Instructor(s): Matthew Horner
Externship Seminar

Note: 3 credits (ungraded) per term

Conditional enrolment - See details on how to register below.

Note: Students enrolled in year-long externships must participate in the fall term Externship Seminar.

Pre-requisite or co-requisite: One of the following courses:

  • Discrimination Law (LAW410)
  • Indigenous Legal Traditions and the Imperial Response (LAW274)
  • Indigenous People and Canadian Courts: Advocacy, Evidentiary and Ethical Issues (LAW476)
  • Indigenous Peoples and the Constitution of Canada (LAW370)
  • International Human Rights Law (LAW294)
  • Aboriginal Law and Policy (LAW281)

The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) externship allows students to shadow and directly experience the legal work of a statutory human rights institution. This externship will focus on supporting the OHRC's commitments related to reconciliation, namely, to:

  • Recognizing and reflecting on the historical and enduring ways that colonialism continues to shape our institutions and systems;
  • Enhancing our knowledge and understanding of current issues and needs affecting Indigenous peoples and communities;
  • Deepening our analysis and understanding of human rights through reconciliation with Indigenous cultures, laws, concepts of collective community rights and responsibilities, treaties, and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples;
  • Engaging in collaboration with Indigenous communities and groups to respond to and address systemic racism, discrimination and inequality.
  • Developing a knowledge of the OHRC’s other human rights-related matters, as needed.

Students participating in the OHRC externship will have an opportunity to:

  • conduct legal research and prepare legal memoranda relating to OHRC's focus area of Indigenous reconciliation;
  • develop a broad understanding of international and domestic human rights law;
  • understand the unique role lawyers play within a multi-disciplinary team;
  • learn about the mandate of independent agencies tasked with overseeing compliance with statutes;
  • understand the challenge and promise of embodying reconciliation for a government agency.

While assignments will necessarily vary from term to term, and from student to student, students enrolled in this externship can expect to be exposed to the following learning opportunities:

  • Strategic thinking and problem solving;
  • Statutory interpretation, legal and social science research, legal analysis and reasoning;
  • Cultural competency and culturally-appropriate engagement, especially with diverse First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples and communities;
  • Professional communication.

Students will learn about the statutory regime for rights protection in Ontario, the roles of the OHRC, HRLSC and Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO), the jurisdiction and application of the Human Rights Code, and key concepts related to, for example, systemic discrimination, accommodation, undue hardship etc. Students will also develop an understanding of the professional responsibility of lawyers working within an arms-length government agency. Students may be invited to attend training available through our articling student program and/or to staff throughout their placement.

Students will be expected to work at the OHRC's offices one day per week (8 hours) or two half days per week (4 hours), in addition to up to 2 hours of work they may be required to complete on their own time. A workspace will be provided at the OHRC.

Where possible, efforts will be made to have students attend an HRTO hearing, and attend meetings with Indigenous community members and organizations. Students will prepare legal memoranda based on their own research in relation to the OHRCs focus area of Indigenous reconciliation. They may draft other documents as well and assist with other OHRC matters, as needed.


To register for this course, you must email a 1-2 page statement of interest to Sara Faherty at by the deadline for submitting course selection choices. Please state:

(a) previous upper-year courses in international law or human rights law or experience that you consider equivalent;
(b) previous courses related to Indigenous law or issues or experience that you consider equivalent (including lived experience);
(c) indicators of academic, analytical, and research and writing ability, which may include grades in related classes;
(d) any experience with advocacy;
(e) any languages that you can speak/write/read, including at what level (basic, conversational, intermediate, advanced);
(f) why you wish to enroll in the externship and whether you can prioritize commitments arising from the placement.

Note: Enrollment in this clinic is conditional. The Records Office will add the OHRC externship to the student's course selection once participation is confirmed by the OHRC. In the meantime, students must select sufficient credits for the term/year. Students approved for the externship will have the opportunity to adjust their credits before the add/drop deadline.

Students approved for the externship will need to obtain a name-based CPIC-check from police.

Satisfactory attendance, written work, and performance will earn 6 ungraded credits (3 per term).
Academic year
2022 - 2023

At a Glance

Both Terms



2 JD