TORONTO, ON – The Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres (OFIFC) has received funding to sustain and expand the impactful work of the Indigenous Human Rights Program. A partnership between the OFIFC and Pro Bono Students Canada (PBSC), the purpose of the program is to combat anti-Indigenous racism and discrimination by working with Friendship Centres to build knowledge about human rights amongst Urban Indigenous communities, and to empower Urban Indigenous people to make decisions about their rights. The program pursues this mission by developing and operating free human rights legal clinics located within Friendship Centres in Ontario and through diverse public legal education initiatives.
Following the success of the program’s pilot clinics launched at the Odawa Native Friendship Centre (ONFC) in 2021 and the Thunder Bay Indigenous Friendship Centre (TBIFC) in 2022, the Indigenous Human Rights Program has now received a three-year commitment from the Department of Justice that will enable the resumption and expansion of legal services through these clinics along with further development of the program.
The clinics will continue to be staffed by PBSC’s volunteer law students from the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law and Lakehead University’s Bora Laskin Faculty of Law, and a dedicated roster of volunteer lawyers with human rights law expertise. All volunteers must take the OFIFC’s three-day accredited Indigenous Cultural Competency Training (ICCT) to ensure they are appropriately equipped to address the needs of Indigenous community members.
With Canada’s recent adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP) and the federal government’s commitment to an Indigenous Justice Strategy (IJS), the Indigenous Human Rights Program represents a tangible example of reconciliation.
The OFIFC and PBSC are grateful to all of the law students and lawyers who contributed to the pilot of the Indigenous Human Rights Program’s human rights clinics, along with the program’s Advisory Council and partners, McCarthy Tétrault LLP, the Canadian Human Rights Commission, the Ontario Human Rights Commission, the Human Rights Legal Support Centre, the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law, Bora Laskin Faculty of Law, the University of Toronto Faculty of Law, Osgoode Hall Law School, and newly, the Department of Justice.
“We are excited to see that human rights legal services will now be available at two Friendship Centres in Ontario. The IHRP will increase access to justice and dismantle barriers for urban Indigenous people who experienced human rights violations.”
- Armand Jourdain, Board President, OFIFC
“PBSC is committed to working closely with the OFIFC, Friendship Centres, and other partners in the growth of this important program, responding to systemic racism and advancing the ongoing process of reconciliation. We are grateful for the Department of Justice’s support, which will enable the delivery of impactful legal services to Urban Indigenous people who may have experienced discrimination.”
- Dana Rotenberg, National Director, PBSC
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 working with community partners and under the supervision of pro bono lawyers and notaries to serve an estimated 12,000 people across Canada directly. The organization is guided by the three core values of dignity, equity, and humility. Visit PBSC’s website to learn more.