Gemma Smyth, President
Gemma Smyth is Associate Professor and Director of Externships at the Faculty of Law, University of Windsor. She lives and works on the territory of the Three Fires Confederacy – the Odawa, Ojibwe and Potawatomi. Gemma was Associate Dean from 2015-16, and Academic Clinic Director for Windsor’s poverty law clinics, Legal Assistance of Windsor and Community Legal Aid, from 2009-2015. From 2003-2009 she was Executive Director of University of Windsor Mediation Services. Gemma teaches and researches in the areas of clinical law, legal education, dispute resolution and access to justice. Most recently, she co-authored a book with Professors Sarah Buhler and Sarah Marsden on clinical legal education in Canada. Professor Smyth won teaching awards in 2005, 2009 and 2015, and won a Mid-Career research award in 2016.
Martha Simmons, Vice President
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 Co-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 Academic and Policy Committee Co-Chair of the Family Dispute Resolution Institute of Ontario and as Vice-President of the Association of Canadian Clinical Legal Education (ACCLE).
Mirja Trilsch, Secretary
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.
Michelle Christopher, Treasurer
Michelle Christopher is a Calgary lawyer and mediator who holds a joint appointment as a faculty member 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 located at the University of Calgary.
A graduate of Dalhousie Law School, Michelle also has an LLM from Osgoode Hall Law School, where she focused on dispute resolution theory and practice. With extensive training in dispute resolution from Harvard Law School’s Program on Negotiation, Michelle regularly sits as a Dispute Resolution Officer with the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta and is a roster mediator with both the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta and the Provincial Court of Alberta, Civil Division. She assisted in the design and implementation of Legal Aid Alberta’s Family Settlement Services program for the mediation of family disputes and sits on the Board of the Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family. She recently organized the Canadian Conference on Judicial Mediation which was hosted by the Faculty of Law in June, 2013.
At SLA and within the Faculty of Law, Michelle is dedicated to the development of clinical programs and is passionate about innovative pedagogies which foster a commitment to access to justice and which develop problem solving and advocacy skills in young lawyers. In addition to her work with ACCLE, Michelle keeps tabs on future lawyers by teaching and evaluating students in the Alberta bar admission course. In her spare time, she pretends to live in the country and tries, on urban neighborhood walks, to trick her dog into thinking that squirrels are friendly.
Lisa Cirillo, Acting Past President
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.
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, Founder and Past President
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) before returning to Western’s Faculty of Law as Adjunct Professor and Director of Community Legal Services.
Doug is a member of the councils of both the Canadian Bar Association and the Ontario Bar Association. In August 2013 he was appointed to two Canadian Bar Association committees on Access to Justice and on Legal Education. He is also a member of Ontario’s Justices of the Peace Appointments Advisory Committee.
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.
Donna Franey is a faculty member of Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University appointed as Executive Director of Dalhousie Legal Aid Service, a community legal aid office located in North End Halifax, Nova Scotia. The service forms a significant part of the curriculum providing an educational opportunity in clinical law for third year law students. The ‘clinic’, as it is known, is the only legal aid office in Nova Scotia providing dedicated services in poverty law. It is also unique, in that its mandate includes engaging in community development and law reform work on behalf of the low income community as well as providing individual representation.
Sarah Marsden (BA (York), LL.B (UVic), LL.M (UVic), PhD (UBC) works as an Assistant Professor at Thompson Rivers University Faculty of Law. She is the Academic Director of the Community Legal Clinic credit program, in which students provide community-based legal services in the BC Interior’s first student legal clinic. Prior to joining TRU, Sarah worked as a supervising lawyer for the Law Students’ Legal Advice Program located at the faculty of law at UBC, where she was responsible for expanding the clinical program to include immigration and refugee law services. Sarah has also worked as a private practice lawyer, primarily in the areas of immigration and refugee law and workers’ rights. Sarah teaches Community Lawyering, Immigration and Refugee Law, and Labour Law. Her research areas include the law’s interaction with migrant workers in Canada and critical approaches to legal competencies.
A law graduate from Romania, Cornelia Mazgarean also obtained both, a Juris Doctor degree and a Master of Laws degree, from Osgoode Hall Law School. While at Osgoode Hall Law School, she was a division leader and then a senior division leader at the Community and Legal Aid Services Programme (CLASP). She has been a Review Counsel at CLASP since 2012, practicing in different areas of law, such as criminal law, housing, social assistance, Criminal Injuries Compensation Board cases, human rights, academic honesty and immigration law. Apart from file work, Cornelia often delivers public legal education workshops on a variety of legal topics, and is involved in community outreach and advocacy. In her own private practice, Cornelia is focusing on criminal law and mental health law. In addition, she does work as a duty counsel lawyer, advising people arrested or detained in criminal and immigration matters. Cornelia is a volunteer lawyer with Lifeline Syria and a panel member of the Independent Legal Advice for Survivors of Sexual Assault Program. She is also a member of the Refugee Lawyers Association, the Inter-clinic Immigration Working Group, the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, the Criminal Lawyers’ Association and the Rights of Non-status Women’s Network.