By Meaza Damte, incoming 2L at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law.
My time with Justice for Children and Youth (JFCY) has been uniquely interdisciplinary and I am endlessly grateful for the opportunities it has presented. Coming into law school with exposure to the non-profit sector in Calgary I knew that JFCY’s mandate would align with my professional and personal values. However, I was blown away with the passion that the entire team has for advancing the rights of young people and fostering a more inclusive legal landscape.
The opportunity to work at JFCY was provided to me by the 2021 Asper Faculty-Funded fellowship in part to assist with the constitutional challenge to the minimum voting age. From interviewing potential co-litigants to drafting affidavits, the level of participation and autonomy that I was given was beyond anything I had every imagined. I was able to learn about test cases and the preparatory processes leading up to filing a notice of application. Working in conjunction with students at the David Asper Center for Constitutional Rights as well as my supervising lawyers Emily Chan and Mary Birdsell allowed me to get exposure to a variety of tasks. Emily Chan, my primary supervising lawyer and powerful agent for social change, was a delight to work with and imparted valuable wisdom about systemic change and advocacy.
In addition, I was able to work on the Enhancing Access to Special Education team, a Ministry of Education funded public legal education project (PLE). This was the highlight of my time at JFCY as I was completely unaware of the work available in the realm of PLE. I was able to assist in stakeholder consultations as well as design and execute PLE materials. But most importantly, this project and JFCY as an organization, has allowed me to cultivate and apply a multi-disciplinary and intersectional approach to the law, something that has been missing thus far in my legal education. I have had the pleasure of working alongside lawyers, social workers, and community organizations. JFCY’s holistic approach to solving legal problems has been my biggest takeaway, one I hope to employ throughout the rest of my legal career.