On Monday June 19th 2017, the Park Extension Legal Clinic will open its doors to the public. This is the third service point run by the Mile End Legal Clinic. Like the organization’s service points in the Mile End and Little Burgundy neighbourhoods, it will offer free legal services to community members on a walk-in basis.
How the project started
Sasha Dyck, a nurse and the vice president of the Comité d’action de Parc-Extension’s (CAPE) board of directors, and lawyer Alice Monet both live in Park Extension. Both have been active in their community, and have expressed concern over the lack of legal services available to Park Extension residents. In the past, Alice supervised the CLSC Legal Clinic, however, this clinic closed its doors over two years ago with no replacement to speak of. At CAPE, the tenant advocacy organization which Sasha is a part of, there have been ongoing discussions about the urgent need for accessible legal services in the neighborhood. Issues in family law, immigration law, housing, debt, and rights to social services are certainly not uncommon in Park Extension, which is home to many recent immigrants, and individuals and families living below the poverty line. Community members rarely have the opportunity to consult with lawyers, which often compounds the detrimental impact these issues can have on the health and wellbeing of those who have to deal with them.
MELC takes the project on and partners with CAPE
Given the excellent reputation and track record of the Mile End Legal Clinic, Sasha and Alice saw great potential in approaching the organization for a legal clinic project in Park Extension. It made sense to replicate the MELC model which has proved so successful in the neighborhoods they serve. All the essentials are there: volunteer lawyers who are available to give legal advice to clients, law students who complete their credited legal clinic courses and who give the initial consultations to clients, and a director to coordinate the consultations and ensure that each client receives quality service. With this in mind, a meeting was organized with Executive Director of the Mile End Legal Clinic and lawyer Leslie Ning in February 2016. The parties quickly recognized the potential of such a project. A partnership with the CAPE was established so that weekly clinic consultations would be held in their offices.
Access to Justice Fund Grant and hiring of Mtre Anne Thibault
Thanks to a grant from the Access to Justice Fund from the Quebec Ministry of Justice, the project officially took shape a year later, in April 2017. The grant made it possible for MELC to hire Anne Thibault as the new Legal Director of the Clinic. Anne’s mandate includes the opening and managing of operations at the new Park Extension service point. Prior to taking on this position, Anne was a sole practitioner in youth law, and actively engaged in several community projects, including in Park Extension. She is busy preparing for the official opening of the clinic on June 19 by creating links with community members, and community organizations already operating in the neighborhood.
The consultations will take place every Monday between 1:00pm and 3:00pm, and 5:00pm and 7:00pm on the CAPE premises. CAPE is located in the basement in room SS.03 of the William Hingston Center at 419 Saint-Roch Street. An information session will take place at the same address in room SS.18.