By: Enniael Stair, an incoming 2L student at the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University.
I learned about Justice for Children and Youth (JFCY) after reading the “spanking case” (Canadian Foundation for Children Youth and the Law v Canada (AG)) for my criminal law class. In this case, JFCY challenged the constitutionality of section 43 of the Criminal Code, which allows adults to use reasonable force against children as a means of correction. Although the Supreme Court of Canada upheld parts of this provision, I was intrigued by JFCY’s child-centered approach and enthralled by their outstanding advocacy skills. I would never have expected that ten months later, I would be ending a summer internship at JFCY, seeing this advocacy firsthand and contributing to the extraordinary work that they do.
JFCY provided me with incomparable hands-on experience this summer. I saw what I learned during my first year of law school in practice while also being exposed to various new areas of law. Under the supervision of the staff lawyers, I had opportunities to contribute to many client files in meaningful ways. For example, I conducted legal research, which helped lawyers prepare for hearings and helped ensure that clients could access specific resources. I attended client meetings, reviewed disclosure for criminal matters, and drafted various letters, emails, and court documents. I was also able to observe court and represent clients at court appearances on the lawyer’s behalf. The guidance, support, and feedback from my supervising lawyer provided an ideal place to learn.
Although I received great practical experience, my favourite part of this summer was witnessing JFCY’s advocacy in action. I learned about the unique issues that young people face. I quickly realized that legal issues of young people are frequently exacerbated because they are often not afforded the same respect as adults. Furthermore, when a young person’s age intersects with other factors such as socioeconomic status, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, and others, it can be difficult for them to assert their rights in the legal system, social service systems, and the education system.
I appreciated that JFCY takes on complex, multifaceted cases with highly vulnerable clients. I was impressed by their compassion, patience, persistence, and empathy. It is evident that they are passionate about what they do, and there is no doubt that they are excellent at their work. It was encouraging to see the resilience of the young clients and how JFCY contributed to empowering them and helping them find their voice. JFCY is committed to their clients. They give it their all, right from the intake process, whether that be with a listening ear during an intake callback, a thoughtful referral, assistance with legal aid, providing a brief service or taking them on as a client. The staff lawyers modelled what I hope my legal practice looks like one day – exceptional advocacy and excellent client service.
I am grateful to have spent a summer at JFCY. They fostered a warm, welcoming, and inclusive work environment, creating space for me to learn practical skills and broaden my perspective. JFCY challenged me in the best possible way, and I am confident that I will be a better lawyer and advocate because of my summer here.