Photo: Asper Centre Indigenous Rights Student Working Group Leader Zachary Biech (R) recruiting members at UT Law Clubs Fairs, September 6, 2018
U of T law students can become involved in the Asper Centre’s work through volunteering with one of our working groups. The working groups are student-led initiatives that bring together 10-15 students to work in conjunction with academics, civil society groups or members of the bar on Charter rights advocacy or current constitutional law issues. The working groups receive support and guidance from the Asper Centre Director and Program Coordinator.
For information on how to apply to lead a Working Group read the Proposal Requirements in the Call for Proposals for 2018-19 Asper Centre Student Working Group. If you would like to apply but need some ideas, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
This year, in addition to Working Group ideas developed by students, the Asper Centre invites and welcomes proposals from students who would be interested in leading a children’s rights working group, or a social media working group that would assist the Asper Centre in developing web-based and social media based material focused on constitutional issues.
2018-2019 Working Groups
Indigenous Rights Working Group This working group focuses on the constitutional dimension of Indigenous rights. This year, the group will analyze the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (“UNDRIP”) and Bill C-262 with the intent of drafting general recommendations and observations about actions that ought to be taken in order to implement UNDRIP in Canada. This project will examine how UNDRIP affects different legal and policy areas. The group’s other projects include drafting proposed legislation to exonerate Indigenous peoples who were convicted for practicing their ceremonies under past legal regimes; and examining Beaver v Hill for the §35(1) governance issues in relation to Haudenosaunee law and family law in Ontario.
Immigration and Refugee Law Working Group This working group, in the first half of the year, will continue to provide research support for the legal team representing the public interest litigants (Canadian Council for Refugees, Amnesty International and the Canadian Council of Churches) who are challenging the constitutionality of the U.S./Canada Safe Third County Agreement in the Federal Court.
Police Oversight Working Group This working group continues (from the previous year) to work on the comprehensive public legal information guides to navigating each province’s police oversight system. The guides will include information on the structure, important timelines, helpful strategies, and realistic expectations of success for victims of police misconduct or other persons who have legitimate police complaints. This year, the group will also be drafting an advocacy brief about the Ontario Safer Act (Bill 175) that received Royal Assent on March 8, 2018 and is expected to come into force in 2019, although the current status of the legislation remains unclear.
2017-2018 Working Groups
Evaluating Police Oversight Working Group This working group intends to produce a comprehensive public guide to navigating each province’s police oversight system. It will include information on the structure, important timelines, helpful strategies, and realistic expectations of success. The purpose of this project is to critically evaluate the oversight systems that hold police officers accountable in Canada. In particular, this project seeks to examine the effectiveness of those systems in addressing the concerns of Indigenous peoples. In recent years, there have been many high-profile clashes between Indigenous peoples and the police. There have been allegations of systemic racism and improper conduct, such as against the RCMP of northern British Columbia and the Thunder Bay police force and there have also been countless allegations of police apathy and shoddy police work when dealing with Indigenous persons, something that may very well have contributed to Canada’s missing and murdered Indigenous women.
Indigenous Rights Working Group This working group will prepare comprehensive research and advocacy documents regarding Indigenous peoples’ rights to substantive equality and self-determination/jurisdiction in child welfare service provision for the Chiefs of Ontario. The working group will organize and centralize relevant case law, statistics, statutory provisions, and other resources from the perspective of constitutional law and in congruence with all other relevant fields of law including international law, human rights law, and Aboriginal law. It will provide specifically focused and targeted arguments for policy change in the short-term while maintaining a broad long-term goal and vision of self-determination, substantive equality, resurgence, and healing for Indigenous communities.
Immigration and Refugee Law Working Group This working group will monitor, comment and provide research support for some of the current cases and ongoing broader legal advocacy issues in this field, for example, on indefinite immigration detention, on remedies for breaches of Charter rights of persons held in immigration detention, on Canada’s response to the influx of refugee claimants entering irregularly into the country and will provide research support for the lawyers representing the group of public interest litigants in challenging the constitutionality of the U.S./Canada Safe Third County Agreement.
2016-2017 Working Groups
Privacy Working Group This group prepared a policy submission in response to the government’s “Our Security, Our Rights: National Security Green Paper, 2016” as part of an ongoing consultation process on Canada’s national security framework by Public Safety Canada. The submission focused on warrantless access to basic subscriber information by the government. The group worked closely with Faculty members Kent Roach and Lisa Austin.
Environmental Law Working Group Following up on the work of the Environmental law working group from 2015-2016, this group assisted UTEA (the University of Toronto Environmental Action Group) to prepare and draft the legal arguments pertaining to intergenerational youth justice and climate change that formed part of UTEA’s advocacy document, entitled Give our Children A Future: the Moral and Legal obligation of the Government of Canada to act on Climate Change.
2015-2016 Working Groups
Environmental Law Working Group This group, in partnership with UTEA, (the University of Toronto Environmental Action Group), is researching and developing charter arguments targeted at government actions or inactions that exacerbate the problem of climate change. In first semester, students delved into the Charter, and tried to identify what the components of a successful claim in the environmental context would look like. Next semester, the group will be looking to take that knowledge and apply it to the most promising issues it can identify.
2014-2015 Working Groups
Bedford Working Group This group focuses on Bill C-36, the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act, which the Federal Government implemented to replace the laws struck down in AG v Bedford. The Group spent their first semester collecting information, and writing legal memoranda about Bill C-36. The memoranda included a discussion of Bill C-36 in international and comparative context and an examination of the parliamentary debates surrounding the bill, as well as an examination of its actual contents. Going forward, the group is continuing to work on creating public legal education materials for use by people working on the front lines.
2013-2014 Working Groups
Refugee and Immigration Law Working Group: This group focuses on the new legislation and policies put in place that created designated countries and foreign nationals in the refugee determination system; reduced health benefits for refugee claimants; and created new barriers for citizenship. The group works with Professor Audrey Macklin and the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers (CARL) writing legal memoranda and exploring public education options. Building on the work that was done in previous years, this group will also be creating a data base of memoranda and case summaries of current refugee law of strategic or precedential value for CARL lawyers.
Privacy Working Group: This group investigates the ways in which Section 8 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees the right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure, protects individuals’ privacy interests associated with new and changing technologies. Of particular interest this year will be proposed lawful access legislation in addition to follow up from the work of last year’s group. The group works with Professor Lisa Austin and will also be consulting with Professor Hamish Stewart.
2012-2013 Working Groups
Refugee and Immigration Law Working Group: This group focused on the new legislation and policies put in place that created designated countries and foreign nationals in the refugee determination system; reduced health benefits for refugee claimants; and created new barriers for citizenship. The group worked with Professor Audrey Macklin and the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers (CARL) writing legal memoranda and exploring public education options.
Privacy Working Group: This group investigated the ways in which Section 8 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees the right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure, protects individuals’ privacy interests associated with new and changing technologies. The group worked with Professor Lisa Austin.
2011-2012 Working Groups
Response to Proposed Crime Bills: Students researched the legal issues arising from the proposed crime legislation being put forward by the federal government. Of concern were provisions relating to mandatory minimum sentences as well as detention. Faculty consultant was Kent Roach. Student leader was Arina Joanisse. Read the brief they drafted.
Asper Centre Outlook: Assisted our 3 student editors create content for the Centre’s twice yearly newsletter. Student editors were Esther Oh, Megan Strachan and Rebekah Lauks.
Equality Rights and Assisted Human Reproduction: Worked with our partner organization, LEAF (Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund) to analyze the equality rights issues arising out of the Assisted Human Reproduction Act and other relevant provincial legislation. The Asper Centre also organized a conference with the Health Law Group on this issue with the help of this working group. Student leader was Tatiana Lazdins.
Bill C-4 Amendments to the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act: This working group provided some background research on the impact of Bill C-4. However, before a brief could be drafted, the government withdrew this Bill and put forward Bill C-31 that eventually passed. Professor Audrey Macklin utilized the research conducted by the students in her presentation before a Senate Committee on behalf of the Asper Centre.Read a summary of their submissions.
2010-2011 Working Groups
Project G20 Working Group: The G20 summit that took place in Toronto this June resulted in the largest mass arrest in Canadian history. This significant event should not pass without considerable public dialogue and scrutiny. An Asper Centre working group allowed law students at the University of Toronto to participate in, and contribute to the discourse addressing the interaction between Charter rights and political demonstration within the specific context of the G20 arrests. Project G20 organized several workshops with guest speakers, prepared research memoranda for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and organized a provocative session for the high school conference, Global Citizens. Faculty Advisors: Professor Sujit Choudhry, Professor David Schneiderman
Working Group on International Prisoner Transfers: The International Transfer of Offenders Act (the Act), which came into force on October 29, 2004, is a modernization of the Transfer of Offenders Act, which was proclaimed in 1978. The legislated purpose of the Act is “to contribute to the administration of justice and the rehabilitation of offenders and their reintegration into the community by enabling offenders to serve their sentences in the country of which they are citizens or nationals.” Bill C-5 proposes an increase in discretionary power to the Public Safety Minister to refuse to accept the return of Canadian citizens to serve their sentences in Canada. The modifications to the act, if passed, have the potential to undermine public safety and to violate the rights of Canadians under ss. 6 and 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The primary objective of a working group was to produce a brief on the issues raised by Bill C-5 that could be presented to the Public Safety Committee by the Executive director and our Faculty advisor. Faculty: Professor Audrey Macklin
Asper Centre Newsletter Group: Four students volunteered to be the editors of the Asper Centre newsletters. They published a mid-term e-newsletter and 2 end of term longer format newsletters. Students volunteering had the opportunity to comment on leading constitutional cases, conferences and workshops. This is a standing Working Group of the Asper Centre and requires volunteers each year. Faculty Support: Cheryl Milne