Between March 25 and 29, students have the opportunity to vote in the 2019 referendum on the existence of the Legal Information Clinic at McGill. The Legal Information Clinic provides many free services to its visitors, including legal representation and a Commissioner of Oaths service.
The Clinic was opened in 1973 as an initiative run by McGill law students, seeing about 500 cases annually. Now, they are a nonprofit that provides outreach and advocacy services, seeing about 2,000 cases a year.
The Legal Information Clinic is not just available to McGill students, but also the wider Montreal community. “We recognize that our services are crucial for students at McGill, who rely on our Student Advocacy service to advance claims and defend themselves at university hearings,” explained LICM Director of Communications Sydney Lang, “but also for vulnerable community members who the LICM serves daily and who might not otherwise be able to afford or access legal information.”
As a university with a sizeable population of international students, McGill has a large number of students living on their own for the first time. For this reason, many students have questions about housing and employment, which are the most common concerns brought to the Legal Information Clinic. The Clinic also has the ability to represent students in various court proceedings.
However, students don’t need to have an issue as serious as a court proceeding to access the Clinic. One first year student described their experience at the Legal Clinic: “I’ve gotten copies notarized there, they’re super friendly and helpful.”
“I had to get documents notarized, I had a lot of questions about it,” said U0 science student Christophe Courtine. “They were really knowledgeable about the problem I was having, and they really expedited the process.”
The LICM also used to run an advice column for students in The McGill Tribune, where they explained the consequences of plagiarism and advised students on how to peacefully co-habitate with roommates.
“The LICM has approached this referendum as a necessary step in its continued existence, but also as an opportunity to inform students about the free services that are available to them. This has included various outreach initiatives on campus, including poster and tabling campaigns,” Lang pointed out to the B&B. “We have also made an effort to invest in initiatives that proactively share legal information with the McGill community, such as Know Your Rights campaigns on campus and collaborative workshops with various campus groups.
The LICM had executive director Britney Williams speak on its behalf at a SSMU Legislative Council meeting earlier this fall in light of the upcoming referendum. She explained to the Council that the Clinic can help provide students with legal counsel on many different types of issues, including tuition matters and small claims in Quebec courts. She clarified that the Clinic can only help with legal issues within the province of Quebec.
So, how much does it cost to keep the Clinic running? A few dollars per student. In 2017, there was a fee increase for the running of the Clinic to $4.50 per student, per semester. The upcoming referendum is not to change the non opt-outable fee, but rather to keep the Clinic open.
The LICM is an independent student group, so they run their referenda independently. Those who work for the LICM say they cannot stress the importance of this referendum enough.“A positive vote in this referendum would not only ensure that the Clinic is able to continue to provide crucial legal services to both the McGill and Montreal communities,” expressed Lang, “but would also be a statement that the McGill community continues to value and support access to justice within the university and in the province.”
The Legal Information Clinic can be reached at 514-398-6792 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and is currently situated at 680 Sherbrooke St. Ouest.