Executive Committee Members

Gemma Smyth is Associate Dean and Associate Professor at Windsor Law (2018-2021). She was previously Externship Program Director, interim Associate Dean, Academic Clinic Director, and Director of University of Windsor Mediation Services. Gemma teaches and researches in the area of clinic law, legal skills, legal education, dispute resolution and access to justice. She co-authored a book on clinical legal education with Sarah Buhler (Saskatchewan) and Sarah Marsden (TRU). Gemma is a fellow with the Broadbent Institute and has won several teaching and research awards. She lives in Windsor, Ontario with her partner and two daughters.

Martha Simmons has been the Director of Osgoode’s Mediation Intensive Program and Mediation Clinic since 2012.  She joined the full-time faculty in July 2017.  As Academic Director of the Winkler Institute, she also serves as the Winkler Professor in Dispute Resolution. Professor Simmons, who has JD, LLM and PhD degrees from Osgoode, was the recipient of an Osgoode Hall Law School Teaching Award in 2013 for her work in both the JD and Graduate Programs. Her primary areas of research and teaching are dispute resolution, legal education, innovation and access to justice. She is also active in the community and currently serves as Vice-President of the Association of Canadian Clinical Legal Education (ACCLE).

Mirja Trilsch is a professor at the Department of Law at the University of Quebec in Montreal (UQAM) where she teaches Constitutional Law and International Human Rights Law. Since 2011, she is also the Director of UQAM’s International Clinic for the Defence of Human Rights (Clinique internationale de défense des droits humains de l’UQAM – CIDDHU in its French acronym). The CIDDHU was founded in 2005 and, at the time, was the first clinic of its kind in the francophone world. Through its innovative approach and its many years of experience, the CIDDHU has served as a model and, on some occasions, as a partner in the creation of other international human rights clinics. To this day, more than 300 students have been trained at the CIDDHU through collaborative projects with more than 50 partner organizations from around the world.

Born and raised in Germany, Mirja immigrated to Canada in 2007. She holds a law degree from the University of Düsseldorf (Germany) and a Master’s degree in International and Comparative Human Rights Law from McGill University (2001). In 2007, she obtained her PhD with distinction from the University of Düsseldorf (Germany), her thesis dealing with the justiciability of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Before joining UQAM, first as a lecturer and then as a professor, she taught at the University of Düsseldorf and worked at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. She is fluent in German, English and French.

Mirja Trilsch is a professor at the Department of Law at the University of Quebec in Montreal (UQAM) where she teaches Constitutional Law and International Human Rights Law. Since 2011, she is also the Director of UQAM’s International Clinic for the Defence of Human Rights (Clinique internationale de défense des droits humains de l’UQAM – CIDDHU in its French acronym). The CIDDHU was founded in 2005 and, at the time, was the first clinic of its kind in the francophone world. Through its innovative approach and its many years of experience, the CIDDHU has served as a model and, on some occasions, as a partner in the creation of other international human rights clinics. To this day, more than 300 students have been trained at the CIDDHU through collaborative projects with more than 50 partner organizations from around the world.

Born and raised in Germany, Mirja immigrated to Canada in 2007. She holds a law degree from the University of Düsseldorf (Germany) and a Master’s degree in International and Comparative Human Rights Law from McGill University (2001). In 2007, she obtained her PhD with distinction from the University of Düsseldorf (Germany), her thesis dealing with the justiciability of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Before joining UQAM, first as a lecturer and then as a professor, she taught at the University of Düsseldorf and worked at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. She is fluent in German, English and French.

Lisa Cirillo, B.A. (University of Toronto), LL.B (Queen’s University), LL.M (Osgoode Hall Law School), is the Executive Director of Downtown Legal Services (DLS), the University of Toronto Faculty of Law Community Legal Clinic. She has practiced in the areas of human rights, education, housing and family law in a wide variety of social justice organizations including DLS, ARCH Disability Law Centre and the Ontario Human Rights Commission. In addition to her legal work, Lisa has extensive experience in public legal education and community outreach. Lisa is a frequent presenter and requested speaker on a wide variety of public interest topics including family law, violence against women, poverty law, access to justice and human rights issues. Lisa is a member of the National Steering Committee for NAWL (National Association for Women and the Law) and joined the ACCLE Board in 2011. Lisa was recently appointed to serve as a member of Legal Aid Ontario’s Clinic Law Advisory Committee.

Members at Large

Patricia Barkaskas earned a M.A. in History, with a focus on Indigenous histories in North America, and a J.D., with a Law and Social Justice Specialization, from the University of British Columbia. She is the Academic Director of the Indigenous Community Legal Clinic and an Instructor at the Peter A. Allard School of Law. Patricia has practiced in the areas of child protection (as parent’s counsel), criminal, family, as well as civil litigation and prison law. She has worked closely with Indigenous peoples in their encounters with the justice system and has worked for Residential school survivors as an historical legal researcher for the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement. In addition, she has written Gladue reports for all levels of court in BC. Her current and future teaching and research interests include access to justice, clinical legal education, decolonizing and Indigenizing law, particularly examining the value of Indigenous pedagogies in experiential and clinical learning for legal education, and Indigenous laws. Patricia is Métis from Alberta.

Johanna Dennie is the Staff Migration Lawyer at Legal Assistance of Windsor (LAW), a Community Legal Clinic in Windsor, Ontario that provides legal services and social work support to low-income residents of Windsor and Essex County. LAW also serves as a teaching clinic for law and social work students at the University of Windsor. Johanna provides representation and supervises students in the areas of Immigration, Refugee, and Citizenship Law. Johanna has co-taught the Clinic Seminar at the University of Windsor, for law students who are enrolled in the Clinic Practice Program. Johanna is a graduate of the University of Ottawa Law School. As a law student, she was a caseworker in the Women’s Division of the University of Ottawa Community Legal Clinic. She joined LAW after summering and completing her articles in Toronto with the Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic, a specialized clinic which provides free legal, counselling, and interpretive services to women who have experienced violence. Johanna has spent her legal career in the clinic system, and cannot imagine practicing law in any other context.  

Chantelle Johnson has been the Executive Director (ED) of Community Legal Assistance Services for Saskatoon Inner City Inc. (CLASSIC) since 2012.  She has sociology and law degrees from the University of Saskatchewan.  Chantelle’s work experience is varied and ranges from:

  • private practice,
  • the Indigenous Law and Justice Branch of the Australian Department of Justice and Attorney General (policy),
  • the Child Sexual Exploitation Unit in Alberta (policy),
  • Crown Prosecutions in BC (trial lawyer),
  • the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission (policy and legal research), and
  • consultant to First Nations’ Trust.

Chantelle believes all people deserve respect and dignity and knows CLASSIC’s clients have far more to teach the students and staff than the other way around. Chantelle thinks we often take ourselves too seriously and believes that philosophy has helped her survive as ED of a non-profit.  

Natasha Brown is the Legal Director of Legal Help Centre of Winnipeg, Inc. (“LHC”). Born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Natasha received her Bachelor of Education in 2001 and her Bachelor of Laws in 2005. Natasha worked in private practice, exclusively in the area of family law, until the fall of 2012, at which point she became LHC’s Family Law Supervising Lawyer. In late summer of 2014, Natasha became the Centre’s Legal Director. Natasha currently teaches both Legal Methods and Family Law at the University of Manitoba- Faculty of Law and acts as Supervising Lawyer for the law school’s LHC Internship program.  Natasha sits on the Council of the Manitoba Bar Association and on the Executive of the Manitoba Bar Association’s Women Lawyers Forum.

Sarah Buhler (BA (Winnipeg), LL.B (Osgoode Hall Law School), LL.M (Saskatchewan)) is an Associate Professor at the University of Saskatchewan College of Law. She is responsible for the academic component of the College’s Intensive Clinical Law program, which is located at CLASSIC (Community Legal Assistance Services for Saskatoon Inner City). CLASSIC was founded in 2007; its mandate is to promote access to justice for low-income residents of Saskatoon, with an emphasis on meeting the legal needs of Indigenous clients. CLASSIC is the recipient of several awards, including the CBA National Pro Bono Award and the Law Society of Saskatchewan’s C. Willy Hodgson Award. In addition to her involvement with the clinical law program, Sarah teaches in the area of Access to Justice and Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility. Her research focuses on clinical legal education, access to justice and poverty and the law. Before joining the College of Law as a faculty member, Sarah was CLASSIC’s Executive Director and Supervising Lawyer; and prior to that she practiced law at a private firm in Saskatoon. Sarah and her husband, Charlie, have three children: Simon, Benjamin, and Rachel.

Doug Ferguson holds a Bachelor of Commerce (Honours) degree from the University of Ottawa and a law degree from Western University. He spent many years in private practice as a partner with the London firm of Bitz, Szemenyei, Ferguson & MacKenzie (now Szemenyei MacKenzie Group) before returning to Western’s Faculty of Law as Adjunct Professor and Director of Community Legal Services.

 

Doug is currently Access to Justice Chair for the Canadian Bar Association. He was formerly Legal Aid Chair, a member of the councils of both the Canadian Bar Association and the Ontario Bar Association, and the CBA Futures Committee on Legal Education. Provincially, he has served on the Consent and Capacity Board and the Justices of the Peace Appointments Advisory Committee. He is now a director of the Trillium Gift of Life Network.

 

In 2010, Doug organized the first national conference for Canadian student legal clinics, and spearheaded the founding of the Association for Canadian Clinical Legal Education, where he served as the inaugural president until 2013. He has written articles and spoken at a number of conferences on the need for reform of legal education in Canada. He has also spoken on the role of law schools in access to justice. Doug was a past president of London’s Covent Garden Market, and a past president of the Liberal Party of Canada. He received Western Law’s Alumnus of Distinction Award in 2009 and the Access to Justice Award in 2011 from the Middlesex Law Association. In 2012 he received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee medal.

Michelle Christopher QC holds a joint appointment as Associate Professor, teaching clinical programs at the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Law, and as Executive Director of Student Legal Assistance, the pro bono legal clinic co-located within the Faculty of Law. She practices in the areas of family law, dispute resolution, and criminal law, with special interests in young offenders law, prison justice issues, and wrongful convictions. She is active in law reform and access to justice initiatives across Canada. A graduate of Dalhousie Law School, Michelle also has an LLM from Osgoode Hall Law School, along with extensive training in dispute resolution from Harvard Law School’s Program on Negotiation.