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 is the co-author of “Prosecuting and Defending Youth Criminal Justice Cases: A Practitioner’s Handbook”, published in 2016. 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 OBA and a former board member of the Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children. 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; is JFCY’s content manager; and serving as a board member and the Treasurer for 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 on the Executive of the Constitutional, Civil Liberties and Human Rights Law section of the OBA. 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 is a member of the Education Law section of the OBA and on the Board of Directors of CAPSLE. She graduated from the University of Victoria’s law school in 2006 and was called to the Bar of Ontario in 2007. Prior to joining JFCY in 2010, 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 at The 519 Church Street Community Centre.
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 at all levels of court. 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.
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; and has co-written a number of JFCY’s law reform submissions. Jane is on the Executive of the Children and Youth law section of the OBA. 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.
Claire Millgate – J.D. – Street Youth Legal Services Lawyer
Claire joined JFCY in June 2018 to further her practice assisting vulnerable young people and promoting youth and child rights. In her role at JFCY, Claire represents and advocates for youth with intersecting legal issues, including youth criminal justice, child protection, education, mental health, disability and immigration. Prior to joining JFCY, Claire was an associate at a family law firm, where her work focussed on the intersection of family and Indigenous law in child protection matters. Claire was called to the bar in both Ontario and her home jurisdiction of New South Wales, Australia in 2015.
Allison P. Williams – B.A. (Hons.), M.A., J.D. – Intake Lawyer
Allison joined JFCY in October 2019 to provide summary legal assistance and referrals to JFCY callers. Allison originally hails from Northwestern Ontario and attended Osgoode Hall Law School after completing a BA from Queen’s University and a MA from the University of Toronto. While at Osgoode, Allison received an Ian Scott Public Interest Fellowship and spent a summer working for the Ground Council Treaty # 3 Women’s Council. Following law school, Allison articled at the Office of the Children’s Lawyer before being called to the bar in Ontario in 2016. Immediately prior to joining JFCY, Allison spent three years working at a small firm practicing primarily immigration and refugee law, administrative law, and family law.
Aubrey Abaya – Articling Student
Aubrey is a recent graduate of the Pennsylvania State University, Dickinson School of Law and is completing her articles with Peacebuilders and JFCY. While in law school, Aubrey sought out varied opportunities to support and engage with the community through the Pennsylvania Innocence Project, Dauphin County Expungement Clinic, and Dickinson’s Medical-Legal Partnership Clinic. Aubrey also interned with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association assisting with research and submissions on privacy, technology and public safety; and research on education and the youth justice system. Prior to law school, she received her B.A. (Hons) from the University of Toronto where she was heavily influenced in a course that focused on alternatives to incarceration and restorative justice initiatives.
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.
Athena Caldarola – Community Development Worker, Law Clerk
Nnenna Obi – Fundraising and Communications Assistant