Following the opening of the Indigenous Human Rights free legal clinic in Ottawa in early January, Fallon Benson, a 2L student in the English JD program, and member of Rainy River First Nations, shared with us her experience.
Why did you choose to be involved?
A dear friend of mine sits on the Advisory Council for the Indigenous Human Rights Program (IHRP) of Pro Bono Students Canada (PBSC) . She suggested that Indigenous Learners apply because PBSC was committed to centering and uplifting Indigenous voices in this initiative. This sort of peer-to-peer recommendation is huge for Indigenous folks. It signals to us that the organization is putting their best efforts forward to create a safe and encouraging community for equity-seeking groups. I was thrilled to apply!
I was offered a volunteer position with the IHRP and gladly accepted. I cannot count the times my family has been in need of this sort of advocacy - having a free legal clinic completely devoted to the protection of our inherent rights. Often times, Us, as Indigenous People, become so used to our rights being forgotten, we don't recognize when a legal violation has occurred. In joining this project, I very much felt like it was a step in taking back what was taken from Us. I wanted to honour my Ancestors as well as having a very small hand in creating a safer world for my young nieces.
When did you start volunteering with PBSC and what is your role?
I started volunteering in early September. As part of the IHRP, PBSC created a podcast to highlight the experiences of Indigenous People who have fought for their rights at various human rights tribunals. I am the co-host of this podcast along with Flint Patterson and Mathieu Tovar-Poitras. We have had two interviews so far and both have been with incredible Indigenous women. I feel honoured to get to soak up their knowledge and share it with our peers.
With our first clinic opening at Odawa, I will move into a clinic support role while maintaining the podcast. I'm excited to see how this program grows and develops in the future.
To read more about the Indigenous Human Rights Free Clinic and how you can be involved, please read the article published on January 20, 2021 or visit PBSC's Indigenous Human Rights Program website: https://www.probonostudents.ca/indigenous-peoples .