Law fellowships to focus on disability and access to justice

Successful fellowship program applicants to be hosted in Orillia, Toronto

TORONTO, Sept. 6, 2011 /CNW/ - The Law Foundation of Ontario (LFO) has awarded two new Community Leadership in Justice Fellowships.  Both of these collaborative projects will address access to justice and legal rights on the part of people with disabilities, and will create important legacies for the post-secondary institutions that will host them.

Fellow Sheila Burns, a noted specialist and advocate in the field of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), will spend 10 months at Georgian College Orillia Campus.  Her work will focus on helping prevent people with FASD from becoming involved with the criminal justice system, and on improving diversion rates and outcomes for those who do.

She will develop two FASD courses, one for delivery at Georgian within its Human Services and Child Studies Portfolio, and one for delivery online to police and other justice-related service providers.  She will also develop a FASD post-graduate certificate program at Georgian, which will be the first in Ontario.

Burns will coordinate roundtables with diverse justice services stakeholders around the province, culminating in a conference.  The fellowship will also encompass a research project focusing on the effectiveness of supports within the justice system, drawing on the experience of individuals with FASD, and establishment of a FASD Resource Centre at Georgian - positioning it as an educational leader in this emerging field.

"FASD is the most common developmental disability in Canada and impacts about 130,000 Ontarians," said Burns.  "In the justice context, we need to shift the focus from incarceration to sustainable support and services.  Specialized training for the officials who are often first points of contact is an important step forward in making that shift."

Linda Love, vice president academic at Georgian says the fellowship will represent an exceptional resource.  "Sheila's work will be of considerable benefit to our faculty, students and our communities in years to come as we develop new programs and build our resource centre," Love said.

A second fellowship has been awarded to Marian MacGregor, clinic director for the Community and Legal Aid Services Program (CLASP) at York University's Osgoode Hall Law School.  Over the course of seven months, MacGregor will develop an intensive clinical program in disability law which will be offered to Osgoode students as early as 2013.

This will build on Osgoode's established leadership in clinic-based legal education, and enhance capacity in this specialized and under-serviced area of law.  The program is expected to involve a dual placement: one at the ARCH Disability Law Centre, a specialized community legal clinic in central Toronto, and one at a non-governmental organization pursuing relevant policy work.

"The impact of disability, often combined with poverty, can create serious access to justice barriers," said MacGregor, who has practiced extensively in the area of poverty law.  "This new program will produce lawyers who are better equipped to meet the distinct needs of clients with disabilities, as well as involving students in the systemic change that needs to take place."

Osgoode Hall Dean Lorne Sossin says the new clinical program has the potential to "enrich our students' academic experience, improve access to justice and enhance Osgoode's reputation as a leader in developing experiential learning initiatives."

Community Leadership in Justice Fellowships are one of several LFO granting programs, and two 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 spring.

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:

Ayumi Bailly
Law Foundation of Ontario
(647) 288-8072

Sheila Burns
(905) 426-6453

Marian MacGregor
(416) 736-2100 ext. 33149

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The Law Foundation of Ontario

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