From limited access to legal representation and pervasive discrimination and systemic biases to a lack of understanding of the legal process or even awareness of one’s own rights, there are countless ways in which the law underserves marginalized people in Canada, including Black, Indigenous, 2SLGBTQI+ and immigrant communities, or those of a lower socio-economic status.
Through the world-class legal education and learning opportunities we offer at Osgoode Hall Law School at York University – one of the top law schools in Canada and recognized among the best in the world – we are teaching aspiring lawyers and tomorrow’s leaders to become champions for social impact and advocates for positive change on a global scale by helping those who have been, and continue to be today, left behind by our legal system.
To deliver the positive change needed to usher in fundamental changes to these longstanding disparities, we are putting our students on the frontlines of social justice through opportunities to align their learning with real-world impact.
Osgoode’s Community & Legal Aid Services Program (CLASP) is a legal aid clinic offering free advice and representation to community members (including York students). Up to 125 current law students work under the guidance and mentorship of professional lawyers to gain real-world, clinical experience as they assist low-income individuals and families with administrative, criminal and immigration law. Through active and engaged community lawyering, CLASP supports marginalized communities – particularly those in the Jane and Finch area – while also helping educate the public on legal issues such as workers’ rights and arrests at the 2010 G20 Summit.
The impact of this life-changing initiative has reverberated for many individuals and families over its lifespan. When two Osgoode students took up the case of a family from Kazakhstan facing deportation, they were motivated by the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of those who need it most. With the expert advice of their supervising lawyer, Louis Althaus and Brandon Jeffrey Jang secured a reprieve just days before the deportation took effect, allowing them to add to their own professional experience while paving the way for the family to continue living their dream in Canada.
Students are also encouraged to infuse this commitment to social justice and supporting marginalized communities throughout their careers, and with the incredible diversity of our student body, to fight for the social causes close to their hearts.
For example, for Osgoode graduate and Gold Medal recipient Frank Nasca, this opportunity came when faced with the plight of a transmasculine non-binary person who was denied gender-affirming care. Being transgender themselves, Nasca was uniquely motivated to take on the case, pulling from the legal knowledge they gained during their studies and even advice from their Osgoode professors – ultimately winning their tribunal appeal and delivering on the values nurtured during their time at Osgoode.