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.