Rights-based approach may help overcome access to justice barrier
TORONTO, Sept. 4, 2012 /CNW/ - A Community Leadership in Justice Fellowship awarded by the Law Foundation of Ontario (LFO) will explore the
potential to reduce homelessness using the Charter of Rights and
Freedoms and other legal tools. Tracy Heffernan, a program director at
the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario (ACTO), will spend her
fellowship at Osgoode Hall Law School at York University.
"We clearly need to do more on the homelessness front," Heffernan says.
"One of my key current interests is the use of a rights-based approach
to address homelessness and the lack of adequate housing. This
fellowship will allow me to research the right to housing in other
countries and to analyze how those strategies might apply in Canada.
And I'll work directly with individuals and organizations who may have
a role to play."
Heffernan will study the ways in which the Charter has already been used
to advance social and economic rights, and will create a new directed
research course for students at Osgoode Hall. Her fellowship will
culminate in a symposium next year, at which an international group of
experts will consider potential next steps towards establishment of a
right to housing in Canada.
Osgoode students participating in the new course will focus on the root
causes of homelessness and inadequate housing, and on how the law might
be used to address these issues. Heffernan will also provide workshops
and guest lectures during her fellowship. Law students will be exposed
to issues of poverty and homelessness and will be encouraged to
consider what role they can play as lawyers.
Osgoode Hall Dean Lorne Sossin says the law school looks forward to
partnering in the advancement of this distinct stream of Charter
scholarship. "The Charter has had a profound impact, but its role in
developing social rights is in its infancy," he says. "While at
Osgoode, Tracy is going to explore the concept of a positive Charter
right to adequate housing, one of the most significant social
challenges we face."
Heffernan says that improved access-to-justice - a central aspect of the
LFO's mandate - is very much among the potential benefits she sees a
rights-based approach delivering. "Housing is fundamental to people's
ability to work, to raise families, to engage with their communities -
as well as to make use of the legal system," she says.
Community Leadership in Justice Fellowships are one of several LFO
granting programs, and one or more have been awarded annually since
2006. They harness the potential of community-academia links to advance
justice-related and educational objectives. Fellows are typically
leading experts and innovators. Joint applications from public interest
groups and prospective host academic institutions are invited each
The Law Foundation of Ontario helps people to understand the law and use
it to improve their lives. It provides grants for access to justice
initiatives, awards fellowships, and supports the practice of public
interest law and professional excellence.
SOURCE: The Law Foundation of Ontario
For further information:
Law Foundation of Ontario
Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario
(416) 597-5855 ext. 5174