Journey of openness

  • July 10, 2023
  • Tina Daschuk

Openness is the one word I would use to summarize my Young Lawyers International Program experience. Throughout my studies, I imagined a career working in human rights and advocating for the rights of marginalized people. Yet, I found myself at the end of 3L without an articling position. This is where my openness journey began. Rather than following the traditional path of articling or clerking right after law school, I participated in YLIP because I could meaningfully contribute to human rights initiatives and learn about different parts of the world. Although I did not know much about South Africa beyond apartheid, Nelson Mandela, and the 2010 FIFA World Cup, I chose to work on land reform and women’s rights with the Legal Resources Centre based in Durban.

Despite my internship being virtual, having an open-minded attitude made me excited about learning South Africa’s history, legal system, and social issues. I took every opportunity I could get to learn about South Africa from readings, videos, South African shows on Netflix, and talking with Canadian and South African interns. Building a foundation on these matters at the beginning strengthened my knowledge about South Africa and left me feeling more confident about working on assignments. The enthusiasm amongst other interns and supervising lawyers created a supportive environment, particularly with the learning curves of working on legal issues in another country. Working with individuals who were passionate about their projects contributing to change was motivating and inspiring.

While sitting at a desk from home may limit your grasp on issues abroad, it is important to have openness to understand cultural norms and confront your views. Interns worked on matters intertwined with different cultural norms. As a result, laws on issues such as polygamy, the status of women, and LGBTQ+ rights can vary from Canada’s stance. Throughout the internship, the CBA provided interns with training and activities to acknowledge our biases and the different ways we can approach legal issues. Aside from reports and other media, attending webinars on these legal issues and having conversations with supervising lawyers furthered my understanding of dealing with different cultural norms in law. Overall, engaging with these matters helped me reconsider what effective and practical law entails.

Openness to new challenges is also part of the YLIP internship. At first glance, it may seem daunting to familiarize yourself with another country, learn an entirely different legal system then provide legal advice or recommendations. However, these challenges allow interns to gain valuable experience and skills. Whether it be a comparison of the host country to Canada or other countries, engaging with other legal systems and issues abroad provides different perspectives about law and marginalization. Human rights issues in host countries help interns reflect on similar issues locally, nationally, and internationally. Furthermore, there are various opportunities to advocate for social justice by working at legal clinics, contributing to expert reports, making presentations, and proposing comments on legislative amendments.

For law graduates and lawyers who are interested in human rights or are open to new opportunities, YLIP is an excellent and unique experience to work internationally and foster social change.

Tina Daschuk is an articling student at the Everyone Legal Clinic in Vancouver.