Justice for All … Refugee Clinic honoured for outstanding work

May 30, HALIFAX – The Halifax Refugee Clinic received the Legal Information Society’s Honourable Lorne Clarke, Q.C. Access to Justice Award for its outstanding work in promoting access to justice for refugees. The Clinic, through a dedicated group of volunteers, provides refugee claimants with invaluable advice and assistance as they face the daunting task of moving through the refugee application process.
The dedication of a small staff and committed group of volunteers has resulted in a positive decision rate of nearly double the national average with almost an 83% success rate compared to the national average of 47%. The Clinic also helps refugees deal with work permits, housing, budgeting, English language skills and access to health care and psychological support.
In accepting the award on behalf of the Clinic, founding member and lawyer Lee Cohen said “receiving the award is public recognition that the Clinic is fulfilling its purpose and doing it well.” The award has special meaning for him because it is named after Lorne Clarke, he added: “I have greatly admired Lorne Clarke’s wisdom and kindness as a jurist since my first case before him in the 1980s. That experience influenced my own career in law.”
The LISNS Awards Committee members said they were impressed with the staff and volunteers’ passion for the program and their commitment to help some of the most vulnerable people in society. Many lawyers volunteer time to ensure that refugee claimants have access to legal services and to mentor law students.
“These volunteers are vital to the work of the Clinic,” says Julie Chamagne, the Clinic’s Executive Director, “We rely on the commitment and passion of our volunteers. The lawyers are all busy people with busy practices but they find the time to devote tens of thousands of dollars in time and expertise to the Clinic.”
The law is a powerful and often frightening instrument even for people born in Canada,” says Maria Franks, LISNS Executive Director, “For refugee claimants fleeing strife and often in fear for their and their family’s lives, the law and the legal system is even more frightening and alien. The Refugee Clinic is a shining example of an organization working to improve access to justice for this vulnerable population and embodies the spirit behind the LISNS Access to Justice Award.”
The award is named in honour of Lorne Clarke, Q.C., former Chief Justice of Nova Scotia and past LISNS board member. Former Chief Justice Clarke has long been a supporter of the work of LISNS, continuing legal education and access to justice.
LISNS has been helping people find answers to their legal problems and questions for almost 30 years. For more information, please visitwww.legalinfo.org.