I get asked on a regular basis as to what exactly what Canadian Lawyers Abroad does. These questions come from friends, colleagues, people I've just met, my dad. It seems that many people picture planeloads of eager Canadian lawyers flooding into developing countries to do “good stuff."
“Don’t worry. We’ve got a planeload of Canadian lawyers on the way. And stop calling me Shirley!”
So the bad news (or good news, depending on your perspective) is that we don’t do that. The good news is that we use law to improve lives (our new tagline).
How? In two ways. First, we run a Student Program that brings together law students from across the country who are passionate about using their law degree to make positive changes around the world. CLA provides a forum for discussion and debate and, through our Summer Internship Program, we offer students the possibility of gaining practical experience with our amazing partners in developing countries and Canada’s north.
CLA Intern, Jessica Fletcher (UBC), with colleagues from WiLDAF, Ghana
Second, we develop innovative projects with our partners that will lead to positive, long-term changes in their communities. For example, we’re helping the KNUST Faculty of Law in Ghana set up a university legal clinic. University legal clinics have been a very successful model in Canada and Canadian lawyers and law students are well-placed to provide assistance. This project will give KNUST law students practical, real-life training and provide marginalized groups, in particular women and youth, access to desperately needed legal information and services. In the long-term, by promoting the rule of law and protecting human rights, this project will help reduce poverty and promote economic development in Ghana. We plan on replicating this pilot project with other partners around the world.
We’re also creating a space where all members of the legal community can come together to reflect on the role that Canada can and should be playing in building a world where human rights are respected and the rule of law is upheld. This isn’t simply a challenge for human rights lawyers. It’s a challenge for all of us – at firms, in business, in academia, in the NGO world and in government. Canadians are uniquely placed to make a difference: We practice in a variety of legal traditions. We have strong institutions and a commitment to the rule of law and human rights. We come from all over the world. We should be leading the way. The question is not why but how. How can we use our skills to join the fight to end inequality and poverty worldwide, including in Canada?
So, if you want to change the world and have fun – you’re at the right place. Join us at CLA!