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Students help communities decode the law
Posted Thursday, August 9, 2007 1:00 PM

About a dozen University of Manitoba law students have developed an innovative project that provides legal information to Aboriginal people in Manitoba who were in the residential school system.

All summer students have been volunteering their time and expertise traveling to Manitoba reserves and giving free information workshops on the federal government’s Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement.

“We’re helping those people who don’t normally get access,” says Calla Coughlan, law student and program coordinator for Pro Bono Students of Canada - Manitoba (PBSC), a student volunteer organization interested in philanthropy and public interest law. “The Settlement will impact many survivors’ lives; it’s critical they understand it.”

The PBSC residential schools information workshops offer information on how to protect finances, including signing authority, shared bank accounts, and what constitutes fraud and theft.

“Since many survivors are elderly, we are also answering general questions regarding the creation of wills,” Coughlan adds.

“The Settlement Agreement opt-out day [of Aug. 20] is approaching and survivors are still wondering what the ramifications of opting out are,” says law student Meredith Mitchell, who took part with Coughlan in a workshop at Peguis First Nation last month. “As students with a valuable skill set of understanding and decoding the law we have an opportunity to assist survivors.”

Funding has been provided by the Law Foundation of Manitoba to help cover travel costs.

Upcoming trips include the Peguis First Nation, Rouseau River First Nation, Norway House and Cross Lake.

Requests for additional workshops have been received by the students, who are teamed up with the university’s Manitoba Aboriginal Law Students’ Association. The students are advised by law faculty in their research.

Homepage photo by umjanedoan, Creative Commons licence.

For more information, contact:
Tamara Bodi
Communications Officer
Public Affairs
Phone: (204) 474-7963
Fax: (204) 474-7631