Two students of the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law, Erin Carr and Laura Epplett, acquired practical legal experience by taking part in a Disability Rights Practicum offered in the 2017-2018 academic year.
Human rights and labour law expert Professor Ravi Malhotra, long time member of the Human Rights Committee of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (“CCD”), co-created the Practicum with lawyer and CCD volunteer, Anne Levesque, and supervised the three students. The CCD is Canada's leading cross-disability organization. The Human Rights Committee guides the CCD’s litigation strategy and human rights advocacy work.
During the Practicum, Ms. Carr and Ms. Epplett were assigned various projects to support the Human Rights Committee’s work, including the organisation of a fundraising conference on a disability law attended by practitioners, law students and members of the community. This year’s conference, entitled “The Duty to Accommodate: Disability Discrimination in the Workplace and the Classroom”, far exceeded the fundraising goals that were set to help support the CCD’s future litigation. The students also attended a reception at Parliament Hill to mark the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. “The work done by the students was consistently exemplary. The conference was the most successful to date and was well received by the legal community,” said Professor Ravi Malhotra.
In addition to this, Ms. Carr and Ms. Epplett, along with Research Assistant Ms. Dahlia James, also worked on cases of national importance currently before the courts in which the CCD is involved as an intervener. In particular, the students supported the CCD’s legal team, Dianne Wintermute and Luke Reid of the ARCH Disability Law Centre, in their interventions before the Ontario Divisional Court in Abbey v Ontario (Community and Social Services) and S.A. v Metro Vancouver Housing Corporation before the Supreme Court of Canada. The final assignment given to the students for their Practicum was to attend the Supreme Court of Canada hearing to watch the CCD’s lawyers present the oral arguments that they helped to develop. “ARCH was very pleased to have these students work along side us. Their research, thoughts and ideas were consistently beneficial to our factums and oral argument,” stated Dianne Wintermute, Staff Lawyer at ARCH.
Erin Carr stated:
“I was thrilled to learn I had been accepted into the practicum last summer. I knew it would be a great opportunity to gain exposure to current work in disability advocacy, which has always been an interest of mine. Looking back, the experience far exceeded my expectations. It provided me with practical learning opportunities unlike any of my classroom experiences to date. I was able to assist with an intervenor factum submitted to the Supreme Court of Canada, and accompany legal counsel to hear my research used in oral submissions before the Court. Laura and I also organized a fundraising conference on the duty to accommodate, which connected us with local lawyers and other professionals working to promote disability rights. Through each of these opportunities, I gained knowledge in the areas of administrative and health law, as well as helpful insight into the practical contexts of the legal principles I study in class. The practicum has been the highlight of my law school experience so far. It was both enriching and challenging, and the guidance I received from my colleague Laura, as well as from Ms. Levesque and Professor Malhotra, provided me with valuable direction in my career. I would strongly recommend the practicum to any student interested in disability rights who is looking to become involved in exciting advocacy work.”
Dahlia James remarked:
“[W]hile working as a research assistant for Professor Malhotra, I had some of my most interesting and gratifying experiences of law school thus far. The most pronounced was contributing research to a factum that was submitted for leave to appeal (and eventually granted) at the SCC. In doing so, I had the opportunity to both work with practicing lawyers and be part of the SCC appellate process. The experience was all the more special because of the nature of the action; depending on how the bench rules, there may be serious implications for disabled persons across the country. It is my understanding that those who participate in the Disability Rights Practicum are regularly exposed to this kind of opportunity and I could not recommend it enough. It is hands-on, meaningful work that is otherwise hard to come by in our student setting.”
The Disability Rights Practicum has been offered annually at the Faculty of Law since 2016. To learn more about the Practicum and the application round for Fall of 2018, please contact Professor Malhotra (Ravi.Malhotra@uOttawa.ca).
For more information about the CCD, please visit their website: http://www.ccdonline.ca/en/