Staff

Mary Birdsell, B.A., LL.B. – Executive Director
Prior to being the Executive Director, Mary was a community development lawyer and staff lawyer at JFCY.  Mary has been responsible for the clinic’s public legal education for young people in schools, institutions and custodial settings. She also provides training for staff and professionals in youth-serving agencies. In 1999, Mary increased the clinic’s direct contact with street-involved youth through the creation of our Street Youth Legal Services program and represented several young people in a constitutional challenge to Ontario’s Safe Streets Act. She represented JFCY on an intervention about the manner in which child victims and witnesses can testify before the Supreme Court of Canada, an intervention related to media access to youth records before an Ontario Youth Criminal Court, and represented the Empowerment Council at the Ashley Smith Inquest. Mary has been involved in many social justice groups such as the Youth Justice Education Partnership, the Committee for Better Policing, and the Conflict Resolution Educators Network. Mary is currently the Chair of the Child and Youth Law section of the Ontario Bar Association, a board member and Treasurer of the Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children, and a member of the Canadian Association for the Practical Study of Law in Education (CAPSLE). Mary graduated from Dalhousie University Law School having been active in the law school’s legal clinic, and was called to the Bar in Ontario in 1996.

Emily Chan, Hons. B.A., LL.B. – Staff Lawyer, Litigation and Community Development
Emily has been with JFCY since 2003; in addition to her litigation work, Emily dedicates time towards Community Development and was formerly the Street Youth Legal Services Lawyer. In the community development role, Emily participates in a variety of community initiatives, facilitates legal education presentations in schools and other settings for youth and front-line staff who work with youth; organizes and presents at numerous conferences, and served as a board member of the Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children. In litigation, she represented JFCY before the Supreme Court of Canada on an intervention about the definition of “violent offence” under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, represented JFCY and the Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children in an intervention about the rights of a child found in armed combat overseas (Omar Khadr), represented JFCY in an intervention about the legal obligation to the consider the Best Interests of the Child when a child seeks to remain in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds; and represented JFCY before the Federal Court as an applicant in a constitutional challenge to the Federal Government’s cuts to refugee health care. Emily is a member of the Constitutional, Civil Liberties and Human Rights Law section and the Child and Youth Law section of the Ontario Bar Association. Emily graduated from Queen’s Law School, articled at the Ontario Superior Court of Justice as the dedicated Divisional Court law clerk, and was called to the Bar in Ontario in 2002.

Andrea Luey, B.A.Sc., LL.B. – Litigation Lawyer

In addition to front-line legal work assisting clients, Andrea has been JFCY counsel on a number of interventions: before the Supreme Court of Canada in a case about the right of students with learning disabilities to gain meaningful access to public education, before the Ontario Court of Appeal in a constitutional challenge to the DNA collection and retention provisions of the Criminal Code, and before the Divisional Court of Ontario in a case about a young person’s right to pursue child support claims without a litigation guardian and in a case that clarified when a Principal can suspend and recommend an expulsion under the Education Act for conduct that has an  “impact on school climate.”  Andrea has facilitated legal education presentations for youth and professionals at schools, community centres, youth-serving agencies and for lawyers through OBA events and other continuing professional developments activities. Andrea graduated from the University of Victoria’s law school in 2006, where she worked at the faculty’s poverty law clinic and founded the school’s first Pro Bono Students Canada chapter; and was called to the Bar of Ontario in 2007 after articling with the legal department of the City of Toronto. Prior to working at JFCY, Andrea worked at Kinna-aweya Legal Clinic in Thunder Bay and Kensington-Bellwoods Community Legal Services in Toronto. Her volunteer work has included serving meals for the Lawyers Feed the Hungry program, assisting as an intake worker and researcher for the Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation (CERA), and coordinating the Legal Advice and Referral Clinic, which offers free summary legal services in a queer and trans-positive environment at The 519 Church Street Community Centre.

Julia Huys, Hons B.A., J.D. – Street Youth Legal Services Lawyer

Julia is the Street Youth Legal Services Lawyer at JFCY and has a passion for enhancing and promoting the rights of street youth – some of society’s most marginalized members. She has appeared before various courts and administrative tribunals, including the Superior Court of Justice, Ontario Court of Justice, Federal Court of Canada, Immigration and Refugee Board, Immigration Division, and Landlord and Tenant Board. Julia graduated from the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law with a concentration in International Law in 2013 and she completed her articles and worked as an associate at Waldman & Associates, specializing in immigration and refugee law. Prior to going to law school, Julia worked with and studied civil society organizations in Mexico City, including two youth-based organizations dealing specifically with youth rights in Mexico. Julia presented her research at the Congress of the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences in 2009. Julia also worked with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Sin Fronteras (“Without Borders”) filming a documentary on the lives of refugees in Mexico City. This documentary was premiered at the International Human Rights Film Festival.

Jane Stewart – B.Sc. (Hons.), J.D. – Litigation Lawyer

Jane is an experienced and dedicated advocate who is passionate about assisting vulnerable young people and the promotion of youth and child rights. Jane has appeared before all levels of court in Ontario as well as the Federal Court and Federal Court of Appeal and a number of administrative tribunals. Jane graduated from the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law and articled with the federal Department of Justice’s Legal Excellence program with a particular focus on criminal and human rights law. Following her call to the Bar of Ontario in 2010, Jane remained with Department of Justice for several years before joining a boutique litigation firm where her practice focused on Aboriginal law and child welfare.

Samira Mobina Ahmed – LL.B. – Litigation Lawyer

Samira joined JFCY during her articles and has remained with JFCY since her call to the Bar in Ontario in 2012. Samira’s practice focuses on representing highly vulnerable youth with intersecting legal issues including youth criminal justice, child protection, mental health, immigration, education and disability. She strives to provide comprehensive solution focused legal services. She has appeared in front of many tribunals and routinely appears in front of the Ontario Court of Justice in many jurisdictions around the province. Samira is a long standing member of the Children’s Rights Academic Network through the Landon Pearson Center for Childhood and Children’s Rights. Samira has a passion for children’s rights that dates back to her childhood. She founded numerous successful youth programs in her hometown Ottawa including a program that gives youth a voice in municipal politics (the Ottawa Youth Commission) and a news medium created for youth by youth (FYBY News) and has received national and local awards for her grassroots work with children and youth including the YWCA Young Woman of Distinction and the Flare Volunteer of the Year Award. She has spoken about bullying at local and international bullying conferences. She is a former board member of the Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children and Youth Ottawa.

Jenna Persaud, Hons. B.A., B.S.W, J.D. – Staff Lawyer

Jenna graduated from the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law in 2014, articled with JFCY, and was called to the Bar in June 2015. Prior to attending law school, Jenna’s work focused on developing community-based programming for young people living in priority neighbourhoods in Toronto. After completing her fourth year BSW practicum at JFCY, Jenna combined her background in community-based work and social work with a law degree. While in law school, Jenna focused on developing a legal skill set suited to assisting vulnerable persons; this included volunteering at and creating access to justice resources for the J.F. Norwood House, a transitional housing facility operated by the Elizabeth Fry Society for women exiting incarceration, and completing internships with a sole practitioner in family law and with the legal department of the Children’s Aid Society of Ottawa. During her summers between law school, Jenna’s appreciation for community-based legal practice was further developed as a result of working at North Peel and Dufferin Community Legal Services and the Community Advocacy and Legal Centre in Belleville.

Jesse Mark, B.B.A., B.Ed., J.D.  – Staff Lawyer 

Jesse joined JFCY after his call to the bar in June 2015; he graduated from the University of Toronto Faculty of Law in 2014 and completed his articles with the Scarborough Crown Attorney’s Office where he worked exclusively in criminal prosecutions. During law school, Jesse worked as a summer law student with JFCY; and was an executive member of Downtown Legal Services (DLS) where he represented clients before the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario and the Ontario Court of Justice and facilitated legal rights workshops and supervised various satellite clinics. Jesse was also involved in the law school’s International Human Rights Program, assisting in the preparation of policy reports for the UNHCR and for UN Women. Before law school, Jesse was a teacher specializing in issues facing inner city students and communities. He also managed an after-school program funded by the Ministry of Health. Jesse is originally from Barbados and has spent time studying, working, and traveling in a number of countries around the world.

Claire Millgate – Intake Lawyer 

Karien Gibson – Office Manager

Karien is originally from Kitchener-Waterloo and has worked in the non-profit sector for several years. Her volunteer work has included the Gatehouse, which address the needs of children and their families, youth and adults whose lives have been affected by childhood abuse. She is currently studying Non-profit and Voluntary Sector Management at Ryerson University.

Athena Caldarola – Administrative Assistant

Emily McKernan – LL.B. – Litigation Lawyer (on leave, returning April 2017)

Emily is passionate about working with young people to help them to navigate the legal system. She strives to provide her clients with skilled advocacy and accessible legal services. Emily came to JFCY after seven years in private practice. She has extensive litigation experience, having appeared frequently before all levels of Court in Ontario as well as a number of administrative tribunals. Emily was called to the bar in Ontario in 2006.  Following her call to the bar, Emily clerked for the Judges of the Ontario Court of Appeal. Emily studied law at Queen’s University where she won numerous academic awards, including awards in criminal law and constitutional law.

Martina Nikolova – Administrative Assistant (on leave, returning August 2017)

Martina obtained her Law Clerk diploma from Seneca College in 2009 and she obtained Bachelor of Arts with Honors in Social Science from York University in 2012. Prior to joining JFCY in August of 2014, Martina worked as a Law Clerk for a Family Lawyer that specializes in Child Protection cases. As Administrative Assistant, Martina is tasked with providing technical and logistic support for all of the Clinic’s front and back office requirements, providing legal support to all clinic lawyers in our office, and is the initial intake person, receiving and processing all initial client calls before files are forwarded to the scheduled intake lawyer.