Among its many programs, the University of Toronto Faculty of Law administers the Donner Civic Leadership and Tuohy Fellowships and June Callwood Program in Aboriginal Law Fellowships. These Fellowships give students the opportunity to do public interest work full-time during the summers. Additionally, the SLS sponsors up to three first or second year law students to work in a public interest legal job each summer. 

On this page, the Donner, SLS, and Callwood Fellows describe their experiences in the summer of 2020.

Rachel Bromberg 

Donner Fellow
Center for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH)

This summer, I worked as a Donner Fellow at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH). CAMH is a psychiatric hospital conducting research and providing frontline care related to mental health and addictions challenges. My role as a Donner Fellow involved assisting the legal department on forensic (Ontario Review Board) matters, including legal research and drafting documents. I prepared a legal memo on the recent de-designation of forensic hospitals and a memo on anonymization of Ontario Review Board hearing documents given the recently enacted Tribunal Adjudicative Records Act. This experience taught me a lot about the forensic mental health system, and my work with CAMH has provided me with valuable tools for what I hope will transformational changemaking within the mental health care system as a future lawyer.

Rachel Bromberg - Donner 2020

Rachel Bromberg

Mackenzie Cumberland 

Donner Fellow
Animal Justice

The Donner Fellowship gave me the opportunity to work with Animal Justice, Canada’s only national animal law organization. Canada has some of the worst animal rights laws in the western world. To solve this problem, Animal Justice represents animals in court and works politically with the federal government and provincial legislatures to pass strong new animal protection laws.

This summer, Ontario passed a law that will prevent animal advocates from documenting and sharing instances of animal abuse with the public. Courts in four states in the US have struck down similar laws for being unconstitutional violations of Americans’ rights to free speech. These laws have been given the term “ag gag laws” for the chilling effect they have on activists exposing animal cruelty. My role as a Donner Fellow was to conduct legal research for a pending constitutional challenge to this legislation as an infringement of Canadians’ Charter rights. My legal research gave me the opportunity to work on interesting legal problems that pertain to  charter rights, statutory interpretation, and the legal process. 

In addition to my legal research for the constitutional challenge to Ontario’s ag gag law, I got to work on freedom of information requests, was involved in the selection of speakers for the Canadian Animal Law Conference and conducted legal research for another constitutional challenge. I am so grateful to the Donner Fellowship for giving me the opportunity to do meaningful work, while also learning a lot about myself and the law.  

Mackenzie Cumberland - Donner

 Mackenzie Cumberland

Michelle Huang 

Donner Fellow
Industrial Accident Victims Group of Ontario (IAVGO)

This summer, I had the opportunity to work at the Industrial Accident Victims Group of Ontario (IAVGO) Community Legal Clinic as a Donner Fellow. IAVGO is a community legal aid clinic that provides free legal services to injured workers and their families. Additionally, IAVGO is committed to working with the injured worker community in Ontario and is heavily involved in community organizing, public legal education, as well as systemic advocacy and law reform. 

IAVGO’s most significant systemic advocacy project this summer was a test-case litigation on behalf of migrant workers who are repatriated due to a work injury. Based on the current practices, they are unfairly compensated for their injuries as their compensation is based on the discrepancy between wages they would receive in another occupation in Ontario (where they cannot live as they have no status), as opposed to wages in another occupation in their home country (where they must repatriate to once they can no longer work in the job in Ontario). This is an issue that appears frequently in migrant worker cases and thus, this was the perfect opportunity for IAVGO to be involved in law reform. As the Donner Fellow, I was responsible for revising and developing an outdated argument for a previous test-case. Originally, my argument was to be applied to a new test-case to be brought before the Workplace Safety and Insurance Appeals Tribunal (WSIAT) in the upcoming year. However, due to COVID-19, the WSIAT has decided on a different format and my argument will be applied to batch-case hearings instead. I will continue to be involved in this litigation and will lead the application of my argument to the new batch-cases. 

My summer experience was both professionally and personally rewarding, and I feel extremely privileged to have had this opportunity through the Donner Fellowship. I have always been concerned about labour and employment’s intersection with social justice, and this summer provided me with both practical legal skills as well as new frameworks through which to view access to justice issues. I conducted research in a brand new area of law, formulated a complex legal argument that will be used in law reform, and learned about specific issues that compose the structural barriers migrant workers face in our legal system. I look forward to learning more in my upcoming year as a credit student at IAVGO and to see my summer project be put – literally – to the test.   

Michelle Huang

Michelle Huang 

Michelle Lafortune

Donner Fellow
Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA)

This summer I worked as a Donner Fellow at the Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA). CELA is a public interest, specialty legal clinic funded through Legal Aid Ontario. Since 1970 CELA has worked toward protecting public health and the environment by seeking justice for those harmed by pollution or poor-decision making and by changing policies to prevent these problems from arising in the first place. CELA carries out these goals through environmental law legal services, summary advice, law reform, and public legal education.

My main project at CELA was understanding municipal responses and preparations for climate change impacts. I catalogued the actions taken by municipalities in Eastern Ontario, created a toolkit to help municipalities better understand their role in the climate crisis, and put on a public legal education presentation on how municipal powers play a role in responding to climate change.  As CELA is a poverty law clinic, the main lens through which I focused my work was on the needs of vulnerable communities. I concentrated on assessing if equity for vulnerable and disadvantaged communities is included in climate action plans and, if not, I made the case for why equitable approaches are crucial.  

My time at CELA was immensely valuable and it allowed me to develop professional skills that will help me advance in my legal career. The summer of 2020 was particularly challenging for everyone adjusting to our new online and remote world. Nonetheless, I was brought into a supportive and encouraging environment that allowed me to flourish. I am immensely grateful to the Donner Fellowship for making this experience possible. 

Michelle Lafortune - Donner 2020

Michelle Lafortune 

 

 

Iris Liu 

Donner Fellow
Don Valley Community Legal Services

I interned as a summer student with Don Valley Community Legal Services. This summer, I:

  • worked with staff lawyers and paralegals as part of the clinic's immigration team
  • worked on immigration case files including refugee cases, sponsorship, TRPs, etc.
  • conducted original research on the poorly developed area of law governing migrant caregivers
  • worked with CLEO and clinic staff to create a PLE template to educate non-legal community workers about caregiver clients and their legal issues

Iris Liu - Donner 2020

Iris Liu 

Braxton Murphy 

Donner Fellow
Center for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH)

The Donner Fellowship allowed me to spend my summer working at the Center for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), Canada’s largest mental health teaching hospital. Specifically, as a Donner Fellow, I assisted in-house counsel at CAMH’s civil litigation department by: drafting facta and affidavits for superior court appeals about patient capacity, preparing legal advice for CAMH physicians, supporting internal CAMH policy development, and assisting physicians prepare submissions for hearings at the Consent and Capacity Board and Ontario Review Board. Additionally, during my fellowship I completed research memos on health law topics including the reporting obligations of psychologists treating potential offenders and the utilization of Ulysses Clauses to treat patients with recurring mental illness.

Through my work at CAMH, I gained extensive exposure to both civil and forensic mental health law, administrative law in practice, as well as what it looks like to work as in-house counsel for a public organization. Additionally, through this crash course in fast-paced tribunal-focused litigation, I was able to make strong connections with my team members and supervising lawyers. Ultimately, my experience at CAMH was overwhelmingly positive and has inspired me to pursue a career in administrative litigation work in the future.

 Braxton Murphy - Donner 2020

Braxton Murphy 

Haleigh Ryan

Donner Fellow
Toronto Ravine Revitalization Science (TRRS)

This summer, I was a Donner Fellow at the Toronto Ravine Revitalization Science (TRRS) Organization. The TRRS, promotes community engagement in environmental stewardship in Toronto, and completes scientific studies in urban ecosystems. Toronto’s ecosystems are essential to the health and wellbeing of the city’s residents, but they are severely degraded and require significant attention to help them thrive. My project this summer focused on engaging community members in environmental volunteerism on public and private ravine lands.  

I developed a model program that will facilitate the public’s engagement in stewardship activities essential to ravine maintenance (such as invasive species removal, and tree planting) in the City of Toronto. To create this model, I spent the summer working through municipal and provincial legislation and policy, interviewing community stakeholders and experts, and reading through applicable caselaw. The program will be used as the TRRS engages in environmental advocacy with the City.  

Environmental law is what initially drew me to law school. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to explore this area of law so early in my legal career. Regardless of what area of law I ultimately end up practicing in, this fellowship has provided me with invaluable learning opportunities. I was able to work directly with a practising lawyer who taught me an incredible amount about how to analyze and solve problems through a legal lens. I have learned legal skills that I will take into any future workplace I enter.  

Haleigh Ryan Donner 2020

Haleigh Ryan



Sophie Zhao 

Donner Fellow
Innocence Canada

My Donner Fellowship allowed me to work with Innocence Canada, a national non-profit whose mandate it is to identify, advocate for, and exonerate individuals convicted of a crime they did not commit and to prevent wrongful convictions through legal education and reform. Applications for ministerial review on the grounds of miscarriage of justice (section 696 of the Criminal Code) are one of the few avenues to achieve this vital end. As an Innocence Canada summer student, I worked on multiple homicide files while conducting independent legal research on Canadian and international criminal justice systems. This included analyzing the facts and evidence in each case, developing potential avenues of investigation, acquiring disclosure, and researching legal questions pertaining to a file, among other tasks that were both challenging and engaging. I also worked on creating educational content on wrongful convictions for Innocence Canada, as public legal education is crucial to preventing wrongful convictions before they happen.  

I am deeply grateful for the opportunity the Donner Fellowship gave me to explore my interest in criminal law. My supervisors were consistently helpful in giving detailed feedback as well as incredibly inspirational as mentors. I finished work every day with a sense of having learned something new. Working at Innocence Canada as a Donner Fellow has been an invaluable education in criminal law and I highly recommend it to anyone with a similar legal interest.  

Sophie Zhao 2020 Donner

Sophie Zhao