THUNDER BAY, ON MAY 25, 2022 – Pro Bono Students Canada (PBSC), the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres (OFIFC), and the Thunder Bay Indigenous Friendship Centre (TBIFC) are pleased to announce today’s launch of an Indigenous Human Rights Clinic (clinic) at TBIFC.
The clinic is part of the Indigenous Human Rights Program, a partnership between PBSC and the OFIFC created to combat anti-Indigenous racism and discrimination. Under the guidance of an Advisory Council, the program develops and operates free human rights legal clinics with and within Friendship Centres in Ontario. The clinic at TBIFC is the second clinic to launch under the program, following the clinic that was opened last year and continues to operate at Odawa Native Friendship Centre in Ottawa.
On the importance of this new clinic for Thunder Bay, TBIFC Executive Director, Charlene Baglien, states: “Discrimination is unacceptable, and it happens far too often to Indigenous people living in Thunder Bay. The Friendship Centre supports the urban Indigenous community through holistic supports and services, and we are pleased to now also be offering much needed human rights legal services.”
Managed by PBSC and staffed by volunteer lawyers and local law students from the Bora Laskin Faculty of Law, the clinic at TBIFC offers summary legal advice and legal information about human rights under provincial and federal law. Leticia Wabash, a PBSC law student who supported the development of the clinic, is optimistic about its impact for both clients and students. “As a law student at the Bora Laskin Faculty of Law, I am proud to have worked with PBSC, the OFIFC, and the Friendship Centre to launch this clinic. I look forward to seeing it grow and serve the community, while providing meaningful learning and leadership opportunities for students.”
All clinic lawyers and law students participate in the OFIFC’s Cultural Competency Training, building cultural competency and Indigenous knowledge within the legal community, while creating culturally relevant and accessible legal spaces for the urban Indigenous community. As Gertie Mai Muise, Executive Director at the OFIFC, states: “The OFIFC will continue to advance Indigenous human rights within the Ontario Friendship Centre Movement. For us, this means making responsive, human rights legal services available at Friendship Centres, and educating lawyers and law students on Indigenous worldviews and urban Indigenous communities. We look forward to continuing this important work within the Movement.”
The Indigenous Human Rights Program’s work over the past year, including the development of the clinic at TBIFC, was generously funded by the Law Foundation of Ontario Access to Justice Fund, and the program previously received seed funding from the American College of Trial Lawyers’ Emil Gumpert Award. The program also receives significant support from its partners, the Canadian Human Rights Commission, the Ontario Human Rights Commission, the Human Rights Legal Support Centre, McCarthy Tétrault LLP, Lakehead University’s Bora Laskin Faculty of Law, the University of Toronto Faculty of Law, the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law, and Osgoode Hall Law School.
To learn more about the clinic, please visit: https://www.probonostudents.ca/copy-ofindigenous-human-rights-clinic.
About Pro Bono Students Canada
PBSC envisions a society with accessible legal systems, where the dignity and rights of every person are upheld. Each year, PBSC engages approximately 1,500 student volunteers who work with community partners and under the supervision of pro bono lawyers and notaries to directly serve an estimated 12,000 people across Canada. The organization is guided by the three core values of dignity, equity, and humility. Visit PBSC’s website to learn more.
About Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres
The OFIFC is a provincial Indigenous organization representing the collective interests of 29 member Friendship Centres located in towns and cities throughout Ontario. The OFIFC is the largest urban Indigenous service network in the province supporting a vibrant, diverse, and quickly-growing urban Indigenous population through programs and initiatives that span justice, health, family support, long-term care, healing and wellness, employment and training, education, research, and more. Visit the OFIFC’s website to learn more.
About Thunder Bay Indigenous Friendship Centre
Established over fifty years ago, the Thunder Bay Indigenous Friendship Centre is an urban Indigenous non-profit charitable organization providing holistic supports, services and advocacy to Indigenous people living in the City of Thunder Bay. TBIFC offers a variety of culturally appropriate programs and services and includes: health and wellness, justice, family support children and youth, mental health & addictions, education, employment, skills development and training. Our vision: A welcoming Indigenous community that nurtures healing, culture, traditions and self-determination. Please visit the TBIFC’s website to learn more.
Program Manager, Indigenous Human Rights Program