A social law clinic serving marginalized groups in the Outaouais region

Person on street with sign pleading for money

Law, nursing and social work students to support innovative uOttawa Civil Law project receiving funding from the Chambre des notaires du Québec

Advocating for rights and furthering proper access to services for people dealing with the justice system is the raison d’être of a new interdisciplinary social law clinic in the region: the Clinique interdisciplinaire en droit social de l’Outaouais. Launching in the fall, its work will focus on providing legal, health and psychosocial support to local residents.  

Many needs to fill

Persons living with mental health issues or homelessness are increasingly caught up in the justice system and subject to often complex legal procedures with limited access to legal assistance, an anxiety-inducing and difficult situation. 

“(It’s) for people who come looking not only for legal services but also for human contact in contrast to the cold, impersonal world of the justice system,” says Emmanuelle Bernheim, a Civil Law Section professor specializing in mental health law and access to justice. She is leading a project funded over $300,000 from the Chambre des notaires du Québec, which represents Quebec’s notaries, through its notarial studies fund. 

Professor Bernheim will rely on uOttawa students in law, nursing and social work to provide support and advice at the clinic, which will be located at the Clinique de droit notarial de l’Outaouais in downtown Hull.

“They will see the extent of the needs in law and thus develop a shared understanding of their role as change agents, making them more likely to commit themselves to access to justice in their professional lives.”

Students at the forefront

Students will work together to find solutions to challenges related to family, housing, work, and the criminal justice and penal systems. Whether it’s explaining how a hearing works, offering support in handling an administrative request or making a complaint, or joining the mobile homelessness team or other community workers as needed, services offered by the clinic will be both varied and essential. The student team will also take part in other projects, like legal education workshops or legal research related to group or systemic issues raised by the community partners, to support the latter’s efforts.

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