progressive Lawyer Spotlight, we shine it on Canadian Lawyers Abroad – Avocats canadiens à l’étranger, an amazing organization that supports good governance, rule of law and human rights work in the developing world and Canada. We recently spoke to Executive Director Brittany Twiss who took time out of her very busy schedule to fill us in on what CLA-ACE is all about.

Progressive Lawyer: Please give us an overview of the kind of projects CLA-ACE is involved in.

Brittany Twiss: CLA-ACE is a catalyst for positive social change. Through education and engagement we are increasing access to justice for marginalized populations worldwide, and enabling law students and lawyers to use their legal training to make a difference. Two extraordinary women, Yasmin Shaker (International Trade and Investment Counsel, Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development) and Catherine McKenna (Ottawa Centre Candidate, Liberty Party of Canada), founded CLA-ACE in 2005 in Ottawa.

At present, we have three major programs in operation:

National Dare to Dream Program

We are positively transforming the way First Nation, Métis, and Inuit youth aged 11-14 perceive and engage with the justice system through meaningful interaction with legal professionals and fun, justice-focused learning activities. Dare to Dream is now in operation in Toronto, Ottawa, Saskatoon, Calgary and the Siksika Nation, with over 150 students and 80 volunteers participating.

National Student Chapter Program

We have Student Chapters at 15 law schools across Canada where we educate and engage students on pressing social justice issues. In the fall of 2014, we worked with various refugee law experts to draft a report and host an intensive two-day conference on “Access to Justice for Refugees” at UOttawa. After attending the conference, the students from across Canada returned to their schools to host their own refugee rights events and contribute reports to our national student journal.

International Student Internship Program

We enhance the capacity of international and indigenous human rights organizations, and provide law students with important learning experiences beyond the classroom. Since 2005, 120 students have provided valuable legal assistance to 35 organizations in 10 countries. In the summer of 2015, students will be placed in Kenya, Ghana, Namibia, Thailand, India, Bangladesh, Alaska, D.C., and throughout Canada.

PL: How do you pick partner organizations?

BT: We collaborate with other non-profit organizations that share our mission to use law to improve lives. Typically an intern host organization will conduct work in the areas of human rights, good governance and/or the rule of law, and will be working towards increasing access to justice for marginalized or underserved populations. The host organization is required to provide our interns with a legal supervisor and substantive, meaningful and educational legal tasks. Continue reading “Canadian Lawyers Abroad – Avocats canadiens à l’étranger: Using Law to Improve Lives”

Comparative Perspectives on Transitional Justice Processes in Mali and Côte d’Ivoire

Please join ABA ROLI‘s Country Director in Mali, Olivier Kambala wa Kambala, for a discussion on Mali‘s transitional justice process, drawing from his most recent work to integrate community-driven priorities into national reconciliation efforts. Comparative perspectives will be explored with panelist Jim Wormington, West Africa Researcher at Human Rights Watch, as he discusses the state of the transitional justice process in Côte d‘Ivoire. The panel will explore what is needed to help both countries achieve greater social cohesion and lasting peace, and will conclude by considering whether lessons learned from Mali and Côte d‘Ivoire have implications for transitional justice processes in other countries where ABA ROLI is working, such as Burundi, the Central African Republic, and Mauritania.


  • Olivier Kambala wa Kambala, Mali Country Director, ABA ROLI
  • Jim Wormington, West Africa Researcher, Human Rights Watch


Elizabeth Andersen, Director, ABA ROLI


In recent years, Mali and Côte d‘Ivoire have been dealing with the aftermath of massive violations of human rights that have inflicted considerable suffering on civilian populations and that undermine transitions to participatory and democratic forms of governance. In Mali, official attempts to end the crisis that was sparked by the January 2012 rebellion and aggravated by a coup d‘état and the subsequent seizure of large territories of the country‘s north by a mix of separatist and Islamist groups, have focused on the ongoing negotiation of a peace agreement in Algiers. Transitional justice efforts displayed by the government of Mali to date, including the creation of a truth-seeking institution, national and international prosecutions initiatives, as well as the drafting of a reparations framework are all positive developments, but they must be complemented by additional efforts that can address the root causes of the crisis, including weak institutions, entrenched corruption, and inequality. Conversely, the government of Cote d‘Ivoire has made little progress in addressing root causes of long-standing politico-ethnic conflict that culminated in the 2010-2011 post-election crisis in which security forces, rebel forces, and allied militia groups regularly committed grave crimes against civilians with complete impunity. Despite the establishment of three national justice institutions mandated to address these atrocities, much remains to be done.

The ABA Rule of Law Initiative has operated in Mali since 2011. Since 2013, we have been working with government and civil society partners to implement an effective transitional justice process. Our efforts have focused on creating dialogue – both at the community and national levels – to facilitate the emergence of a strategy of transitional justice that provides a comprehensive and holistic response to the needs of victims and that contributes to ending cycles of human rights violations in the country.