Practicing pro bono for a better world
We believe that giving back to the communities we serve through pro bono work is both a public and a professional duty.
Whether it is providing legal advice to groups sponsoring refugees, assisting a transgender youth to protect their identity or intervening before the Supreme Court of Canada on a host of human rights issues, providing pro bono legal services is just one of the many ways we practise our firm’s three core values of unity, integrity and quality:
Unity around a shared goal of providing pro bono legal services to those who would not otherwise be able to afford them;
Integrity to recognize openly and honestly that the legal needs of certain individuals and not-for-profit, civic, religious or educational organizations cannot be met without our help; and
Quality of service ensuring that our pro bono clients benefit from the same high standards of representation as paying clients.
These are values we instill in our people. From the outset, our lawyers are encouraged to seek out pro bono work. The partnership supports their efforts by, among other things, treating their pro bono services as billable hours for professional evaluation purposes.
Each year, hundreds of partners and associates play an active role in various pro bono matters or provide advice that makes a difference to individuals and a variety of national, provincial and local organizations.
We are proud that our lawyers make time to support individuals and not-for-profit organizations within our local communities in Montréal, Quebec City, Toronto, Guelph, Ottawa, Calgary, Vancouver and across Canada.
As an international legal practice, we are intent on thinking and acting globally while still being very much committed to giving back to our community locally.
Volunteering by using our legal expertise is a fundamental part of our practice. Norton Rose Fulbright has a well-established pro bono and community program that is active across the globe.
Our Pro Bono Partners
We are proud to work with the following organizations in promoting access to justice across Canada and the world by responding to their calls for help in providing pro bono legal services to persons of limited means.
Pro Bono Québec
As a founder of Pro Bono Québec, we take on mandates referred to us for individuals who cannot afford legal representation. The mandates are diverse and often involve people who have real claims against businesses or bureaucratic and government institutions but no means of enforcing those claims or their rights.
Pro Bono Law Ontario
Our Toronto and Ottawa offices are active partners with Pro Bono Law Ontario (PBLO). Our most significant involvement is with PBLO’s Law Help Ontario Duty Counsel projects at Small Claims Court, Superior Court and the Court of Appeal. Norton Rose Fulbright lawyers regularly volunteer at these programs to provide assistance to self-represented parties in civil proceedings. We provide people with summary legal advice, assistance in drafting court documents and representation in court. These programs are critical because they give people with limited means the opportunity to navigate the complexities of the court system with the help of qualified lawyers. Norton Rose Fulbright’s participation rates are extremely high—our lawyers are enthusiastic about the chance to lend a helping hand to people who really need it.
Pro Bono Law Alberta
Lawyers and paralegals in our Calgary office provide consultations to local people at a special Legal Grounds Advice Clinic, in conjunction with Pro Bono Law Alberta and the Calgary Public Library. We have been the sole legal supporter of this clinic since its inception in 2010. Once a year at the Library, we have set up booths for different areas of law – family, landlord and tenant, criminal, civil, immigration – whatever the need may be. We provide consultations to help Calgary citizens identify and assess their issues, and provide substantive and procedural advice, where possible, in some cases identifying publicly-available resources to help them resolve matters. This clinic is in addition to the countless hours Calgary’s lawyers have dedicated to helping self-represented litigants in the Courts through Pro Bono Law Alberta’s Civil Claims Duty Counsel and Amicus programs.
Pro Bono Law British Columbia
In Vancouver, we have helped hundreds of people since 2004 by hosting a pro bono legal advice clinic (through Access Pro Bono and BC Disability Alliance) once a month, aimed at people with disabilities on low incomes. Our monthly clinics involve a lawyer meeting with (in person prior to COVID and by phone during the pandemic) and assisting four or five clients through BC Disability Alliance, each with a significant disability and lacking the means to access legal assistance and advice, on a wide range of topics, including tenancy disputes, human rights’ issues, personal injury claims and assistance with creditors.
Pro Bono Students Canada
We regularly supervise and support student pro bono activities-in-law faculties in three provinces. Examples include helping community NGOs obtain charitable status for tax purposes, studying local bylaws to determine whether a community group can establish gardens for seniors in various neighbourhoods and cutting through government red tape to obtain grants for a community organization devoted to education.
Our Clients. Our Priority.
The following are some of the clients we have assisted on a pro bono basis. The courage of these individuals and the mission of these dedicated organizations guided and inspired us to give our best to meet their legal needs. We thank them for trusting us.
Advocating for easier access to official identification
Our Montreal office represented Gender Creative Kids Canada, as interveners, in advocating for the rights of youth trans between 14 and 17 years old and successfully argued that certain provisions of the Civil Code and regulations violated their rights to equality and dignity. The judgment, rendered on January 28, 2021, will help trans, non-binary and intersex individuals to obtain official identification documents that match their identity.
Several plaintiffs and interveners, including our client, contested the constitutional validity of various provisions of the Civil Code of Quebec and other provisions regarding the registrar of civil status.
On January 28, 2021, the Superior Court of Québec ruled that six provisions of the Civil Code of Québec and one provision of a regulation violated the rights to equality and dignity of trans, non-binary and intersex people.
The decision confirms that having documents that correctly reflects one chosen name and gender is protected by the rights to equality and dignity guaranteed by the Canadian Charter and Quebec Charter. The decision will notably facilitate the change of sex and name with the registrar of civil status for youth trans, non citizens and non-binary individuals and parents.
The team included Jérémy Boulanger-Bonnelly and Michel Bélanger-Roy and was advised by Andres Garin.
Refugee Sponsorship Support Program
Lawyers in our Ottawa office have been volunteering as pro bono counsel with the Refugee Sponsorship Support Program (“RSSP”), providing drafting assistance and legal advice to groups sponsoring refugees through the Canadian government’s private sponsorship program for refugees. The RSSP was launched in November 2015 by the University of Ottawa and several associates from our Ottawa office have been involved with the program from the very beginning. To date, the Ottawa office has provided legal support on a pro bono basis to multiple separate sponsorship groups hoping to bring refugees to Canada from countries such as Syria and Eritrea. Since the RSSP program launched, it has expanded across Canada to eleven different cities, and Norton Rose Fulbright lawyers in other cities have also begun providing support.
Identity Protection of Transgender Youth
AB, a transgender youth elected to undergo treatment for gender dysphoria, but the treatment was opposed by his father, requiring court intervention. In order to protect AB, the court granted a publication ban, and orders to limit the spread of information identifying AB, or his parents.
In breach of these orders, AB’s father, and a number of other individuals, began spreading certain information online that identified AB, his father, and other problematic details.
We assisted AB in having online information posted in breach of the Order taken down from a variety of online platforms, and worked to ensure that AB and his identity was protected.
Tragedy of the Québec Mosque
Lawyers in our Québec city office represented the victims of the Québec City Mosque attack on a pro bono basis when The Direction of the Indemnisation des victimes d’actes criminels and the Administrative Review Board had refused to indemnify the victim. Following a lawsuit, the Attorney General agreed that the victim of a crime could submit a claim for benefits, even if the victim was not directly inside the mosque when the January 29, 2017, attack occurred.
In addition, our lawyers represented those with claims before the Canadian Revenue Agency pertaining to donations received by the Muslim community of Québec City.
Across Norton Rose Fulbright’s Canadian offices, hundreds of lawyers provide pro bono assistance in a broad range of areas of law. Their involvement in pro bono work reflects their readiness to share their knowledge, time and understanding, which can make a difference in achieving equal justice under the law.