I have the pleasure this year to be one of the Flip Your Wig Ambassadors. If you haven’t heard, Flip Your Wig is a campaign now underway to raise awareness and resources about access to justice. At the launch of the campaign held earlier in January at the Law Society of Upper Canada, I mentioned the story of Zahra Abdille, the public health nurse killed with her two children in November 2014 in an instance of suspected domestic violence. Abdille was reported to have sought but been unable to obtain legal assistance – an all too common experience for women caught up in domestic disputes.
2014 was a remarkable year in Canadian legal news. These are, in my view, the top 10 stories (in no particular order):
I am continually inspired by our students – their energy, leadership, ideas and passion. While this has been mentioned from time to time in my blog, it struck me as an oversight not to have devoted a post to this topic. And the timing has never been more right. Just this term, law students at Osgoode have called the Canadian Judicial Council to account for its prosecution of Justice Lori Douglas, undertaken an unprecedented campaign to raise funds for debt relief, led a campaign to oppose the law program at Trinity Western University and engaged in public education around race and police violence. And, in each case, students have influential, difference-makers not just at the Law School and in the University, but within broader communities and on some of the most important issues of our time.
What a remarkable time to have scheduled a visit to Hong Kong. Long before the pepper spray and vast protesting crowds of the “Umbrella Revolution,” a group of Canadian law schools decided to continue a tradition of pan-Canadian alumni events abroad (building on successful events in New York and London last year) by deciding to come together in Hong Kong in early November. The visit proved memorable both from the perspective of connecting with Osgoode graduates and from the perspective of witnessing a pivotal moment in Hong Kong’s history.
We have made much at Osgoode of our embrace of experiential education. Our curriculum change (commencing with the Class of 2015 graduating this June) is the first in Osgoode history and the first in Canadian legal history to have an experiential education requirement. In 2012, Osgoode launched the first Office of Experiential Education to support the new clinics, intensive programs and courses that have accompanied this experiential turn. This is enhanced by our vibrant mooting and lawyering program, and the OPIR, Osgoode’s Public Interest program. What is crucial to this development, but deserves greater profile, is the fact that Osgoode could not reach this ambitious goal on our own. Rather, it is attainable only through new and innovative partnerships and collaborations. A great example is the Willms & Shier Environmental Law Moot, a joint initiative of Osgoode and the law firm Willms & Shier. Read the rest of this entry →
Commencing with the JD class beginning their studies in 2015, Osgoode will begin offering some students admission to Law School on an income contingent loan basis. Eligible students who self-select for this program will not pay any tuition while they are law students, but will agree to repay the entirety of their tuition commencing when their income reaches a point where they can afford to do so. And, if their income never reaches that point, the loan will be forgiven incrementally over a period of years. This program would provide an entirely new way to access legal education, and when combined with existing bursaries, scholarships and graduation awards, advances the goal that every qualified student should be able to obtain legal education regardless of financial means. Read the rest of this entry →
I spent a day this week at the Canadian Embassy in Tunis, which hosted an IDRC funded workshop of International IDEA (The International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance) on security sector oversight in comparative perspective. Presenters from Chile, Argentina, Jordan, South Africa, Egypt, Tunisia, Canada, Germany and the U.K. (among others) are exploring how civilian oversight of military intelligence gathering and security activities can strike the right balance between meaningful democratic accountability and independence (while avoiding partisan abuse). As I often experience at comparative administrative law conferences, it is amazing to reflect on how many parts of the world share the same dilemmas, but address them in such disparate ways. Spending several days in Tunisia is also an opportunity to talk to people here about the ripple effects of the Arab Spring (or Awakening, as it is often referred to here) and the nature of democratic change. Read the rest of this entry →
On May 23rd, 1914, the Komagata Maru, a Japanese ship, entered Burrard Inlet outside of Vancouver carrying 376 people looking for a better life in Canada. They were denied entry on a legal technicality. Canada had introduced a law that required immigrants to Canada to arrive by a single, direct journey from their country of origin. This means immigrants from European and other desirable destinations that direct passenger service could emigrate to Canada, and those from more distant and less desirable lands could not. It was part of a series of discriminatory immigration measures (many aimed against Chinese immigration such as the notorious “head tax”) that characterized Canada’s policy through the early part of the twentieth century. It is hard to imagine now the popularity of the song “White Canada forever” then. Read the rest of this entry →
I met up with Gary Mooney for lunch the other day. Gary is an Osgoode graduate who has large ambitions for the delivery of legal services. For the most part, this vision consists of a wide variety of legal services no longer being delivered by lawyers and instead being automated. And yet, he is convinced this is good news for lawyers – and more importantly, for their clients. By the end of lunch, a clearer picture of the future of legal services was emerging. The question I was left with was – are we ready? Read the rest of this entry →
Rod Macdonald passed away on Friday, June 13th. Three years ago, he was on the stage at Osgoode Hall Law School’s Convocation in 2011, receiving an Honourary Doctorate, and serenading the graduating Osgoode class with a protest song from Pete Seeger. If you were not there, it is well worth watching. At that time, his debilitating throat cancer was in remission and he was very much in his element, both in captivating law students, and at Osgoode (where he had graduated in 1972, part of a storied class which included Michael Mandel, Russell Juriansz, Linda Draynoff, Paul Emond, Art Vertleib and many others). Harry Arthurs was on hand to deliver the citation for Rod and most of Osgoode’s faculty had turned out to show their enthusiasm for Rod. Being on stage to share in this moment was particularly sweet for me, as it was my first June Convocation as Dean, and because Rod had such a profound and positive impact on my own journey. Read the rest of this entry →