Canadian Lawyers Abroad Goes Next Level With New Name and New Look

September 10, 2015

Dear Friends,

After a year-long rebranding process, we are proud to unveil Canadian Lawyers Abroad’s new name and logo:


Canadian Lawyers Abroad’s evolution to Level is more than just a fresh look. It is a new direction that celebrates our organization’s role in creating opportunities for justice in Canada and abroad. It captures our belief that uniting the power of people, education and law will lead to a more equitable and just society. It reflects our commitment to substantive equality, and it illustrates a simple truth — when you support Level you change lives.

While our organization primarily operates in English, we have stayed true to our bilingual, Canadian heritage with a corresponding French name and tagline: Égaliser. Changeons des vies par le droit.

Please see our press release for more information, and visit our newly launched website at (our French website will follow in the coming months at

On behalf of our Board of Directors and Executive, I would like to thank the various members of our network that volunteered their time and provided feedback during the brand development stage. We are especially grateful to our Advisory Board for their continued support and guidance, as well as to the Traffik Group whose expertise made this transition possible.

Stay tuned for updates about our 2015-16 program delivery and upcoming activities. In the meantime, we appreciate your patience and support during the transition process.

Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions, concerns or feedback.



Brittany Twiss, Executive Director

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Beyond Borders as a Legal Intern with Canadian Lawyers Abroad

Melody Burke is completing her CLA-ACE internship with Beyond Borders in Ottawa, Ontario.

My internship at Beyond Borders ECPAT has been an eye-opening experience.

When I first began the internship, I did not know what to expect in terms of workload or even content, to a major extent. I knew Beyond Borders was an organization whose focus was advancing the rights of children, specifically targeting sexual abuse and exploitation. I did not realize the various forms of sexual abuse and exploitation that existed in the world involving children.

However, I soon learnt about child trafficking, child marriage, online child exploitation, female genital mutilation, etc. by updating the website’s Fact Sheets, which involved all of these topics and more. In order to update the Fact Sheets, it was necessary to research the current status of various bills and statistics, update references, and review the new trends and cases that have emerged on each subject.


At a conference in Toronto called the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work at the University of Toronto Symposium at the Royal Conservatory of Music, Cindy Blackstock and Alanis Obomsawin give a talk discussing the “Canadian Human Rights Tribunal on First Nations Child Welfare”.

After I completed updating the Fact Sheets for the website, I began working with Mr. Mark Hecht, the Co-founder and Senior Legal Counsel at Beyond Borders, on his report that highlights the status of sexual exploitation of children in the travel and tourism industry in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, specifically by drafting a section called “MENA at the Committee on the Rights of the Child”. Once the section was completed, I was tasked with my current assignment of answering four research questions to supplement the paper.

My internship with Beyond Borders has already greatly expanded my view of children’s rights, both locally and globally, as well as reminding me why I was fascinated in law in the first place.

Michele Anderson and Bruce Rivers

At the same conference, Michele Anderson and Bruce Rivers give a talk on “Sex Trafficking and Homeless Youth: A Solution-Focused Approach”.

Learning about the many injustices in the world can be disheartening, but nothing is more hopeful and encouraging than realizing that there are ways to legally combat social injustice, such as changing a legal infrastructure or improving victim treatment. I have looked forward to all my projects this summer and learning more about children’s rights and international law.

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On the Ground and In the Court with CLA’s Chiefs of Ontario Intern

Elysia Petrone-Reitberger is completing her internship in Toronto, Canada with the Chiefs of Ontario. 

July 13, 2015

I am this year’s CLA summer intern at the Chiefs of Ontario. On June 16, I walked the few block down Queen St. to observe the Chippewa of the Thames First Nation (“Chippewa FN”) have their day at the Federal Court of Appeal. Chippewa FN had a busload of supporters that were set up in an overflow room and there were a hundred or so rallying outside. Inside three justices were presiding: Justice Ryer, Justice Webb and Justice Rennie.

It took me a few minutes to figure out who was who. Representing the Appellant (Chippewa FN) was David Nahwegahbow and Scott Robertson who sat front left. Joshua Jantzi and Doug Crowther were on the right representing Enbridge Pipelines Inc. (“Enbridge”). Peter Southey, Dayna Anderson and Sarah Bird, also on the right represented the Attorney General of Canada. Finally, Rebecca Brown for the National Energy Board (“NEB”) was on the left behind the Chippewa FN’s lawyers.

CoOIt was an interesting scene to watch. All the lawyers had a turn to make oral arguments and each had a Q&A with the judges. It was difficult to guess whose side the judges were on. For the most part, it seemed to me they favoured Enbridge but at the end it felt like there could have been a shift.

Chippewa FN are signatories to several treaties with the British Crown, which recognizes and affirms their exclusive rights to their unceded lands. Enbridge wants to run more heavy crude through their traditional territory. So the NEB held hearings and Chippewa FN was an intervener. The NEB later approved Line 9. The Chippewa FN holds the NEB did not address whether the Crown’s duty to consult was triggered in the circumstances of Enbridge’s application. The NEB did not make any findings regarding the adequacy of Crown consultation.

The main issue the court will determine is whether the NEB has jurisdiction under their Act to discharge the Crown’s duty to consult and accommodate. Chippewa FN’s argued they do not have jurisdiction and that the Crown’s delegation of both the procedural and substantive elements of the Crown’s duty to consult is unlawful. Also, they argued the NEB erred by not considering the strength of Chippewa FN’s Aboriginal and Treaty right and misconceived the impacts of Line 9.

When the NEB approved Line 9, it suggested Enbridge’s consultation and Chippewa FN participation at the NEB hearing were sufficient. While the NEB stated they recognized the potential for impacts on traditional land use (TLU) if a spill occurs, they still hold the impacts are unlikely and they would be minimal and mitigated.

Thames4Nahwegahbow went through the Rio Tinto[1] 3-part test and argued the duty to consult was triggered. He said Chippewa FN are under Treaty so the Crown has notice. He went on to state that Enbridge’s application is contemplated Crown conduct and the potential adverse impacts favour extensive consultation and accommodation based on the seriousness of the cumulative impacts to the Chippewa FN members’ use of the land and resources close to Line 9. Nahwegahbow also pointed out that Chippewa FN asserts title over the Thames River.

Chippewa FN in their factum state “the process is not well-suited for meaningful engagement with Aboriginal peoples and the NEB decisions show a pattern of ‘rubberstamping’ applications, the board uses standard boilerplate language.”

Robertson finished his arguments by claiming the NEB’s failure to properly assess and consider the seriousness of the First Nation claim and the impact of the infringement on that claim amounted to errors of law reviewable on a standard of correctness. Chippewa FN want the appeal to be allowed and an order quashing the NEB’s decision.

Enbridge, had several seats reserved in the court for some of its corporate employees. Enbridge’s lawyers want the appeal to be dismissed and argued the NEB had no duty to assess the adequacy of Crown consultation. Enbridge heavily relied on Standing Buffalo Dakota First Nation v. Enbridge 2009 FCA 308 [“Standing Buffalo”] a decision written by Justice Ryer. The Supreme Court refused to grant the First Nations in Standing Buffalo leave to appeal. Justice Ryer had several lines of questioning on how one can get around that decision. Chippewa FN’s lawyer pointed out that Rio Tinto is the most recent decision out of the SCC on the duty to consult and that is the case that needs to be followed.

Enbridge argued the Crown’s duty to consult was not triggered as it fails the 3rd step since there is no casual relationship between the approval of Line 9 and any appreciable adverse effect on the exercise of Chippewa FN’s rights or interests. They also submit the NEB is the expert and they should get judicial deference and that the standard of review is reasonableness.

Attorney General of Canada (“AGC”) was next up. They submit the NEB is not the Crown or its agent- it is a quasi-judicial body and its duties do not include evaluating or assessing the Crown’s independent duty to consult. They held the NEB did its job and that Standing Buffalo is the applicable and binding case law. They requested the appeal be dismissed. The AGC argued there needed to be another proceeding, which could engage the Crown’s independent duty to consult, since the Federal Court of Appeal was not the proper venue, in their opinion. This argument was not popular with the audience, as the sentiment was First Nations do not want to be dragged through multiple layers of courtrooms.

Southey for the AGC also made unpopular comments when he submit the Crown’s duty to consult would be on the low end of the spectrum and that it had been entirely discharged through the NEB’s process.

The NEB’s lawyer was up last. She did not have mush to say. She stated the NEB is taking no position and that the NEB has jurisdiction to hear and determine matters of fact or law.

ChippewaoftheThamesDEMO1It was a fascinating case to observe for my first time in the Federal Court of Appeal. I am now patiently waiting to see how the judges will decide.

The decision is to be released sometime this summer.

[1] Rio Tinto Alcan Inc. v. Carrier Sekani Tribal Council, [2010] 2 SCR 650, 2010 SCC 43

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Deep and Rich: Experiences as an Legal Intern with First Nation in Fort Mac

Caissie Richards is completing her CLA-ACE internship in Fort McMurray, Alberta with the Mikisew Cree First Nation.


The great northern skies over Mikisew Cree First Nation, Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada.

Working with the Mikisew Cree First Nation (MCFN) has expanded my legal education and allowed me to experience my hometown of Fort McMurray from a unique perspective. A recent visit to nearby Fort Chipewyan has given me a deeper appreciation for the issues that face the MCFN throughout their traditional territory. It has also allowed me to better understand the MCFN’s connection to the natural environment and the impact that legislation and industry action can have on their way of life.

As the legal intern at MCFN Government and Industry Relations, I’ve been able to review various pieces of legislation in Alberta including the Responsible Energy Development Act, the Mines and Minerals Act, and the Historical Resources Act, to name a few. The purpose of reviewing these acts has been to flag various sections that may be of interest to MCFN in order to provide information regarding the legal frameworks that may affect their Aboriginal or Treaty Rights. This experience along with writing letters and attending meetings has provided me with a practical understanding of what the Duty to Consult means and the breadth of its application. While writing letters to government and industry proponents to outline concerns with various policies, initiatives, and projects, I have learned about the relationship between these actions and the impact that they can have on the MCFN’s rights.

Overall, the process of researching and writing has exposed me to the values that are important to the MCFN and to other First Nations.

I’ve also received exposure to Alberta’s regulatory process through my research. For example, I had recently been tasked with researching reclamation liabilities in regard to mining operations, in an attempt to understand the amount of financial security that companies are required to provide to ensure that reclamation does occur should they become insolvent. Notably, the Auditor General recently flagged this issue after a review of the Mine Financial Security Program.

Looking forward, I know the rest of my summer will be filled with unique and exciting experiences that will include attending a hearing for a proposed hydro dam in British Columbia.

– Cassie Richards

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@FIDAKenya w/Allie – Diverse Legal Experiences from Courts to Communities

Allie Thompson is completing her internship in Nairobi, Kenya with the Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA). 


FIDA is a non-profit organization committed to the creation of a society that is free from all forms of discrimination against women. The organization provides legal services to indigent women, provides educational clinics and creates awareness of legal rights. FIDA also trains women on how to represent themselves in court, undertakes public interest litigation, researches and reports on women’s rights violations, and advocates for law and policy reform.

            I have had the opportunity to take part in some very interesting projects over the past weeks.

For example, I contributed to a draft request for an advisory opinion from the African Court of Human and People’s Rights, and helped draft the pleadings for a strategic litigation case.

AllieBlogPic1I have completed various research projects, and have participated in several stakeholders workshops. At these workshops, I have contributed to round table discussions by giving recommendations on topics including youth mentorship, transitional justice, human trafficking, and the implementation of Kenya’s National Action Plan.

I also attended one of FIDA’s legal education workshops in Kibera, which is the largest urban slum in Africa.

My experiences at FIDA have been incredibly diverse and rewarding, and I feel really lucky to be working at such an incredible organization this summer.

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Kenya-Jade in Kenya: Life, Law and the International Commission of Jurists in Nairobi

Kenya-Jade Pinto is completing her CLA-ACE internship in Nairobi, Kenya with the International Commission of Jurists.
As a little girl growing up on the Kenyan coast to an Indo-Kenyan father and Canadian mother, the memories I have are warm and fuzzy. A young me scampered through our safe, gated complex with knotted hair, a toothy grin, and legs covered in scars and bruises from climbing trees I shouldn’t have. Memories of a warm ocean and sand between my toes come to my mind; of a comfortable and privileged life reliant on a thriving tourism economy. I grew up privileged enough to see Kenya for all of her very beautiful quirks and qualities: neep tides that uncover vast expanses of sandy white beach; long lineups at the ferry made bearable by fresh cassava chips drenched in squeezed lemon and chili powder; and the atmospheric ethos of a hardworking and deeply passionate people. I suspect that my parents might have uncovered their own favourite qualities, and formalized those sentiments on my birth certificate 😉
Snuck in an obligatory few moments of “explore” time before ICJ’s Access to Information meeting in Naivasha.

Snuck in an obligatory few moments of “explore” time before ICJ’s Access to Information meeting in Naivasha.

Coming back to Kenya as an adult, my eyes have been opened to some of the challenges and opportunities that Kenyans are faced with on a daily basis. The International Commission of Jurists in Kenya are actively working on some of these things and have been doing so since 1959. Specifically, the programs that ICJ Kenya focus on are Access to Justice, Democratization, Human Rights and International Cooperation.

I’m placed in the office of the Executive Director, and so I’ve been working on legal research supporting the organization’s larger advocacy strategies.
In addition to legal research for the office of the ED, ICJ have empowered me to take on the things that interest me.
As a result, I’ve been involved in meetings on the 2/3 gender principle (ensuring the constitutional promise that no more than 2/3 of elected officials should be of the same gender is in place), contributed to a case digest aimed at helping organizations understand a legal framework around women’s rights, engaged in constitutional research surrounding post election violence, contributed to funding and donor research, and have even become ad hoc in house photographer along the way!
Human Rights Program Director, Victor Kapiyo, is on his way in to the office in this candid moment.

Human Rights Program Director, Victor Kapiyo, is on his way in to the office in this candid moment.

Today I’m in Naivasha supporting the organization with a Bill that they are encouraging county representatives to consider around Access to Information. National Security is obviously a huge limitation to this kind of legislation, and I can’t help but think about the Canadian comparisons.
Nairobi is a really exciting place to be and so I’ve been taking full advantage of the weekends here. So far, I’ve managed to watch my favourite Kenyan artist live and climb Mount Longonot. This weekend I’m shooting flamingos in Nakuru! (… err, with my camera).
My colleagues think it’s so funny that I’m obsessed with these Marabou Storks (read: huge ugly vultures). They nest in trees near garbage sites and are considered pests.

My colleagues think it’s so funny that I’m obsessed with these Marabou Storks (read: huge ugly vultures). They nest in trees near garbage sites and are considered pests.

 Kenya might be a different place than it was when I was growing up, but so far, my experience has been just as warm and fuzzy — better, even, because this time I’m stepping outside my gated and protected comfort zone.
In between legal research, I’ve been tasked with capturing the team’s portraits for ICJ’s website revamp! Here’s mine!

In between legal research, I’ve been tasked with capturing the team’s portraits for ICJ’s website revamp! Here’s mine!

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Interns @ Alaska – Update from Brianna and Gabrielle and the Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council

Seward, AK

“I guess the view is okay.” Seward, AK

Brianna Meyer (author) and Gabrielle Lupien are completing their CLA-ACE internship in Anchorage, AK. 

I arrived in Anchorage, Alaska a few weeks ago with a single severely overweight suitcase thanks largely in part to aboriginal and property law textbooks. I have since purchased even more books (and also hiking gear) and have quickly realized that not only am I inside the legal system of a new country – but that I am inside a state with a legal context distinct from its lower 48 counterparts.

Luckily, I am not facing this challenging discourse alone – Gabrielle, my fellow intern and roommate from Montreal joins me in the YRITWC office.

Here are a few updates on what we are diving into this month:

The Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act [1971] abolished aboriginal title and set up village and regional corporations to hold Alaskan Native land. The idea of a corporation owning land on behalf of a tribe seems entirely foreign to me – and likely was equally foreign to the Alaskan Natives upon which this system was applied. Our first few weeks here were spent trying to digest this unique history – but it may take a few years (or a lifetime) to truly understand the scope of its implications for Alaskan Natives in the past and present.

Working at the YRITWC has allowed us to engage with this challenging material in a few ways. We are currently working on a research paper that digs into the benefits and implications of holding lands in trust for Alaskan Natives. This is the subject of active litigation in the US. Stay tuned for hopefully some breakthroughs in the near future.

We are also preparing for the Summit at the end of July. This event is a gathering of the 72 tribal and First Nation governments that have signed on to Yukon River Watershed Plan. We are actively trying to facilitate the adoption of ordinances that will serve as a platform for these governments to assert their sovereignty in the management of water quality along the Yukon River.

Not a bad backyard for the summer. Exit Glacier, Seward, AK

Not a bad backyard for the summer. Exit Glacier, Seward, AK

Some fun things have been happening outside the office as well:

Last week we attended the 35th Anniversary celebrations for the Alaskan Conservation Foundation with coworkers and met some of the dedicated faces behind Alaska’s protected wild areas.

This week we were lucky enough to attend the World Wildlife Fund’s presentation of Conservation and Change in the Arctic Ocean at the Anchorage Museum.

It was a fabulous meeting of scientists, legal scholars, economists and apparently CLA interns discussing the past successes and future challenges facing WWF in its Arctic projects.

Gabrielle [left] and myself at the Alaska Conservation Foundation 35th Anniversary celebration. Besides hitting the books (and realizing how much we need to learn) we have also been hitting the trails, mountains and beaches across Alaska.

Gabrielle [left] and myself at the Alaska Conservation Foundation 35th Anniversary celebration.
Besides hitting the books (and realizing how much we need to learn) we have also been hitting the trails, mountains and beaches across Alaska.

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