Disorientation Handbook 2013 (McGill University)


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Disorientation Handbook 2013 (McGill University)




Montreal, Quebec



extracted text


e- · ouser s


Karin Baqi
LindsayTina Cheong
Eric Boschetti
Claire Gilchrist
Tatiana Gomez
Alika Hendricks
Mandy Hiscocks
Akino Kowashi
Gene Kruger
Mike Leitold
Erica Martin
Amy Miller
Julia Nicol
Genevieve Painter
Joshua Parr
David Perrier
Kathy Ramsey
Michael Simkin
Sam Singer
Marguerite Tinawi
Jordan Topp
Cory Verbauwhede
Jared Will
A.J. Withers








I •







Tl,e tJ it<>rialC0llertive:
Lindsay Tina Cheong
Claire Gilchrist
Tatiana Gomez
Erica Martin
Samuel Singer

The McGill Radical Law Community exists since 2001. It was originally initiated to support Libertas, a Montreal area legal collective . Today, members continue to support social movements and are involved in a variety of projects on and off-campus.
The opnions expressed in thi s publicatio n are those of the authors only. They do not
represent the views of the McGill Faculty of Law or of the McGill Law Students Association.
All the images and comics in this handbook are anti-copy right and available on-line for
non-commercial use. This handbook is anti-copyright and may be reproduced with attribution in full or in part for non-commercial use . Cover image by the Beehive Collective.
Graph ics on pages 23, 25 by Eric Drooker (www.d rooker.com). All comics available at
http :// zena .secureforu m .com/cartoon s/ .


The Rabble-Rouser Guide to Surviving Law School: A Disorientation Handbook is an
autonomous stu dent initiative of the McGill Radical Law Community. The McGill Law
Students Association funded the repro duction of 200 copies of th is handbook.

The McGill Radical Law Community may be reached by email at:

A Guide to Legal Cult ure at McGill: Myth and Reality ................................. ......... .. 5
Beyond Pro-Bono: Law and Organ izing ......................... ..................................... .... 9
Th e Promise of McGill: An In terna t ional St udent 's Perspect ive .................... .......11
Keywords You Won't Hear In Class: What's left out of Blacks Law Dictionary and
Ot her Definit ions for Radical Lawyering ......................................... ..................... 13
Th e Law Machine: A Privileged T raining in Privilege ......... ........................... ........ 19

Gay Law Student?................. ,.... ,., ....................,., ....... ,....... ,.......................20
Descending the I vory T ower: A T ale of Work ing Part-Tim e ........................... .....22
Cutt ing Edge Doesn't Mean t he Corpo rat e Grind ................................... ..............24
Litigate and Agit ate: Why Working in t he System Will Never Be Enough ...........26
Reasons Not to Be a Corporate Hack .............................. ..................................... 27
La Foire aux Pacotilles ..................... ........................... ........................... .............. .30
Te stimon ials: How I Survived Law School ...w it h my sanit y and pri nciples int act
and Oth er Words of Wisdom ....................................... ........................................ .32
Act Now! : Needed Changes at t he Faculty ................. ......................................... 38
T he Myth of Merit ocracy ........... ...................... ............................. ............... .........41
T he Humani t ies Up There ........................ ....................................... ..................... 46
In t he St reets and In t he Courts : How t he Seven Year Squat Fought the Law

and Won...............................................................................................................49
Grades? Get Over It !......... ,.................. , ... ,....... ,....... ,............................. ,....53
Googl ing Your Way T hroug h Law School. ............................. ........................... ...55

ticizing Law...............................................................................................56


This handbook is the product of discussions and debates. It brings together the voices of law students and recent graduates, of activists and
community organizers. Subscribing to the McGill Radical Law Community's
Basis of Unity, these voices reject the structures of dominatio n and oppression on which society is based and challenge law students to fight
these structures in the courtroom, in the classroom, in the streets, and to
join social movements in the spirit of solidarity, cooperation, and mutual
This handbook is the collective expression of dissent. It brings together
crit iques of a legal educatio n devoid of radical analysis and as the title
proclaims, it is a rabble-rouser's guide to surviving law school. It offers a
counter hegemonic vision of legal culture and practice. It is a rallying call
to action.
This handbook exists because we will not be silenced. It is about communicating, networking, inspiring, and empowering each other, using our
own voice. Thisis resistance.
This handbook is a work in progress. We sincerely apologize for t he lack
of content in French and for our failure to produce a French translation of
the handbook .
We thank all who contributed to and supported this project. We thank all
who inspire us and, most of all, much gratitude to all who struggle for
We are everywhere!
-The Editorial Collective, August 2006


A.guide t<>legal culture at MrYill:
m~th al'\J realit~
There is a myt h out there that the first year of law school should be a test of
fortitude: a brutal, total immersion experience that chews you up and spits you
out as new, stronger, better being. Surviving, and most of all succeeding, in law
school, represents a certain proud and elitist accomplishment. You accomplished what others were not deemed qualified to have been allowed to attempt. Administrators, professors, fellow students, and wo rking lawyers will all
contribute to maintaining th is self-congratulatory myt hology. Why? Because it
secures the status of a lawyer as a specialized professional with valuable know ledge. This in turn, secures lawyers a privileged position in the job market and
the commun ity at large.
ls their value in this mytho logy ? Certainly, there is a sat isfaction in surviving a
boot camp like experience that seems insurmountable. Students gain selfrespect and confidence by being accepted into and surviving the ritual process.
But like any other boot camp, law school fu nctions by first destroying you in order to rebuild you. It deprives you of your individuality, takes up most of your
time, weakens your previous ties to people and places, and offers rebirth and
resurrection on the condit ion that you embrace the institutio n's own view of the
universe. The result is eit her total alienation, as the rest of your peers reach a
state that you don't share in, or acceptance of the new reality as the one path
to future self-fulfillment .
At McGill, you will be told that your experience will be different from what you
would encou nter at other schools. You will hear that the Faculty of Law is an
institution devoted to crit ical analysis and creative thinking, not boot camp style
legal indoctrination. It is true that professors will not call out your name at random in class and fire quest ions at you. No one is going to lock t he door of the
lecture hall a minute after class is schedu led to begin. And if yo u don 't do t he
assigned readings, it11be your business and no one else's. But the transforrnative power of law school is much broader than classroom d iscipline. It permeates everything from social interactions to the visual landscape of the faculty,
and it is an instrument towa rds achieving one goal: preparing students for "real"
life as a lawyer, i.e . worki ng at a corporate law firm .
There are many ways in which law school can work to break you from your ties
to your past life and mold you to your new "profession ." The dominant message at McGill is t his:
We expect you to wor k hard and do your readings, but we also expect you to be
a "well-rounded" ind ividual who gets involved w ith student groups and faculty
"li fe." This is how you will thrive .
The reality: Everything depends here on your defini t ion of thr ive. Full participation in academic and student activit ies will certain ly lead you to thrive in the self
-conta ined universes of the faculty and the firm. You will learn which

vocubarly and attitudes open doors to high-paying firm jobs, and el ite positions
in international human rights organizat ions. Stress and frenetic activiy will bond
you to your peers, and prepare you to subsume your life in 60 hou r plus wor k
weeks after you graduate.
This kind of training however , may a) be unavaila ble to you if you have a job or
family that requires your time, b) lead to feelings of alienation, the more you
differ from a privileged white heterosexual background, and/or c) be completely
undesirable if you don't want to work for a firm, are committed to grassroots
activism, and/or are concerned with maintaing your sense of self.
The following are a some ways in which this faculty participates in a process of
professionalization geared towards corporate lawyering:
Career office/career days
The message: McGill is committed to both corporate and public interest lawyer .
The reality: For the career office, the only real legal career is a career as a corporate lawyer. "Career day" is focused on corporate careers. This becomes the
norma l defin ition of career. For any other type of legal work, you will need to
attend the "alterna tive " career day.
The career office is dedicated to bui lding relationships with firms to help you
secure a job once you graduate . This in turn secures the faculty's reputation,
prov iding the financial means for it to continue providing services its privileged
customers expect. The office puts out a public interest career guide, which is
fairly useful, but you will be told that publ ic interest lawye ring requires a lot of
your own networking. This kind of logic is nonsense . Yes, public interesting
lawyering requires a lot of networking. But so does corporate lawyering. The
difference is, the career office does all the networking for you for the corporate
jobs .
Coffee house
Coffee house is a week ly cockta il party held at the faculty that is often sponsored by corporate law firms.
The message: It is very important to go to coffee house. If you don't go, you
wi ll miss out on making friends, enjoying law school, and learni ng about working
as a lawyer.
The reality: This is simply not true. Coffee house prov ides a glimpse into the
kinds of parties you will be invited to attend if you join a firm. Only one type of
lawyer will be available for you to talk to - a corporate lawyer. Mostly, coffee
house is about learning how to socialize w ith your privileged peers. There are
other ways to get to know people if you wish to do so, that do not involve mingling amongst corpo rate recruiters over alcohol. Student-sponsored coffee
houses have a bit of a different atmosphere than the others, depend ing on the
group, but can still require performing a specific social role.

Student groups
The message: Involvement in student groups builds friendships and will provide
you with valuable skills for your future career.
The reality: You will of course meet people through student groups, but the
kinds of skills you learn will not prepa re you for all careers in law. Very few student groups have links w ith or work in solidarity with community groups or
grassroots Mont real organ izat ions. The ones that do, tend to embrace a vision
of individua l rights as opposed to collective action and advocacy. This is not to
say that indiv idual members are not dedicated peop le who are genuinely interested in exp loring issues, being a support network for fellow students, or advocating for people in need. However, may still find themselves spending a lot of
time working to build an image that can be sold to recruiters and corporate
sponsors. If yo u don't wa nt to work for a corporate law firm or an elitist nonprofit organizatio n, you shou ld consider joining or volunteering at collect ives
outside McGill.
Thompson House
Thompson House is a space set aside for McGill graduate students and faculty to
st udy, talk, eat and drink. Law students also have access.
Message: Thompson House is a great place to relax with your fellow classmates
and get to know each other.
Reality: Thompson House can be that, but it is also a way for people to figure
out where they rank on the success ladder compared to their peers. The kind of
social interact ions t hat occur at Thompson House feed into the competitive culture present in the classroom. The questions you will hear people asking each
other over a beer and nachos, ones that I myse lf asked, foc us on the present
and the future - name ly on classes and a mutual desires fo r academic success.
Our only curiosity about other students ' pasts seems to concern which undergrad uate school they attended, and wh ich degrees they earned. We use his informatio n to estimate each other's fut ure success. So while Thompson House
feels like a nice break sometimes, it is an extension of legal culture, not a neutral space.
Law buzz
Law Buzz is an online discussion group for the legal community that
has gained popularity as an anonymous posting forum for law students.
Message : Law Buzz can help you network fo r legal jobs . Mysogenistic, homophob ic, and racist posts are the result of a few bad apples who insist on posting
a lot.
Reality: Law Buzz posts reflect the strongest normal izing tendencies of legal
education. Racist and sex ist posts are not aberrations, they are a manifestation
of legal cultu re. On Law Buzz, posters work to uphold traditio ns of the law
school experience as a life-c hanging test of stre ngth . In daily postings, students
frequent ly refer to their law school experience as overwhe lming. Other st udents
w rite vicious posts in response, telling the origina l poster thats/he cannot make

it in the legal world and should do something along the lines of "droppi ng out of
law school", On Law Buzz, those students that find law school challenging are
degraded as incapable of making it in the real world of Law Rrms. No other alternative careers in law are mentioned to students who are not enjoy ing the firm
oriented law school culture, except that sometimes those with low GPAs are advised to "go work fo r criminals at legal aid" , You can imagine what kind of job
opportunities you will find shared in this forum.
In conclusion
The bottom line is, by not fully participating in faculty life, you will only be missing out on the tra ining the school provides on becoming a certain kind of lawyer.
If you are interested in radical, community-based lawyering, faculty life has almost nothing to offer you. You will have to try and make your own way. Th is
will require energy that your peers who are interested in corporate jobs w ill not
have to exert. But you are not alone! So take heart, believe in yourself, and
take up space. You have the right to access a legal educat ion free of indoctrination.

ClaireGilclrist is a seccndyear law slUdent at McGIiiLhiversity. She emergedfrom the cornfieldsof
Iowa, U.S.A. some yearsback and has been exploringdifferent spacesever since.

r,.,.---.-- ---- ---•



-Jordan Toppand Jared Will
The law faculty currently offers a variety of opportunities for law students to get involved in advocacy work outside of the faculty, most notab ly
through projects such as Pro-Bono McGill and legal clinic placements. What
these programs typically offer students is an opportunity to take the skills and
knowledge t hat they have acquired in law school and apply them in a nonacademic setting . Many students who come to law school to pursue t heir commitments to social justice seek out these opportunities to gain experience in the
kinds of work they want to do after law school, but perhaps more importantly as
a source of mot ivatio n and inspiration to help them get through a law school
that is largely devoid of radical analysis.
But, we should think critically about the model of legal work t hat these
opportunities provide. The majority of these placements propagate the traditional legal model of superimposing legal expertise as an adjunct to some other
project, be it individual cases, issue-based research projects, or broader social
movements. They propagate t he model of bringing in a legal expert to single
out and deal wit h the 'legal' aspects of a given problem.
Moreover, these approaches, the 'pro bono' program in particular,
propagate the volunteerism model, or ethic of charity, wh ich is premised on accepting one's privilege and donat ing a small amount of one's (precious) time to
help those 'less privileged'-rather than challenging the structures that underlie
social strat ification as such.
Law students who are in, or wa nt to join, the fight for social just ice
need to participate in ways that challenge t heir privilege and the systems of oppression on which society is based. To do this, law students should take a step
beyond pro bono, and fully engage in grassroots social movements and community organizing initiatives .
The traditional placements offered by the law school promote the orthodox hierarchy whereby legal experts find themselves in a privileged and detached position. The very idea that law students, as such, can just be sprinkled
around in any number of situations and be effective and beneficial (i.e. 'pro
bono') is premised on the presumption that legal expertise need not be rooted
in the subject matter to wh ich it is applied. It promotes the image of the lawyer
as atomistic super-he ro, and obviates the need for meaningful links between
lawyers and those they work with-and t hus strengthens and entrenches the
privilege of lawyers and the corresponding disempowerment of their counterparts. Th is professional hierarchy must itself be undermined if we hope to move
towards a more egalitarian world.
Just like other members of the community, when law students partic ipate fully in grassroots social justice organizing, they can and should act as but
one, equal, member of a collective. Thus, traditional lawyer-client relationships
are rejected, and in their place relat ionships based on solidarity and mutual assistance can develop. The lawyer thus neither isolates an individual case, nor

do the work whi le the client waits passively, Instead, she participates in a collaborative process whereby the legal strategy is only one, supporting, aspect of
the broader organizing efforts. Only the n can legal work effectively intersect with
other efforts, as those involved and most directly affected see fit.
Th us, we must put ourselves in situations where we unlearn legal orthodoxy and challenge the hierarchy on which t he profession itself is premised. Th is
means engaging in social j ustice work as a person who happens to have legal
knowledge, rathe r tha n as a legal expert, helicoptered in to solve the 'legal' aspects of a particu lar social problem. Th is sub-classification and individual izat ion
of social problems serves only to perpet uate myt hs about t he sustainability or
inevitability of the status quo. By ref using to d ig deeper, it cannot confront t he
structures underlying the social problems that manifest themselves in an infin ite
variety of legal 'cases'.
It is also important to engage fully in the social movements or commuwith which we associate ourselves because it is only in that way
..... 1
that one can develop a full understanding
_..r::--~._ of t he role that legal work can and should
..-~,....- .. •.oI an d
play in t he organizing eff ort. T h e roe
''JI!' ~
nature of the legal work to be done- like
all the orga nizing strategies - can be
formed by the group as a whole, and the
experience of t hose directly affected by
the oppression the group is fighting
against can be given primacy, On the
ot her hand, perpetually playing the role
of the expert-outsider not only deprives the legal worke r of a full understanding
of the proper role of her work, but also deprives the collective of an integrated
approach to its goals .



Th is means that law students who want to 'get involved' and put their
skills to practical use need to join orga nizing efforts in their full capacity, and not
simply in their capacity as law students. Don't mim ic 'lawyers': don't act as a
consulta nt, don't 'advise' and don't just 'provide legal information', Organize,
debate, plan, do yo ur share of the menial work! It is crucial to share the struggle, make it our own, and to act in solidarity with those we work with . Otherw ise, t he potential for legal work to contribute to social movements, if it exists at
all, will not be realized.
Law st udents who are concerned about social justice have to think beyond 'pro bono' and 'clinic ' placements, and instead fully engage in social movements on the same level as others organizing in such movements. Else they risk
merely perpet uat ing the professional hiera rchy and individualism that indeed
contribute to t he oppressions t hat one should be struggling against.
Jordan Topp Is a member of the Coalition Against the Depa-tat/on of Palestinian Refugeesand Sol!dar!ty AcrossBorders.She begins the bar in January2CV6.
Jared Will Is a member of the coalition ,Againstthe Deportatlcn of PalestinianRefugees,Solidarity
AcrossBordersand the Llbertas co/lectlve. He Is a lawyer at a Montreal lmmlg-atlon law office.


The Pr<>
mise <>
f McYiH: Ar. !r.ter r.ati<>l'lal
-St uJel'\t' s Perspective
-Akino Kowashi
"Why did you come to Canada (or Montreal)?"This is the most f requent
quest ion I get from anybody who knows that I came fr esh from Japan to acquire a fu ll-time undergraduate law degree in the McGill Faculty of Law,
"Because I liked the programme McGill offers," I always respond.
Being prompted to engage in problem-solv ing from the perspective of a
legal specialist, I set up my choice of going to a law school either in Japan, in
the U.5. or in Canada, My priority was to choose a schoo l that puts emp hasis on
internat ional law, since I had already made up my mind to specialize in inte rnational humanitarian law and refugee law. Eventually, I eliminated the option of
go ing to a Japanese law school, as it seemed ineffic ient to study international
humanitarian law in the country where most of the research consists of translated materials f rom English or French. Alt hough the language level requi red to
pursue a law degree was a big concern, I had a vague expectation t hat 3 years
would allow even the most laidback person to improve her English (and French,
whic h has turned out to be an opt imistic prospect). The reason why I chose
Canada, rather than t he U.S., was part ly because I was attracted to Canada's
foreign policy of not depending on power dy namics in their international negotiations. Yet still, t he biggest attraction to me was t he philosophy of McGill's
" trans-system ic" programme . Since LLB/BCL/JD degrees are all region-specific
professional degrees in law, it is no wonder that the contents of their curriculum
are highly dependent on the location of the schools. The programme at McGill
seemed to transce nd the region-specifi city of the undergraduate law degree
wit h the concept of "trans-system ic" education that is born uniquely because of
its history as an English univers ity placed in Quebec. Thus, I idealized McGill to
be t he best environment for me to st udy international law at the undergrad uate
Did it meet my expectations ? I would answe r generally yes, with some
reservations. All my professors t ried to del iver the concept of« trans-systemia »
both expl icitly and implicitly , and attendi ng the lectures and confe rences by various guest speakers that are held almost everyday at the Faculty has been an
excit ing experie nce. Overall, I was blessed wit h more life-enrich ing lessons than
I had expected.
Nonetheless, I can point out two things that didn 't meet my high expectation of being an internat iona l stude nt at McGill. The first point is that "transsystemia" virtua lly meant "i nter-systemia " of common law and civil law in most
of the first-year courses. My understanding of tra ns-systemia is to question the
existing categories of legal traditions and systems themse lves . Yet, in the real
world, the McGill Faculty of Law has a public responsibility as a Canadian inst itution to train legal professiona ls so that they are able to serve the people of Quebec and Canada, This realist ic mandate requires McGill to spend a predominant
amou nt of class t ime overviewing "mai nstream" Canadian legal traditions.
Secondly, rega rdless of its fame as an "international law school, " the
number of internatio nal students was not as high as I had expected. Except for

exchange stude nts and those who are at McGill for the Bar Equivalency, I met
little international students. T he number becomes much lower when it comes to
students w ho have received the ir education o uts ide of Nort h America.
The feeling of not having peers with similar experiences had an influence
on my academic life, both in conscious and unconscious ways. For example, the
first-week orientation was different from any welcoming rituals that I have experienced before. It seemed to be premised on d rinking habits and individual
participation in part ies, whereas Japanese orientat ion is based on sharing a
meal, with or without alcohol, and always in t he presence of somebody that acts
as intermediary between the new acquainta nces . I n terms of pedagogical style,
I fou nd student part icipat ion and ora l presentation to be particularly emphasized
in North American educationa l institutions.
Predominantly, language expression has been always an issue for me
especially because it has put a constant pressure on me to form almost a different personality from the one that is so closely con nected to the Japanese language system. Particularly at law school where writing skills are highly emphasized, I realized the necessity of having a personal tutor fo r each writing assignment since writ ing styles are also different in each language system. However,
the writing centre on the McGill campus, which mainly focuses on research essays, does not match the needs of law students at all. Moreover, I was hesitant
to ask another first year law student, who is always busy and has the same assignment, to edit my paper. Forcing an outside editor wit hout a legal background
to ed it t he legal document turned out to be almost as tort urous.
I n addit ion, future career paths for internat ional st udents are wider, but
difficult to foresee . The choices are either staying in Quebec or in Canada, returning to one's home country, going to some states in the U.S. where McGill
graduates are recognized as eq uivalent as US school graduates, o r going to work
for an international organizatio n. Making these choices has to coincide with arrangements of visa status, which requires further imagination on w hat w ill happen to one's private life as a result of t hese choices.
For international students, academic challenges and cultural adaptation
are interming led in our school life. Although everybody has a different process
and speed of cultural adaptation, having a sense of being alone places additional
pressure on international students, who are already consum ing a lot of energy
on overcoming language barriers and adapti ng to the new culture. When the
fee ling of isolation trumps t he academic life of inte rnational students, McGill fail s
as a "t rans-system ic" inst itution. On the othe r hand, it must not be forgotten
that internat ional students learn more because of the extra efforts we choose to
put in. The presence of a diverse st udent body wou ld also diversify the understandi ng of what "trans-systemia" at McGill is. My hope is that the McGill programme attracts students from all over the world with its philosophy of "transsystemic" education and provides them wit h a place whe re students can remain
as they are and learn from each other to q uestion the existing legal concepts .
Bom in Tokyo,Japan,IV<inoKowashigrew LP and receivededucaticnmostly in Japan, exceptoneyear exchangestudy at WashingtonD.c. in the U.S. d.ring her collegetime. She finisheda B.A, In
JntematicnalRelationsat JntemationalChristianLhlverslty, Td<yo.Beforestudyingat McGIiiFaculty
of Law, she wcrkedfor a marketingresearchcompanyIn Tokyo


~wortfs YouWor.'t Hear
!.r. Cfe,ss; W~at's

r~ out of Blo.r~·Law

Colonialism: Colonialism is a practice of dom ination, which involves the subjugation of one people to another.You can't talk about land in property law without talking about colonialism. You can't talk about Aboriginal rights in constitutional law without talking about colonial ism. You can't talk about foundations of
Kanadian law without talking about colonial ism.
Legal Solidarity: Legal solidarity is a strategy that uses group decisio n-making
and action to protect people when t hey are being held in the legal system. Jails
and courts are designed to make people feel powerless. By using solidar ity tactics - making legal decisions as a group, acting in unity with each other, and
committ ing yourselves to safeguarding every arrestee's interests - you can gain
more control over what happens to you in the jai ls and courts. Legal solidarity
has been used effectively for decades in t he civil rights, peace, environmental,
and anti-corporate g lobalization movements, among others.
Jail/ Court Solidarity: Jail/co urt solidarity is thi;..._aian:ie..fawa....llJarif~.aUtaclti.cs_,
we use to take care of eac h other while we're
in the legal system. Jail/court solidarity involves
a comb ination of non -cooperat ion techn iques
and collective bargaining. Although jails and
courts are designed to make us feel powerless,
through solidarity we can gain better control
over what happens to us, by making decisions
as a group; by acting in unity with eac h other;
and by committing ourse lves to safeguard each
other's well being. Jail/court solidarity has been
used effectively in the civ il rights, peace, environmental, and other movements to protect
activists who were arrested. Every time there's
a choice in the legal process, activists can either cooperate or make things more difficult for ,____
the authorities. Solidarity tactics mean that people non -cooperate as a group,
unless the authorities agree to their demands. People who've been arrested
shou ld demand, fo r example, that everyone receive the same charges and the
same sentence, instead of some people (i.e., leade rs or minorities) being singled
out for harsher treatment.


Classism: Refers to t he ideological belief that people deserve the privilege or
oppression of their class based on their "merit", "social status", level of education, job, work ethic, etc ... Although many people suffer under capital ism, class ism is relative . Classism also refers to the soc ial dynami c of privilege, or elitism .
Access to knowledge or to education are examp les of elitism embedded in class

Law/Legal Collective: A law collective is a non-h ierarchical organization which
provides legal services to a community or communities in need. Such work
ranges from tradit ional criminal defense, to advocacy, to legal support at large
and small protests, to "Know Your Rights" and ot her law-related workshops .
There were many law collectives in the 1970s. These collectives ran as workerrun, cooperative law fi rms. They often had revolut ionary politics, and supported
expl icitly revolut ionary groups and individuals. Lawyer and non-lawyer emp loyees were paid the same wages, and had equal decision-making power . At some
law collectives, workers supporti ng famil ies were paid more. A handf ul of law
collectives organized along those lines still exist - for example, t he People's Law
Office in Chicago, Illinois. Since the 1999 Seattle WTO protest, there has been a
small movement of activist law collectives. These groups are usually non -lawyer
centered, run along anarchist principles (even if they do not explicitly identify as
anarchist), and wo rk as part of the movement for social just ice. Th is new generation of law collect ive works to empowe r people to provide their own legal
support . They g ive "t raine r trainings" so people can give "Know Your Rights" and
other workshops to their communities; teac h people to provide legal support for
their affinity groups or for specific protests; and demystify the law in general and
law collective work in particula r .

People of color: A term used to refer to non-white peop le. It is used instead
of the term "minority ," which implies infe riority and disenfranchisement. The
term emp hasizes common experiences of racial discriminat ion or racism.

Queer: A term used in a numbe r of different ways; as an 'umbrella' term for
lesbian, gay, bisexua l, transgender, intersex, genderqueer and other nonheterosexual identities. It is also used as a way of reclaiming and co-opting a
once negative term; to remove queer as a term of abuse . Queer was first wide ly
used after the Gay Liberat ion movement of the 1970's, in the radical politics of
groups like Queer Action, ACT-UP, Queer Nat ion and Outrage! These were most
influential in the 1980's and practiced a kind of tran sgressive, 'in your face ' political activism that sought to de-stabi lize mainstream norms. The term queer also
alludes to a flu idity of gender and sexuality and a rejection of socially imposed

Genderqueer: Someone who "q ueers" ge nder. Someone who doesn't ident ify
as either a man or a woman, but a different gender entirely , Someone who identifies as both a man and a woman. Someone who creates their own gender outside of binary concepts . Also, someone who identifies both their gender ident ity
and sexua lity as contrary to "accepta ble" hete rosexual, gender dichotomous construct ions and uses this term as a way to show connections between their oppression as a Gay/Lesbian, Bi person with t heir oppression as a Trans or "gender

Heterosexism: The belief in the inherent superiority of heterosexuality and
thereby its rights to domina nce. This term describes an ideological system and
patterns of institutionalized oppress ion which deny, denigrate, and stigmat ize
any non-heterosexual form of behavior, identity, relation ship, or commun ity ,

White privilege: A privilege is a right, favo r, advantage, or immunity, specially
granted to one ind ividual or group, and withheld from another. White privilege is
an historically based, instit utio nally perpetuated system of: (1) Preferential
prejudice for and treatment of white people based solely on their skin color
and/or ancestral origin from Europe; and (2) Exemption from racial and/or national oppression based on skin color and/or ancestral origin from Africa, Asia,
the Americas and the Arab world. Institutions and culture (economic, legal, military, political, educational, entertainment, famil ial and religio us) privilege peoples from Europe over peoples from the Americas, Africa, Asia and the Arab
world. In a white suprema cy system, white privilege and racial oppression are
two sides of the same coin. White peoples were exempt from slavery, land grab
and genocide, the first fonns of white privilege. "

Gender: Characteristics of masculinity and femininity learned or chosen. A person's assigned sex does not always match their gender and most people display
traits of more than one gender.

Radical: 1. Arising from or going to a root or source; basic: proposed a radical

solution to the problem. 2 . Departing markedly from the usual or customary;
extreme: radicalopinions on education. 3. Favoring or effecting fundamental or
revolutionary changes in current practices, conditions, or institutions : radical
politicalviews. 4. Slang Excellent; wonderful.
Tokenism: Presence without meaningful participation. For examp le, a superficial invitation for part icipation without ongoing dialogue and support, handpicked representatives who are expected to speak for the whole (socially oppressed) group (e.g. "tell us how women experience this issue"). Tokenism is
often used as a band-aid solution to help the group improve its image (e.g.
"we're not racist, look there's a person of colour on the panel.").

Homophobia: The fear and persecution of queer people. Rooted in a desire to
maintain the heterosexual social order, which relies on oppressive gender roles.

Sexism: Perpetuates a system of patriarchy where men hold power and privilege and women are subordinate to men.

Internalized Sexism :Refers to the "internalizat ion" of gender role socialization
and sexism.

White Supremacy: White supremacy is an historically based, inst itutionally
perpetuated system of exploitation and oppression of continents, nations, and
peoples of color by white groups and nations; for the purpose of maintaining
and defending a system of wealth, power, and privi lege.

Structural Oppression: The systematic, socially supported mistreatment and
exploitation of a gro up or category of people by another.

Race: A specious classification of human beings which assigns huma n worth and
social status using 'white' (usually) as the mode l of humanity and the height of
human achievement fo r t he purpose of estab lishing and maintaining privilege
and power.
Prejudice: A prejudice is a pre-judgme nt in favor of or against a person, a
group, an event, an idea, or a thing . An actio n based on prej udgment is discrimination. A negative prej udgment is often called a stereotype. An act ion based on
a stereotype is called bigotry . What d ist inguishes this group of terms from all the
others is that t here is no power relationship necessarily implied or expressed by
"prejud ice," discrimination," "stereotype" or "bigotry."
Power: "Power" is a relatio nal term. It can only be understood as a relationship
between human beings in a specific historical, economic and social setti ng. It
must be exerc ised to be visible. 1.Power is control of, or access to, those inst itutions sanctioned by the state. 2.Power is the ability to define reality and to convince other people that it is their definition. 3.Power is ownersh ip and control of
the majo r resources of a state; and the capacity to make and enforce decisions
based on this ownership and control. 4.Power is the capacity of a group of people to decide what they want and to act in an organized way to get it. 5.In terms
of an individual, power is the capacity to act .
Racism: Racism is race prej ud ice plus power. Racism is not primari ly a set of
negat ive attitudes or behaviours on the part of individua l whites. These negative
attit udes and behaviours are grievous and somet imes fatal, but they are in fact
symptoms of a system whose purpose is not merely to make people of colour
feel badly but to maintain white power and control.
Internalized racism: (1) The poison of racism seeping into the psyches of
people of colo r, until people of color believe about themselves what wh ites believe about them -- that they are inferior to whites; (2) The behavior of one person of color toward another that stems from this psychic poisoning. Often called
"inter-racial hostility;" and (3) The acceptance by persons of color of Eurocentric
Reverse Racism A te rm created and used by white people to deny their white
privilege. Those in denial use the term reverse racism to refer to hostile behavior
by people of color toward whites, and to affirmative action policies which allegedly give 'preferent ial treatment ' to people of color over wh ites. There is no such
thing as "reverse racism".
A Racist: A racist is one who is both privileged and socialized on the basis of
race by a white supremacist (racist) system. The term applies to all regardless of
class, gender, religion, culture or sexuality.
A Non-Racist: A non-term . The term was created by whites to deny responsibil ity for systemic racism, to maintain an aura of innocence in the face of racial

oppression, and to shift responsibility for that oppression from wh ites to people
of color (called "blaming the victim"), Responsibility for perpet uating and legitimizing a racist system rests both on those who active ly maintai n it, and on
those who ref use to challenge it. Silence is consent .

An Anti-Racist: (As applied to white people) : an anti-racist is a person who
makes a conscious cho ice to act to challenge some aspect of the wh ite supremacy system: including her/his own white privilege, as well as some form of oppression against people of color . (As applied to people of color): some use t he
term anti-racist. Others use synonyms such as freedom fighter, activist, wa rrior,
liberation fighter, political prisoner, prisoner of wa r, sister, brother, etc . In practice, it is difficult for an activist of color not to be an ant i-racist activist, since t he
struggle against racial oppression intersects with every issue affecting people of
Oppressor, Oppressed, Oppression: An oppressor is one who uses her/his
power to dominate anothe r, or who refuses to use her/his power to challenge
that domi nat ion . An oppressed is one who is dominated by an oppressor, and by
those who consent w ith thei r silence. Oppression is the power and the effects of
domination . There are many forms of (often) interlocking oppressions: racism,
sexism, classism, heterosexism, ant i-semitism, ablism, ageism, etc. In a white
supremacist, capitalist, male supremacist, and heterosexist system, all nonruling class whites are in some way oppressed by that system, but are also privileged by it. When we organ ize against ou r own oppression , but not against our
priv ilege -- t hat is, against the oppression of people of color, we become oppressors of people of color. Inaction is complic ity . Silence is consent. To cease
being oppressors, we must act against oppression. Illeg itimate institutionalized
power, built and perpet uated throughout the course of history. It Allows certain
'groups' to confer illeg itimate dominance over ot her 'groups', and this dominance is maintained and perpetuated at an institut ional level.
Power Imbalance: When certain groups or ind ividuals are privilege to unearned power, which places t hem in a dominant position in relation to other
members of society. It involves power over ot hers, such that certa in groups may
be accorded a certain amount of illeg itimate power, whethe r particular individuals choose to have that power or not.
Privilege: Unearned social power accorded by the formal and informa l institutions of society to ALL members of a dominant group (e.g . white privilege, male
privilege, etc.). Privilege is usually invisible to those who have it because we 're
taught not to see it, but it nevertheless puts them at an advantage over those
w ho do not have it .
Equity: Imp lying j ustice d ictated by reason, conscience, and a natural sense of
w hat is fair to all (e.g. "equitab le treatment of all citizens"); a term that must be
invoked within an anti-oppression analysis (i.e. an analysis that accounts for
structural oppression) .

Reverse Sexism: Term created to deny sexism. Fails to acknowledge that the
word sexism exists because we live in a patriarchal society where men are dominant and women are subord inate (and where men are privileged simply because
they are men).
Institutional Violence: The use of power to cause harm (ie. violation of human rights) and to enfor ce
structural oppression.
Silencing: Situations in which
people from domina nt social
groupings dominate discussions
or dominate space.
Accessibility: The state of being open to meaningful participation by all people, in particular
people whose partic ipation (in a
particu lar act ivity or in society at
general) is usually limited by
oppression of some kind. Accessib ility in general means being free of barriers [which can be placed by the
group inadvertent ly or advertently (e .g. lack of childcare or a members-only policy) and/or can be placed by society (e.g . housing must be paid for rather t han
being a right, etc.)] .. . AND free of limits to participation once present (e.g. a
university wit h a Eurocentric curriculum is not accessible to Native students even
if there is funding for them to get there). Sometimes the term "accessibility " is
used with specific reference to the needs of people w ith disabilities. A space cannot be deemed "accessible" in this sense if the atmosphere is able ist, even if
measures are in place (e.g. wheelchair-accessible entrance/facilit ies that are safe
and dignified, Braille/large-print/audio-tape resources, TIY and sign language
Cultural Imperialism: Imposition of a dominant culture on others, rendering
othe r cultures subordinate, invisible or exotic. Results from social and economic
power differences and may include language (e .g. English), values, customs,
religions, dress, icons, art forms , etc.
Ableism: The normalization of able-bodied persons resulting in the privilege of
"normal abil ity" and t he oppression and exclusion of people with disabilities at
many levels in society, Ableism invo lves both denying access to people with disabil ities and exclusive attitudes of able-bod ied persons.
Transphobia: The fear and persecution of transgender/transexual persons .
Rooted in a desire to maintain t he gender binary (i.e. the categories 'male' and
'female'), which obscures the reality of the fluidity of gender and invisibilizes the

The LawMachit1e:A Privilege~ lrait1lt1glt1Privilege
-Lindsay Tina Cheong

It is an unfortunate truth, but law school is not an education. It is a training
ground, or put more ruthlessly, a machine that sucks you up and spits you out,
shiny, marketable and new; ready to work for/take your place in the next big machine that you have been primed for: capitalism (read: the corporate firm). Yourfirst
year classes willbegin the process, slowlytraining you to DOwithout really thinking
about what it is you are DOING:learning, ever so seamlessly, to reproduce and reinforce the status quo, the state of affairs that systematicallyadvantages and protects
the haves and neglects and punishes the have-nots. The incentiveto sign on is not
just a bonus; it has been part of your lifeline: to get good grades, you willneed to
tow the line.
However,already, this kind of mnd-void is a privilegesince not everyone can
mindlessly labour for the status quo. Some people willwant to, in fact need to learn
how to critique it: not simplyto be the fly, but because a critique (as opposed to
mainstream status quo renditions of legal reality) reflects an individual's own experience in the world. That is right: not everybody experiences/moves through this
world the same way. In fact, some people are forced to move through this world in
a way that offends the ir very existence: for example, being force-fed liberal, capitalist, patriarchal legal texts that are allowedto parade as "fact", which is simplya way
to preclude any attempts to reveal their unjust implicationsfor those who do not
benefit from these structures. And then of course, on top of having to internalize
(learn, memorize) these "facts", being forced to reproduce the same material as fact
on paper in your own writing seals the deal as you may be left feeling tired, alone,
insane ... and defeated.
This process of re-making you does not stop here. Those who do not share the
many privilegesof being supported, reassured and celebrated by liberalism, capitalism and patriarchy out there, continue to be harassed, teased and seduced (coopted) into conforming to a reality that is not truly their own, at this school. A preliminarylook around the classroom is telling: there are, to the naked eye, substantiallymore female students than male students in most classes (if not every). However, if you were to keep count, I could guarantee that more male students would
have the opportunity to speak and do speak up during discussiontime than female
students. Is this female students' fault? Is it because they are rea lly shy, quiet,
timid, un-opinionated, introverted women? Absolutely not. But, if the class materials
do not resonate with certain students, or do not offer certain students any critiques
of the status quo, how are we supposed to speak up? Some may say that since we
are all highly intelligent people, we should be able to come up with critiques on the
spot, how difficultycould it be? The honest truth is that such a response ignores the
imbalances that actually exit in our legal training, hides the extra labour that some
of us have to take up on our own time in order to correct these imbalances and stay
sane, and can also force others into silence (since intuitively silence is safe) . There is
a lot more going on than one may think, and the band-aid solution in this case of
getting professors to call more frequently on female raised-hands willnot remedy
the problem (though it would be a start) .

I cannot speak for all women at this school, instead I use the category of
"woman" to illustrate a point in privilege: that silence does not mean nothing is
happening, that things are fine and dandy . Silence means that there are social
structures at work which make a person feel like rema ining quiet is the right thing
to do. This is a completely different power dynamic than someone in a position of
authority telling you to (in all the politically correct ways adults have learned to
commun icate) "shut up " simply because they have a (huge) stake in the words you
craft and decide to vocalize. Give that a moment to sink in and the n picture yourself
coming to school everyday fee ling like it is the rig,t thing to do to keep your mouth
shut since "it11be easier for you this way, now and in the long run ...."
The socia l reproductions of the "Old-Boys Club" are nume rous , refined and subtle and serve only to open up opportunities reserved for a select few. Here, in law
school, you will be exposed to all of its elite manifesta tions and will have the opportunity to study them, learn them, memorize and internalize them. You will learn
how to "play the game" and if you choose to, you may even benefit (reinforce and
reproduce the exclusivity and blindness of someone e lse's exper ience) from it. However, I say there is a better way and silence (reme.mber that you will be forced to
rema in silent even if you learn how to benefit from oppressive structures) is not the
answer. In fact, silence is the most respectful and obedient way to support those
who benefit from the status quo . It not only "erases" the problem from everyone's
view, but forces you to play their game by their ru les if you want to "succeed":
what will become of you will be left for others to dec ide. Haven't you had enough of
that already?
Lindsay TinaChecng is a secondyear law student who spent a lot of her time In first year going
back to key readingsfrom her past life as an art student In order to resist all the neo-liberaf/
patrlarchaf/capitalistideologyshe was crowning In at the faculty. She Is overjJyed with the completion of this hancbod<and Is so grateful to her peers for all the debatesthat It brought on. They
have helpedher keep It real (keep It R-E-A-L people!)

- EricBoschetti
Being queer and attending law school can sometimes seem irreconcilable. The
institution that is law school can occasionally feel oppressive and silencing . It can
also he lp further feelings of tokenism. After a ll, in Foundations we study feminist,
racial, and queer critiques of law (a whole class for each). Whether people take
things away from those classes, such as a feminist critique does not have to come
from a self-identified woman to have meaning, is uncertain for sure. Rarely do you
hear that such a critique could apply to property law, contr acts etc unless you read
the one article about it in class. It is important to remember however that these
critiques of law are important for everyone . But, while some may walk away from
those classes fee ling convicted, others will likely feel they have fulfilled their legal
sensitivity training and the n forget about it.
The faculty is full of extremely diverse perspect ives. Whether they are expressed effectively or silenced is another issue. A McGilllegal experience is at least
officially committed to changing legal education so that people internalize rather
than tolerate the benefits of different pe rspectives . There is work to be done in the

actual pedagogy of the faculty, but the focus of this piece is on what students can
do to change that. This is particularlyrelevant to life in Canada where LGB(thought
not T) people have attained a position of legal equality. But a lesson you will, or
have already learned, is that equality is as much about an environment as it is about
rules for protection. As students, we are a large and vital component of the environment at the faculty. We can either chose to accept certain things, to strive only to
speak from our own perspective better , or we can seek change where change is
needed. We can push ourselves to understand other perspectives and become at
least passively"bilingual."
Things have changed at the Faculty. ~ograms have been initiated to deal with
diversity concerns in the recruitment process. To facilitate a more welcomingand
vocal community, groups like outlaw have been reinvigorated. While transystemic
learning extends beyond the classroom, how do we engage it and participate in it?
The answer, I think is conversation.
It means asking questions outside
of class, not necessarily to professors, but to each other. Without
these hallway convos, many perspectives are left behind in that one
Foundations class where you talked
about queer theory and challenging
norms (if you attended, were
awake, or people took the discussion that deep). Take the time one
day to scan through the faculty's
interests . ~ofessors have listed
"topics" that they would help super- ......_
vise as paper topics. Queer theory
doesn't make the list (actually the word Queer only makes it into the description for
~of Leckey'sfamily law class); criticalrace theory makes it once; feminist legal the ory makes it four times. Whilethis list is likelynot exhaustive, and plenty of professors would gladly supervise paper topics outside their list; this doesn't change the
fact that the list is symbolicand rather depressing. A side note, of the 5 total instances of the Foundations "diversity" legal perspectives, only once is it listed by a
member outside the tokenized group. Go professor Manderson and feminist legal
Allthis is said to show a few things. We're here to learn and to engage. Break
down hierarchical structures, and ask professors to sponsor papers outside the "list".
Engage professors as partners on equal footing. Challengethem as they challenge
you. And rea llypursue your education in the hallwayswith your peers. Change the
environment from one of tolerance to one of enriching exchange . In discussion you
could be a gay law student, a black law student, a Muslimlaw student, or anything
else your heart leads you to try and understand better. Try a different perspective
out, and see how people challenge you. Andmost importantly, ASKQUESTIONS!
Eric Boschettiis a fag and former cheerleaderwho hails from Phllade!phia
. He~ mediocre,-but he
enj)ys taking en lmposslbletasksand making them happen. Boorah!


Descendit\9 the !\'0r~ l 0wer:

A Tale

0f W0r~in9 Part -T ime

It doesn't take long to notice that the city of Montreal is oriented around a pretty
big hill. Names of some of the different neighborhoods in the city attest to this;
take Westmount or the Plateau, for example. In typical hierarchical fashion, the
well-to-do of the city generally live higher up on the hill than others. And in
keeping with this, you've no doubt noticed that the law faculty is located near
the top of the steep incline in quest ion. In fact, from the geographical perspective of the law faculty, nearly everything (with the exception of the faculty of
medicine) is below us. It is not difficult then, for us to imagine that in being associated wit h the faculty, we have indeed risen to the top- scaled the Ivory
Tower- and foun d ourselves standing victoriously at the apex of it all.
...Unless of course, you have the blissful affliction of needing to work part-time
while you complete your stud ies. In that case, down, down, down you must go
in search of employment. And there you will find that not only is the air less thin,
there is an entirely different energy to feed off of. In my delicious descent from
the Ivory Tower three t imes a week, I found rest for my weary mind, some solid
ground for my feet and some much needed cash for my starving bank account.
For me ,working part-time was a necessity, From both a financial and academic
perspective, I needed to be employed, and had the good fortune of securing,
what to me is the best part-t ime job imaginable . My Tuesday, Wednesday and
Thursday afternoons were spent at Montreal Children's Library, where I shared
the position of branch librarian with another student. Working ten hours a week
at the branch in Little Burgundy (a neighborhood that is literally at the bottom of
the hill) I spent my shifts reading stories and doing crafts and activ ities with kids
ranging in age from 18 mont hs to 12 years old. There is nothing like an afternoon with a bunch of five-year-olds to get the blood pumping, and to chase all
thoughts of torts or contracts readings from your mind.
With the library paying slightly over minimum wage, I can't pretend that my ten
hours a week there enabled me to pay my way through school. However, having
a job has meant that the st udent loans that I do have, do not need to cover all
of my expenses, just the basics of tuition and rent. The rest I 've got covered .
The reality is, that for some of us at the faculty, embarking on our legal studies
has meant adding to pre-exist ing debt from other degrees, or accumulated from
life in general. To work, or not to work, is therefore notthe question . The question instead is how to make working, war!<?
I assure you, it really is not t hat hard. Some will tell you that you will need all of
the time you have and more to study, But in all honesty, that is simply not t he
case. In my experience doing something completely unrelated to law for a few
hours a week is not only feasible, it is to be encouraged. As Professor Baker will
tell you, most of life is "pre-legal blah, blah, blah, blah, blah" that lawyers have

to understand and then translate into a legally intelligib le form. Getting a job is
a productive way to stay in touch with the world of "pre-legal" life . It helps to
ensure that in the midst of reams of mind-numbing cases, you do not lose sight
of the "b ig picture" or the "real world".
Still not convinced? Consider the procrastination cycle. The more time there is to
study, the more time there is to put off studying and the longer study ing goes
undone. Conversely, the less time there is to study, because of time constraints
related to having a part-time job, the less time there is to put off studying .
Voila ! It has been true for me throughout my academic career that the more I
have to do, the more I inevitably get done.
Don't be shy, perhaps you're concerned that finding a job in th is bilingual city is
difficult to do. The answer is yes, and no. Take pride in your passive bilingualism. Affirm it-you are a fu nctionally bilingual person who can serve coffee or
wait tables in both French and English if need be. And don't forget about the
highly coveted jobs on-campus . Jobs are out there. Food service, retail, you
name it, they would be lucky to have you. And you would be lucky to have
them. My roommate has had more part-time jobs than anyone I know, and she
has never left a jo b feeling like she hasn't learned something fundamentally important about life.
Being in school full-time is a luxury that many cannot afford, and some, j ust
barely . If nothing else, work ing while going to school teaches an important lesson in balance. A balance must be struck between the someday future we're all
striving towards and the pract ical demands of today . As you venture forward,
and as credit debt climbs and savings dwindle, remember that working part-time
can be done, it has been done.
0-iginal/y from Toronto, but after five years In Montreal, now a committed Montrealer, Alika
HencJ-icksis entering her secord year at the Faculty of Law. Her Interests in refugee and immigrant
r!r;fits are what fed her to Jaw init!al/y, but she has since developed interests more broadly In the
areas of equality riifits and envlrcnmental Jaw. A major proponent of diversity, she is eager to see
increasingly more heterogeneous first year classesat the faculty,


- Mike Leitold
One of th ings that drives me up the wall about law school is how you're taught
to believe the sexiest, most inte resti ng work you can do is mergers and acquisitio ns for the Seven Sisters (the seven most powerful Bay Street firms). Working
for rich people and corporations in the areas of estates, patents, bankruptcy law,
corporate fi nance - all th is stuff is heralded as being seriously fascinat ing. Sure,
if it wasn't for the fact t hat you're basically reta ined by the moral equivalent of
Darth Vader and t he work itself is boring, repetit ive, and requires coffee and
coke as fuel just to get interested enough to get it done.
The g reat stuff, the really challenging legal work that will not get you closer to
that BMW 3 Series, is nonetheless interesting, innovat ive, and on the cusp of
emerging legal areas and definite ly needs young legal workers to step up and
get involved.
There are many examples of lawyering and legal work t hat show how struggles
for justice and people's power are leaving their mark on t he politico-legal arena
and blazing new legal tact ics and strategies.

1. Resist the onset of the new police state
I n today's national security state, human and civ il rights are being trampled by a
rush to a new police state of survei llance, detention, profiling, and harassment .
From the fight of the Secret Trial Five to the Maher Arar inquiry, lawyers are
from the Law Union of Ontario are on the front lines fig hting to defend hard won
political and social freedoms. Important decisions that affect people's lives, and
th is society, are being made and we need your help - join the many dedicated
legal workers and orga nizers who put in so much time and energy to defend civil
liberties and fight racist police state tact ics.

2. Expand workers rights and protections
The economy is hellhole for workers' rights - unpaid wages, hazardous jobs ites,
subcontracting and temporary work are redefining the workplace and workers '
rights are being left behind. Social movements in the form of rank and file workers' comm ittees, a base of organizing for non-u nionized and precarious workers,
are bui lding a fight back. Join activists, unionists, and legal clinic workers and
organ izers in reaffirming and expanding the scope of workplace protections from
exploitatio n. There are many areas of rapidly expandi ng j urisprudence, including
successor employability liability, subcontracti ng, temporary workers' rights, human rights at work, and injured workers' rig hts. Research and casework assistance is always welcomed.

3. The Struggle for land intensifies
The fact that Canada and the United States are settler states built on stolen land
should be known by all, but the o ngoing process of dispossession of Rrst Natio ns people is often ignored. First Nations communities, who have struggled for
500 years against imperialist plunder and genocide, are continuing to assert

sovereigntyand self-detennination. One weapon in this struggleis that of the
law - as flawed as it is - in order to back-upever expanding
grassrootsIndigenousMovements. Research assistanceand
legal supportin this area is one
of the most importanttasksfor
young legaI activists,as it cuts
to the core of the legitimacyof
the Canadianstate and its judicial system. Not only that, this
area is one of the most litigated
constitutionalquestionsof the past 15 years.

4. No one is illegal!
Western economies and big businessneed cheap migrant labour to make big
profits, but rather than allowingnewcomersto have the politicalspace to organize and resist exploitation, the state aims to keep them in positionsof precarity
with the threat of deportationand detention over head. In recent years, movements of self-organized communities without "legal" immigrationstatus have
been forming, callingfor a radicaltransformationin how refugeesand migrants
are treated in Canada. Supportin the fom, of basic casework,"know your
rights"workshops,and advocacyis required.

5. Stop the war on the poor
Social movementsare engaged in day to day strugglesto defend and advance
the interestsof poorand oppressed peoples. One site of these strugglesis the
courtroom,where taxi drivers,street vendors, homelesspeople and many others are under attack by racistcopsand zealousbylaw officers.Studentsare always welcome as alliesto better defend poor people'sinterestsin the courtroom
- the war on the poor must be resistedon all fronts.
And this is just the beginning.From battlesfor rightsfor all people, regardless
of sexuality or gender, to answeringthe questionof what defines a terrorist versus a freedom fighter - all these questionsare found in the political and legal
work of Law Union membersand affiliates. We want to see folks getting involved, so hit us up at srglw@hotrnai
Mike Le/told worksfor pay at Roach,Schwartz,& Associates,a progressiveJawfirm in Toronto,and
worksfer free with the 07tarlo Coa/Jtlon/!gainst Poverty, the Law Lhlon of 07tarlo, the Common
Front Legal, and others.

TheLaw lhicn of 07tario Is a progressivelegal crganiZatlonfancied In 1974. It Is a coalitionof
over 2{X} lawyers,law students, and legal workers. TheLaw Lhlon has hlstorlca/!ywcrl<edon workers' rights, environmentalIssues,Indigenoussolidarity,police misconduct,Lesbian/Gay,Bisexual/
TransIssuesand on defendingthe rights of people to protest. TheLaw lhlon provides fer an alternative bar In 07tario seeking to canter the tradltfona/practices affordedby the legal system to the
soc/al,po!Jt!cal,and economicprivilege. By demystifyinglegalprcxedres, attacking discriminatory
and oppressivelegislation,arguingprogressivenew legal app/Jcat/ons
of the law, and democratizing
legalpractice, the Law Lhlon strives to developcollectiveapproachesto bring about soc/a/jJstlce.

Litisatea1'JAsitate: w~ Worki"!J
i1'the )!:!Stem
Willf/~er Se C1'0tJ.!)h
-A,J, Withers
The lega l system has fundamental flaws built into it which make it impossible to
create socia l equality using t he system alone. The court system is desig ned to
resist change and to protect the interests of those w ho maintain power. The
laws that the system enfo rces have oppressive (primarily racist, sexist, heterosexist, and classist) assumpt ions built into them. Those enforcing the law are
known to do so in a discriminatory manne r as well, particu larly in relat ion to racial profiling and the targeting of homeles s people. So whi le working inside the
system is necessary, it will on ly affect minor and largely indivi dualized change
that can be repealed at any point. Only by confront ing the system th rough collective organizing and action can we end t he oppression that the capital istcolon ial system both maintains and thrives on .
The Courts can be a useful tool. At times, it is necessary to work with in the legal
system to defend peop le who have been targeted for their political views or the ir
membership in an oppressed group. They can also be valuable to obtai n doc uments, information, and funds (through strategic civil suits). However, to work
within the system alone means that the scope of change desired w ill be lim ited
and individualized. It also means that the system is granted greater legiti macy
through those actions because the people work ing for change sometimes win,
demonstrating that the courts can acknowledge problems in the system even
thoug h the majority of court rulings side with t he status quo.
Instead, a two-pronged (or more!) approac h to enacting social change is
needed. Social movements cannot fu nction strictly outside of the lega l system
beca use the system necessitates that it be used, at least in regard s to criminal,
provincial offe nces and immigratio n law. When it is necessary or when it makes
tact ical sense, we need to put fo rwards stro ng legal defe nses and offenses.
Therefore, there needs to be a group of people who possess those skills, who
can work in conj unction with and take leadership from political organizations,
and who can provide information to t hose working for change who do not have
the same legal traini ng and/or skills.
As someone in law school, you can make a conscio us dec ision to wor k to make
the world a better place. You can choose to practice progressive lawyering whe n
you graduate and do compet ent casework that will benefit individuals and, essent ially, be a band-aid solution to a serious problem. Alternative ly, you can
work to be a radical lawyer who wo rks wit h an organization to ensure that your
work supports broader struggles . This work will, ideally, ensure t hat not only
indiv iduals but also larg e groups of peop le are pos itively affected by your work.
Neit her of these choices will make you wealthy. If you chose to be a part of a
movement, however, you will be a stronger, more compassionate person w ho is
also fortunate enough to have a never ending set of challenging and fascinating
Al Withersis a po/it/calactivist who wcri<swith COIP and Commm Front Legal. As a recent grad.r
ate of a paralegalprogram, they do a varietyof legal work and attempt to s'-P{XJ{1
through legal wcri<.


- Kathy Ramsey
Despite such token istic events like Public Interest Career Day, the vast majority
of efforts at law school go towards preparing you for employment in a large corporate law firm-so much effort, in fact, that by second year you may be won dering why you are not, like your colleagues, firing off dozens of resumes replete w ith phrases such as "Though I have vast experience in the human rights
fi eld, I've developed a strong interest in business law and securities", The halls
will be full of people stating t hat while they never came to law school to do business law, they are just "keeping their options open", People will be lini ng up en
masse to do 'recrui tment ' and OCis (On-Campus Interviews) where big corporate fim,s make it so easy for you to work with them that they come to you for

an interview !


Whi le opportunities abound in a
· privileged institution like law school,
..,_ there's no need to jump on every
opportunity that comes your way ,
Instead, recognize the privilege a
law degree affords and use it for the
greater good, not evil!

There are many 'opportunities' to
work in the area of poverty law because the capitalist system creates,
and then oppresses, the poor. And
while the system of law and government both upholds and justifies this
oppressive system, there are ways
of wo rki ng for and wit h the poor
against a system that constant ly
interferes in their lives. But even as
I say this, the reality is that most
work ing poor cannot access representation when confronted by the legal system because they are inadmissible to
legal aid-only those receiving social assistance or who earn close to what t hey
would receive on social assistance are eligible for free legal aid.
Poverty law involves rallying against bailiffs, landlords, creditors and the state,
amongst other nefarious actors, w hose d irectives are to further marginalize t he
poor. The yearly directives of t he local social assistance office will obviously
include making cuts when they have to help fulfill the Charest government object ive of saving $300 million in the social assistance budget in 2005-2006! That
trans lates, on a day to day basis, into social assistance bureaucrats policing and
harassing the poor by demand ing an outrageous, and unobta inable, list of documents from applicants who have to prove their poverty-and thus be admissible

to receive a mere $566 a month. T he goal is to so disempower, frustrate and
overwhelm, and then finally refuse to pay social assistance benefits when all the
documents are not provided.
On a da ily basis government agents investigate people's living situatio ns and
private lives in order to save a few dollars in the social assistance budget. For
example , investigative agents working for the social assistance office find bogus
reasons to de nounce people for-in the words of t he internal social assistance
manual- "li ving as a couple" in order to pay them the 'couple rate' of $869 a
mo nth, rather tha n the $566 they would each be getting as individ uals. People
have been denounced as "l iving as a couple" because t hey share household
tasks and go grocery shopping together as part of a collective living arrangement! If one part of the alleged 'coup le' isn't receiving social assistance, t he
amount of their revenue may make the other person ineligib le and cut off from
receiving social assista nce thereby leaving them destitute. Above all it's an intrus ion and interference in people's personal lives that saves the social assista nce bureau $300 a month per couple. T he investigative business is pretty lucrative for an office whose goal is to save millio ns of do llars a year !
With increasing gentrification in neighbou rhoods such as Pointe St. Charles,
working in poverty law also means fighting against opportun ist ic landlords who
underhanded ly repossess apartments fro m the poor and turn t hem into expensive condos. Pointe St-Charles has a long history of fighting against gentrification and Community Legal Services of Pointe St-Charles and Little Burgundy has
been part of this collective organizing in order to combat individual issues at
thei r root.
In addition to areas of law such landlord/tenant, employment insurance and labour, fami ly law is also involved. People have sometimes had to quit the ir jobs
or take unpaid leaves of absence in order to qualify for legal aid and get a divorce or access rights to their children because they cou ld not previously afford
the representat ion they felt they needed du ring these procedures.
Governmental, legal and economic interference in t he lives of t he poor runs
deep, and acting as a legal representative in many circumstances involves negotiation , demandi ng reviews of bureaucratic decisions, and goi ng before tribunals
and courts . As a person with legal 'skills', you can stand wit h people as they
navigate through the system and assist them in fig ht ing back against it . You
can also exp lain to people w hat their rights are vis-a-vis the system, though
many are already well aware of these rights but need recourse to representation
to get their voices heard and their rights enfo rced.
Contrary to the myth circulated at law school that you have to go corporate in
order to get good experience, poverty law is replete w ith 'experience '. You will
not be relegated to some office cub icle wr iting memos fo r one of the part ners.
There's no time or money for such waste-yo u11 have your own clients, do research on your own cases (not someone else's) and represent your clients before boards, t ribunals and courts. The learning curve is steep and the experi28

ence s hands on, and afte r all isn't that what you are looking for after talking
about the law for years within the isolated confines of the classroom? The high
caseload that comes with the territory can make a focus on collective struggle
and broader change seem difficu lt, but I've been inspired by those I have seen
prioritize such work and who fight alongside the community while not neglecting
the individual representat ion that is often required.
People involved in social justice work often feel pressure to cut back on that
work in order to focus on obtaining the much coveted A's the competit ive vortex
of law school makes them believe t hey need to get a job. I never had to show
my transcript-replete with a dreaded C-to get work because my other commitments were more relevant to my interviewees than the hours I spent in the confines of the Nehum Gelber library. It's vital to stay committed to, and involved
in, the work you really care about while at law school in order to have the relevant experience and dedication t he places you truly want to work are looking
for. No poverty law clinic, legal aid clinic or progressive law firm-j ust by way of
example-is looking for someone with five years experience in a corporate law
firm! That's why the oft-uttered phrase "I 'm just doing it for a few years so I
can do what I really want to do" is utterly false and completely illogical. Keep
up the good fight!
Kathy RamseyIs a lawyer at CommLnltyLegal Services of Pointe St-0-,arlesand Little BtJ{µ?dy, a
non-pront organisationthat was created in 1972 by law studentsand area residentsat a time when
the thought of free legal serviceswasa veritablerevolution.


- Marguerite Tinawi
Pacoti//e : une cert.aine quantite d'objets que/conques. Sans va/eur.
Dans un langage un peu moins chatie, des bebelles, des cossins ...
Chers futurs ze futures collegues, laissez-moi la jo ie de vous conter la plus celebre Foire aux Pacotilles de McGill (c-a-d « les Journee Carrieres de la Faculte de
droit » ), un phenomene unique en son genre!
Ce qui vous impressionnera d 'abord, c'est l'incroyable esprit de corps vestimentaire des professionne ls de la foire (j'alla is dire « des fo ireux », mais c;'eut ete
quelque peu deplace). Les vendeurs de pacotilles sont tous invariablement affubles d'un « costume-cravate », tandis que leurs comparses feminines arborent
LE tailleur gris. Ou noir. Ou bleu marin. Mais PAS orange. Ni rouge. Ni mauve.
Ni vert. Ni jaune. Ni rose . Non, non, non! Le vendeur de pacot ille n'aime pas se
compliquer la vie. II ne connait q ue trois couleurs - gris, noir et bleu marin - et
qu'une coupe - le complet pour le vendeur, le tailleur la vendeuse.
Une fo is l'un iforme endosse, le vendeur de pacotille va essayer de vous convain cre que sa jo b est LA meilleure au monde. Moi je me demande comment une
cinquantaine de personnes dans la meme salle peuvent tous clamer avoir LA
meilleure job au monde? En tout cas, les vendeurs de pacotille, eux, en sont
convaincus et persuadent la plebe (vous, en passant) a grand renfort de cartes
d'affaire, pamph lets, discours soporifiques, sourires Minute-Maid, poignees de
main et naturellement. .. distribution de pacotilles.
Ah, ces cheres pacotilles! Mesdames et Messieurs, laissez-moi vous dire que la
Foire aux Pacotilles de votre nouvelle Faculte est une foire de qua/ite. Les incontournables sont immanqua blement au rendez-vous : stylos, crayons (en bois
pour le Ministere de la Justice, ils n'ont pas les memes moyens que le reste),
fluos avec Post-it qu i surgissent lorsqu'on devisse le haut, gommes, pochettes
plastifiees transparentes (trop-trop-belles ... j'a i craque l'an dern ier), bouteilles
d'eau ... Dans le plus haut de gamme, ii y a les porte-cles rouge flamboyant
(comme quo i, ils ne sont pas si allergiques aux couleurs vives ... a doses homeopath iques), des gadgets qui ressemblent a un chronome tre ou a une Pagette,
des t heieres, des cuilleres a glace, des mini-backgammon magnetiques (la, franchement, on s'app roche dangereusement de la pacotille de luxe!) ...
Mais le top du top de la pacotille, Mesdames et Messieurs, c'est ni le minibackgammon ni le porte-cle (bien trop commun, pfff!).
La Palme de la Pacotille revient a ... une boite! Une bo'ite en carton . Remplie
de ... cerea les. Si, si! Ce sont les celebres « MuesLEX »!!! En manger vous donne
automatiquement LA meilleure job au monde . C'est prouve.
A bien y penser, le nee plus ultra de la pacot ille, c'est une anti-pacotille. C'est un
objet qu i a enormement de valeur aux yeux de bien des personnes dans lemonde. Surtout lorsqu'elles passent la joumee le ventre vide.


Bah... des grandscabinetsqui distribuentdes cereales... c;as'peut pas!!! Vous
ne me croyez pas?Eh bien, demandezaux Vieuxde cette Faculteou attendez
les Journeescarrieres... vous verrez!!!
lte Tlnaw/ est nee la meme amee q_;eUtadaHlkaru cette etud!anteen deux!emeanneea
we passion immodereepar Chostakov/tch, la roe de Remes, Po/di,/espoemes d'/-lragonmis en
chansonpar Ferrat, /es art!chauts,OlivierMartinez,le CodeCivil versionpap/er et !espianos Yamaha
- aqueue, b!en entend.1.Ne vouslaissezsu-tout pas !mpressionnerpar son apparenceextremement
stud/euse,·profitez plutot du diablotln q.Jickrt en e//e...

C.Ki ME,

Si ·e p~4-nie.


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intact anJ Other W<>rJs
- Compiledby JoshuaParr

Something a f riend of mine told me before I started McGill law that helped me a
lot was to make sure I knew why I was there and what I wanted to get out of it
before I started; he said t hat if I didn't have answers to these questions and a
determinatio n to stick to t hose goals and values, I wou ld have new answers supplied to me. I've kept this adv ice in mind the whole time and I've found it really
When I first started out in first year, it seemed that no one wanted to be a corporate lawyer. My year was full of fascinating and generous people intent on
making the world a better place, who had nothing but contempt for the idea of
working for big money, And now, by t he end of third year, it seems t he majority
of them have signed up to work for corporate law firms . I don't think it 's just
that everyone was dazzled by the prospect of a high salary, because most people I've ta lked to about their firm jobs dread the prospect of work ing them and
don't feel that the dip in quality of life is balanced off by the salary - t hey haven't eve n really sold out in the sense of compromising values for money, It's hard
to understand, but I think it's just the overw helming power of suggest ion that
comes f rom everyone around you who you look up to and respect doing something, and you feeling that you have to follow suit - even if it doesn't seem to
make sense to you.
One reason this powe r of suggestio n is so overwhelming is because it doesn't
take the shape you 'd expect. Some 60-year-old ghou l in a power suit is not going to break into your room at night, throw an infant on the floor and exhort you
to stomp on it, and then drag you by the ear to a gloomy grey cub icle. I nstead,
it comes from the people you like most. The people who work in the career
placement office are wonderful hardworking people. They are among the nicest
and most genuine people you'll encounter at t he law faculty, What you must
remember is that they are emp loyed to ease your transition into a corporate firm
job; the fact that they are so good at their jobs is actually a prob lem if that is
not w hat you want to do, as it 's extremely difficult to resist pressure from wellmeaning people.
The principa l source of persuasion is your peers t hemselves. The radical Marxist
who was so intent on never taking a firm job in first year will suddenly pop up in
second year one day in a power suit. You'll ask her what's up, and she'll exp lain
apologetically t hat she has an interview, and cough out some rationalization.
Two weeks later, she'll be wearing a suit again, and will have stopped apolog izing. A couple of weeks later, she'll have accepted an offe r . Eight years later,

she'll still be at the same firm.
So how do you overcome this? Rrst, by taking my friend's advice - never lose
sight of why you started your law degree and what you wanted from it. No matter how distant and fogged-out those goals may seem to become around recruiting time, my thinking is they have a way of returning from oblivion in the
form of a senseof dread in your last days before graduation...after you've already signedon for a job you now realize you reallydon't want.

Second,and this may sound horribly individualistic,but don't hitch your wagon
indeliblyto anyoneelse or the choicesthey make. Surviving the culture at McGill
law often means decidingthat you're the only sane personin a bowl of lunatics,
even if all the lunaticshave decidedthat you're the crazy one. Part of the phenomenonof sellingout is trying to get other peopleto sell out - misery loves
By .:hshuaParr who Is a farth-year Jawstudent.He applied to McGIiiwhile volwteer/ng for a year
at a faith-basedhomelessshelter for the non-statuspopulatlcn on the Texas-Mexico
border. While
at McGIii,he has been active In the campalg-7fer a comprehensivere{!Jlar!zatlonprogram fer Canada'snon-status commwlty.

Don't waste your time reading the assignedmaterials.If you do feel strongly
about readingeverythingassigned,start with the commentary,not the cases,
and budget at least half as muchtime again to find and read some criticalcommentary. I got through most of first year by not readingthe casebooksand instead readingfeministcritiqueof private law. Everythingcame into focus when I
read commentatorswho couldexplainwhy these foul-tastingpillsthey force
feed us are so impossibleto swallow.Don't be blinded by volume - a classic
'confuse & co-opt'strategy of those with power - the more judges'opinionsyou
read, the more likelyyou are to believethem. Never under-estimatethe importance and value of getting angry and expressingit. The socialcostsmight be
too high in the classroom("now, let's see what these [fanatic] feministshave to
say about the duty of care ..."), but, at the very least, outside the classroom,
seek out a group of friends who share some of your valuesand frustrations. And
remember that there are professorslurkinghere who share your concerns.You
have to work just to stay afloat in this place, but you have to work even harder
to stay awake.
By GenevieveRenardPainter who werkson gerder, develq:;ment,and h..1manrights Issues.She Is
nearing the end of a law deg-ee, whichhas focusedon the critical study of human r!r;j?tsand feminist approachesto the nexus betweenpower and law. Shehq:Jesto retum to her previous careeras
a k:i:Jbylstfer gerder ecµity and socialjJStlce, whileremainingg-anded In g-assrootsactivismand
the other things that matter most (Includingcod<ing& dancing).


... How1 Survivedal'\dOther Wordsof Wisdomcol'ltil'lued
1) Challenge conformity.
2) Challenge racism, sexism, clasism and other forms of overt discrimination
that take place regularly in the faculty.
3) Challenge professors of seminar courses who dominate the discourse.
4) Expect to be alienated, isolated, and bombarded with falacious arguments
by militants of the status quo. Rise to the occasion.
5) Define your own academic career: Seek greener - and more progressive pastures at UQAM and even UdeM. Be radical with your electives. Don't waste
them on finance 101 or management courses that will look good and boost your
average. Take a drama therapy course or a sculpture course and then write a
term essay on how your work is impacted by the prevailing intellectual
property regime.
6) Make f riends who will not be lawyers.
7) Travel beyond Ste-Catherine, St-Laurent, St-Denis, Mt-Royal, and Crescent
8) Volunteer at a legal info clin ic (not necessarily the McGill one, but
it's a good start) .
9) Schedule a meeting and wear a power suit if you want something from
anyone in a position of admin istrative power in the facu lty . Expect
bureaucracy but challenge it.
10) Finish your required courses ASAP, then take a semester abroad and try
to extend it to a full year .
11) Write term essays in the summer on work you are doing anyhow.
12) Try to get work in a small law firm one summer (i.e .: Immigration,
Aboriginal, Housing, Family, even Business). Sometimes Pro Bono work can
trans late into a job (but do the Pro Bono fo r a law firm, not for an NGO
with no connections in the alternative legal community).
13) Meet people whose work you believe in and develop a network of contacts
not because it is benefic ial to you but because you can be beneficial to
14) Find a project that you can make a long-term commitment to that will
give you useful experience (i.e.: start an organ ic foo d cooperative,
organize a series of community legal informat ion seminars, etc.) . You'd be
surprised how many people will get invo lved if you ask.
15) Focus your energ ies: pick and choose your act ivities and then make a
commitment to see t hem through to the end and do them well.
By MichaelSimkin who Is from Montreal.He receiveda de,;reeIn sciencefrom the McGillschool of
Environmentand a Master of SpaceStudiesfrom the international Spacelhlverslty before comingto
McGIiiLaw. Sincehe beganhis Jawstudies,he has been InvolvedIn a wide varietyof activitiesIncluding coordinatingthe campus0-ganlc Food Coopas well as voknteerlng at the McGIiiLegal Info
Clinic,Project Genesis,and Dans la Rue. Most recently,he waked with street youth using theatre as
an empowermenttool for discussingIssuesof ywlh crlminalizat/onIn Montreal.He began the Q..Jebec Bar In Alg_Jst2006.For more from Michael.·www .law .mcgill .ca/quidarchive/2005/05112211.html


I ente red law school rather naive. Granted, I suppose I had the excuse t hat I
was several years younger tha n most of my peers and that my decision to apply
to law school occurred two days before I applied. I ended up in law school
largely on impulse, wit h only vague reasoning as to why - some combination of
social j ustice and environmental issues. Good intent ions, surely, but basing four
years of my life on such ambiguous ideals is slightly absurd in retrospect.
Th is would also have effects on my reaction to, and continuing tenuous relationship with , this entity of law school. I was dismayed immediate ly upon entering
class, and I strugg led both with the materia l and maintaining continuous attendance. Most law courses encourage/require you to accept certain assumptions
(private property, hurray!) and instead of engagi ng myself with the material so
as to bette r challenge it, I came down with the ostric h syndrome (if you can't
see it ...). This conti nued for about two years as I flirted (frequently and wit h
increasing intensity) w ith dropping law school entire ly and switching to a more
appropriate faculty (education or social work). After two years of such nonsense, I made the conscious dec ision that I ought to eit her quit (two years
down the drain) or make law school work. The fonner being a pretty intimidating option , I opted for the latte r .
I'm now entering my fourth year wit h some regret that it is my last, because I
feel now that half of law school will have evaded me upon graduat ion (perhaps
that should be the ot her way around) . And no, I'm not talking about missing out
on coffee house or free corporate handouts (doughn uts included). What I suggest, if I may be so bold, is to develop an active relationship wit h the material
and challenge it whenever possible. My response in my first two years was the
immature one, and it amounted to giving up. Fortunate ly, I remained w here I
was and I'm now in a surp risingly good place wit h law school - although less so
with "the law," You may have to force it, but you will receive a thoro ugh foundation (forgive the pun) in a crit ical social too l wh ich will be of tremendous use
in future radical pursuits. I made the mistake of equating education with indoctrination (a reasonable fear, by t he way), and so by refusing the latter and I
stifled the former.
I'd like to return briefly to my rather naive intentions. I should say now t hat it
was not that my intentions themselves were naive, but rather my approach to
these intentions was naive. I expected law school to nourish these, thinking I'd
be enter ing a bastion of progressive causes. I refused to challenge myself, concluding I was in the wrong place because I felt very much alone. Hopefully this
disorientation guide will help you realize that there are alternatives to the law
school escalator (one path, going up). Be prepared to force your own path.
And so to quote Bruce Cockburn, "Got to kick at t he dark ness 'till it bleeds daylight."
By David Perrier who Is in his farth

year of law school.


First, call it law school, not the Faculty of Law, Case matters,
Second, keep your friends from before; if need be, make new ones outside of
law. They are your lifeline .
Remember: you may not survive law school, but it will certa inly survive you.
Keep your options open .
Realize, early, that private law is about protecting the status quo:
that property law establishes it;
that contract law ensu res expectations based on it are met ;
and that tort law protects it from any unexpected change.
Realize, too, that if you're unhappy with the status quo, private law will not help
Wonder out loud, in class:
why tort law is about causation and fau lt, rather than about accident
compensation and risk protect ion;
why nobody mentions that torts were all but abolished in New Zealand in 1974;
why contracts are about the meeting of the minds rather t han the equitable
allocation of goods;
why the Supreme Court's Chaoulli judgement uses the right to life and security
of the person to unde nnine universal health care;
why the same court, just a few years earlier, in the Gosselin decision, decided
that we lfare benefits of $170 per month were not a threat to life and security of
the person;
why property law is about houses, shares and debts, and not about welfare
why protection is sought against government, and not corporate, abuse of
why, in Homex Realty and Development Co., the guru of judic ial review, David
Mullan, reprints only the d issenting judges of one of the rare cases where the
majority exposes such abuse;
why the same people who adamantly argue for free-market competition tum
around and, just as adamantly, argue for intellectua l property monopolies when
it suits their purposes;
why the soaring prices of healt h care are not seen as an IP issue;
why some people in Canada are protected by labour codes, while others are only
covered by labour standards acts, and others still cannot avail themse lves of
and why so little of all this is talked about by people who are claimed to be the
"Future Leaders of Canada."

Becomea Future Leader of
make allianceswith social justice groupsoutsideof the faculty;
bringthem in to present their cause;
support socialmovements,
and let them support you.
Becomea Future leader of
surround yourselfwith inspiringpeople;
and becomeone,
yourself .
By Cay Verbauwhede
. DI.ring his time at law school,Cay frecµently wcnderedout loud, in class,
about difficult social Issues,to the dismayof many of his col/ea{!Jes,yet to the deliifit of some. In
first year, he helped co«dinate Ecµity/A:cess'sg-OIJ'Jd:yeaking
Street Youthand the Law conference, whichstarted an ongoingand fmltful alliancewith Q::Jeratlon
Drolts devant, a street youth
r!g'Jtsadvocacyg-cxp. In secondyear, he wasInstrumentalIn makinga small but t_rprecedented
protest happenat the law schoolagainst the cuts of over $100t1In student aid to Q..Jebec
he/pingsecLrean overwhelmingmaj:Jrityvote for this actionafter the Law StudentsAssociation's
BoardstrlKk down the first resolutionto that effect for lack of 'cte notice." In third year,
throughhis Internshipwith Dans la 11.Je,and with the help of Pivot LegalSocietyIn Vancouver,he
participatedin bringingrl[/Jts-on-arrestcards to thousandsof youth who are routinely thrown In
prison for u-paid Montrealrm.nlcipalbylaw fines. Now that he Is beyond the reach of law school,he
will continueto make the eyesof those comfortableseeingsoc/alprograms disappearroll, and
perhaps evenhelp lxlng change?Maybe.At the very least they will have to suffer his relentless
cµestlonlngof accepted,though Indefensible,practices!



he's 'SU:6pl.C.l005 •

It's no easy task to change the law and it's not much easier to change a legal
institution such as the Faculty of Law. There are many forces pulling the Faculty
in multiple directions - funding, student interests, professors' expertise, etc. After spending two years at the Faculty and speaking w ith a large number of people, I've realised a few things I feel are essential to creating a greater space for
radical lawyering . Fostering such a space is important if we are to maintain the
motivation and hope of being able to promote social and environmenta l justice
as lawyers during our time in law school (and beyond!). I am focusing in th is
article on the ways to work within the system, but of course there are a divers ity
of tactics that law students and lawyers can adopt to make change. Some may
opt to take to the streets, while others may not, but we should develop alliances
and support the diversity of our work for social justice.
Working towards change requires commitment and action. And making changes
at law school requires action. The powers that be need ideas and contacts .
Though it may be a difficult decision to make as you become a busy law student
or when you are already invo lved in projects outside of the Ivory Tower, the administration needs people to work with if the faculty is to become a more progressive space. Engage them!
What types of changes do I envis ion at McGill's Faculty of Law:

Recruiting students: McGill is a very privi leged little bubble and the Law Faculty is even more extreme. Every year (I'm guessing, but haven't seen the
stats) the diversity of the student body improves but t here is still a lot of work to
be done on commonly-mentioned issues such as eth nic diversity but also in less
discussed areas like econom ic class. Initiatives are being developed that you
can get involved in or you may have ideas of your own.
Courses: McGill's Faculty of Law represents itself as a leader in human rights,
listing large numbers of classes in the catalogue without mentioning they are
often not offered. Pushing for greater diversity of courses in reality, and for
crit ical analysis within all courses requires cooperation with the administration as
they plan which courses are offered and hire new profs, as well as with professors either before the beginning of the term or as things go along. Obvious ly,
some will be more open to your suggestions than others. Working as a research
assistant may also influence the choice of readings and prov ide an outlet fo r
change for future years' courses.
Practical experience: It's not on ly corporate lawyers that want concrete skills.
A lot of us come into law school with a strong critical analysis of the exist ing systems and are interested in learning how to use the law to challenge the status
quo in concrete terms. Volunteering and working at the McGill Legal Information
Clinic has taught me how little I've learned in the classroom about how to go

about fighting a cut in someone's welfare payments or find ing out the steps
needed to fight for custody of t heir children, despite the somet imes interesting
philosophical and policy debates we've discussed. The best way to learn these
skills is through practical opportunit ies with lawyers and organisers in the community. These programs open many students' eyes, whethe r previous ly interested in social and environmenta l justice or not, to new issues and perspectives
they would never understand in the same way through a lecture or a read ing.
They allow students to learn how the law really operates, how the system
works, and how the stat us quo is maintained by the law. Experiencing this first
hand provides a deeper understanding that can inspire students to be act ive
agents fo r social justice. This should be a part of our legal education as wel l.
Th ese opportunities also make substantive law courses feel much more relevant.
More opport unities like the Legal Clinic Course (LCC) shou ld be available either
thro ugh increasing the number of times the LCC can be taken or by developing
new programs. Perhaps t he LCC shou ld eve n be mandatory .

Career placement: The Career Placement Office is meant to serve the needs
of the entire student body. It does a great j ob for the corporate sector whic h
pays for its own events, but it struggles for fu nds and knowledge of alternatives.
Greater funding is required for events like Public Interest Career Days and people need to express their interest to those in charge. Providing informatio n on
alternative careers is essentia l as the current tea m's past expert ise has not been
in this sector.

Presence of firms: We feel t he presence of firms everywhere- in ou r Orientation packages, Coffee House sponsorship and Lectures. It makes sense since
many students are interested in corporate law but the problem is that the radical lawyers out there do n't have the money or time to compete. This creates a
very lopsided perspective for students . So many g ive up hope as they feel the
big firms are the ir on ly alternative. It also bui lds the stress levels of all as people start to get articling posit ions as early as their second year, and others panic
as they 're left behind. A lesser presence of firm branding and recruitment in the
Faculty and/or an increased presence of alte rnatives would help a lot in prov iding contin ued inspirat ion and hope for an alternative use of our legal educat ion.

What do we do now?
There are a number of official and unofficia l approaches to take with varying
levels of cooperation with the administratio n. I'd suggest, especially given that
we're all out of here in 3-4 years, that fi nding allies with in the institution w ho
will be here a little longer to carry things through is essential to grounding any
rea I change.
Speaking out is the most important. If we are too busy with real world, nonIvory-towers issues to speak out at school (no matter how understandable that
may be), we give the impressio n t hat ou r perspect ives are not at the Faculty
and thus need not be addressed. The bigge r the numbers of voices heard
within the Faculty, the more seriously the perspective will be taken.

Acting and providing concrete suggestions are also crucial to go from complaining to changing things and to show the administration we're serious about what
we want to do . There are committees you can jo in (e.g. Equity Committee, Career Placement Office Committee) or you may choose to develop student groups
with a common front to discuss issues with decision-ma kers. Or, you may
choose a more confrontational strategy .
Whatever approach you take, I'd suggest having small, realistic goals
(considering your likely, other outside obligations and your course load) so that
you can achieve something rather than having dreamed of something big that
goes nowhere since it's too overwhelming to complete. Work with others so that
info flows and each of the small goals creates something bigger.
All in all, there is a lot to be done if you are willing to invest the time. By creating change in the Faculty, we st ill affect the outside world beyond the walls of
academia as students move on into the working world with greater understa nding, critical skills and knowledge of the alternatives available to them. And t hat ,
I hope, will contribute to greater social and environmental justice as they use
their skills and pass on their knowledge to others.
hlia Nicol is a 3rd year law student who has had an interest In sxial jJSticesinceher early days as a
nerdy, eccentrickid In g-ade three reading about slaveryand the holocaust. Eversince,shesbeen
busy studying, working,travelling and trying to figure out this complicatedworld out there and the
best strategiesfor positive change (or at least her ownperspectiveof ft!).

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Welcome class of 2009(ish)! You made it - you're the cream that has naturally
risen to t he top due to your hard work and innate intell igence. Look around you and the people you11meet on top of this hill are among the best and the
brightest! Many of you will go on to be leaders in business, in government, in
the courts and in the academy .. .
If you haven't heard this b.s. yet, it's coming. While it's true t hat many of you
will go on to assume positions of wealth and power, the b.s. of it is the notion
that you will have gotten there purely (or even mostly) by "merit." In deed the
meritocracy myth - the idea that people move ahead in life as a direct result of
their individual talent, initiative and achievement - is a principle upon which the
legal profession (and the status quo it staunchly supports) sturdi ly rests. The
meritocracy myth tells us that in our liberal democracy, where everyone is equal
before the law, if you just work hard enough, you too can be a "success!" It
tells us that those who do hold positions of power in business, in government, in
the courts and in the academy have them because t hey happen to be the hardest working, the brightest, the most meritorious. Of course it tells us little
(other than what can be assumed) about the people throughout all our communities that maintain our standard of living - the ones that work harder than we
w ill ever know, for little pay and no benefits, often in crap conditions for crap
bosses. These people are disproport ionately women, people of colour, new (or
old) immigrants, but they are also t he people upon whose backs the (false)
promise of liberal democracy rests.
The reality is that the system is designed to privi lege the dom inant race, class,
and gender (and generally those of all three ). A black kid from Pointe Ste.
Charles, for example, just doesn't have anywhere near the same opportunities
as say, a white kid from Westmount. The fonner will grow up in a community
that is overpol iced and underserved , w hile the meritocracy myth tells us that
"merit" is why the law class is largely made up of kids like the latter. Meritocracy is a myth precisely because it ignores the fact that people simply aren't
equally situated with respect to legal (and polit ical and economic) institut ions.
While it doesn't take a genius to realize this, it 's a fact that legal education and
practice encourages us to ignore.
The meritocracy myth has wide-reachi ng impact on the distribution of wealt h
and power in our society by virtue of what is defined as "mer it" in capitalist society (i.e. formal education, good grades, high-payi ng and high-po wered jobs
generally at the expense of other people's land and labour) . However I will
more narrowly focus on the myth as it relates to law school admission and
The Myth and Getting In
Though an A average in your (or my) intellectually vacuous finance degree and

that LSAT score earned through costly, fancy test prep (and class and cultural
privilege), hardly make one the "best and brightest," such criteria are at most
schools, a pretty big part of the admissions equation. Many law schools and corporate firms insist that they take a more "hol istic" view of "merit" and look to
other experiences. Like that exchange you went on in Provence - oh, and that
year you spent teaching English and surfing in Thailand . Apparently these things
establish that you do deserve to be here, that you're an intelligent, well-rounded,
global-minded individ ual. While t hese are certainly interesting and enviable experiences, they are also ones that on ly relative privilege allows. This is not to say
that the students that do get in (or the ones that undertake these experiences)
aren't quality people. Only that the overt display of self-congratulation among
many students, and especially many lawyers, is tacky false consciousness (not to
mention totally elitist). Th is is also not to say that law schools never consider
obstacles that d isadvantage some students. Only that despite its ostensible role
in preparing students to pursue justice, legal education, for its part, gives no systematic consideration to racism, sexism, classism, heterosexism, homo- and transphobia - or any other forms of oppression that subvert real justice. Instead the
thought process goes like this: "maybe there are few women partners in firms
because they simply can't hack working 70 hours a week for the man" as opposed
to "maybe the fact that most men do not equally share domestic responsibilit ies,
nor do most firms encourage it, and the fact that as a society, we simply still do
not fully respect women (see: disparities in earning power, political representation, myths, stereotypes, double standards, abuse, violence, etc. etc.) has something to do with it."


Buying into the myth of meritocracy does a disservice to all of us. Its proponents
will put forward examp les, maybe even themselves, as "proof" that the system
rewards properly qualified, competent individuals, regardless of their background.
They tell us that if some people of colour, aborigina l students, openly queer students, women, etc. can rise up the ranks and happily assume their place, no real
problem exists. Some of these same students will be co-opted into the very
structure of oppression that has made them have to work at least twice as hard
to succeed. However, all too often their success will depend, in no small part, on
remaining grateful to the powers that be. The message sent is of an Oprahmeets-Darwin variety: " look at me! I studied hard, got good grades and now I
too can get invited to fancy cocktail part ies!" as opposed to "let me figure out
how I can use my privilege to better serve and work with my commun ity ."
The Myth and Surviving Law School
What constitutes "merit" in legal education, especially in first year (the most

important time for securing coveted New York and Bay Street jobs), takes the
extremely narrow conception of good grades on 100% fina ls. While this method
of evaluation should in itself pose obvious red flags for educators sincerely w ishing to equip students with useful ski lls for pursuing social change, the 100%
final is an institution of legal pedagogy. On top of th is, the curriculum in all
schools is (del iberately) comprised of courses in contracts, tort, property and
constitutional law, but is not comp lemented by any analysis of the historical,
social and econom ic arrangeme nts (capita lism, colonialism, occupation , slavery,
etc.) that inform its content.
The law school socialization process is akin to frat-culture - endless drinking and
the imp licit pressure to do it because that's how you will fit in . During exams
there's a false camaraderie between st udents that otherw ise never speak to
each other, a strange sense of solidarity in fighting the man, though you know
that one (or both) of you will eventually become him. Against a backdrop of
fear, self-doubt, rivalry, and exhaustion (all rites of passage to the law school
experience) it is not surpris ing that what constitutes " merit" in the legal profession does not typically involve cooperation or empathy. Rather hierarchy and
brute competition are seen as fair and natural. The complete deference to law
profs and later, extreme kowtowing to senior lawyers and judges (as opposed to
just simple respect) are seen as rightful homage to those of substantia lly more
" merit." Graduates are churned out to fuel elite interests, slaving to maximize
profits (or defend the abuse of state power [!!]), even if they did not attend law
school for th is purpose. "Merit" in the profession means winning - outcome
with disregard for (or at the expense of) process.
Academic "merit" requires ''thi nking like a lawyer" - a process in which law st udents apply t he case law method to reproduce the type of legal reasoning employed by an overwhelming ly privileged, wh ite, male bench, all the whi le accepting the uncontested assumption that such reasoning is natural, objective and
free of part isan interest. This is not to say that people that excel in this endeavour are not bright, merely that equating this reproduction of tho ught as the
highest form of "merit" is problematic. By its nature, "think ing like a lawyer"
presumes that laypeople (let alone those more marginalized that the average
layperson) are simply not qualified - and should not be qualified - to understand
the law. While those t hat buy into the meritocracy myth do not see this as
problemat ic, as layperson Lucy was never smart enough to get to law school, it
speaks volumes to the interests that the law actually represents.
Of course there are no absolutes, and no, it isn't all hopeless. While some people will take offense to this last page, that's not my purpose. But I also cannot
apologize for expressing an opinion that cannot safely be expressed in the law
school classroom . None of us, and especially not me, are perfect and without
contradict ion . Overcom ing the intellectual and spirit ual straitjacket of law involves engaging in critical thought and on-going self-reflection on our own privilege and power. For many of us this may be a long work in progress, as it is for
me, but one that starts wit h creating avenues in which we can safely crit ique

and be critiqued. It's about trying to remember that when we think like lawyers,
to act like humans.

Thisarticleborrows ideas from Duncan Kennedy's ''legal Educationas Training
for Hierarchy"and Stephen Halperns "Onthe Politicsand Pathologyof Legal
Education{Or, Whatever Happened to That BlindfoldedLady With the Scales?)"
Look them up and read them both now,
By the time you read this, Karin wlll be 111 days from completingher law der;ree. She Is a bit warried about what will follow, but hcpes to eventuallyovercomeher 8.5 years of post-secondary/raining In neollbera/domination. She knows she Isn't a martyr, so don't beat her lP far having an opinion. She can both dish It out and take It and enj)ys a grod debate,not far the sake of being arg.r
mentatlve,but becauseshe believesIn somethingjXma//st Will/amG'eider cnce wrote. "a-eatinga
positive fub..rebegins In human conversation. Thesimplestand most powerful Investmentany member of a commmlty or an arganlzationmay make in renewal Is to begin talking with other people as
t:houifJ the answersmattered." She enj)ys CLpcakes,her bicycle, usedbook sta-es and the company of most people, even law students.


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- Gene Kruger
A couple of days at the shiny mansion on the hill: it is entirely possible
that you find the rarefied air up there somewhat hard to breath. After spending
some time with braggarts who talk too much, student -mercenaries who th ink
about the career placement office even when they' re asleep and a stack of
coursepacks with enough liberal ideology to choke a horse, you might want to
say, "Okay, I didn't exactly expect truth and justice, but could everything just be
a smidgeon less obnox ious?" Confronted by a full year of immers ion in the private law, something that is emphatically not about global social transformation ,
shortness of breath is maybe t he least of your worries. While all this and much
more is true, I loved (most of) my time at the Faculty and found it to be a radicalizing experience. In the following, I want to outline part of why this was t he
case for me. I am a bit of a humanit ies junk ie and th is was my way into the Faculty. Of course, such a way is anything but universal. Nevert heless, I think my
experience was more than just idiosyncratic and that maybe, j ust maybe, my
little ditty can offer you an approach to finding some breathing space (why
The Faculty is not designed to train activists, that much we know, but it
is not necessarily designed to train corporate lawyers eithe r, even though there
is a more tha n palpable slant in that direction. As a point of entry, it is helpful to
remember why all the professors are teaching here in the first place. After all,
these are very smart people who could be making a pile of money in private
pract ice. Instead, they spend a lot of t ime thinking and writing about, of all
things, teaching the law. The reason they do this is because t hey view (love?)
the law the way that a literature professor views literatu re or an historian history: for them, t he law is a humanity. This is hard to understand from an external point of view because the law is not supposed to be an end unto itself, like
poetry. It is supposed to do something (whether that something is to legitimate
domination or create a just society or, as is more likely the case, both). The
thing is t hat alongside its instrumenta l dimension, the law is also a cultural artefact, a language that opens up a distinct ive way of th inking about social life.
All of this might be true, but so what? How does th is help me? If you
have a humanities bent, in certain classes with certain professors, the most the
above can do is make things a little less boring. The reason I th ink the Faculty's
humanit ies orientation is important is because, with a lot of professors, it means
that they are interested in exploring issues that test the status quo (albeit not in
a radical way). It means that the Faculty's classes are about more than just
learning the rules. And in such an environment, a lot of really fascinatin g possibilities come out, even if such possibilities are not actually the focus of t he class.
For example, I happened to take common law property with a professor
where the cases included a claim by a union to have a property interest in keeping a steel mill open and one whe re the US Supreme Court held that t he right to
welfare is something that comes close to a property right. Now, the union lost

(but with a better lawyer they might have won) and the welfare case is not
about social transformation. Even if it was, nothing the US Supreme Court says
could ever really halt the onset of a global capitalism that makes it really, really
hard to believe in a democratic socialism in whic h welfare would be something
other than a pall iative. My point is that, fo r me at least, reading these cases was
an opportunity to think about the limits of the law and the limits of the prevailing social order. The professor proba bly included these cases because they are
interesting illustrations of how far common law doctrines can go. But the cases
were there, ready to occasion some interest ing thoughts. And there are similar
examples in most courses.
As another example, t he Faculty offers legal clinic courses whe re you
get credit for interning at various community centers around Montrea l. During
my internship, I found out that undocumented migra nts are not eligib le fo r any
of the worke r protect ion/benefit regimes in Quebec, although, depending on
who hears your case, this might not be true in Ontario. Now, the Faculty gives
you the tools to understand why t he legal basis for this exclusion is high ly contestab le, just as it is dub ious policy . In addition though, because of t he human ities orientatio n of the Faculty, there was a deep roster of professors with whom
I could explore the issue, who stimulated me to think about it creative ly. Why
does a humanit ies orientat ion make the differe nce? In my view, it is because t he
huma nities have a lot to do wit h imagining what is possible as opposed to
merely examining t he actual. Of course, for a lot of professors, the ir interest is
only in legal possibility: why this legal regime and not another? Why this doctrina l development and not another? At the same time, there are a lot of professors who are interested in possibility over actuality at a policy level too . While
these professors are not the least bit radical, their interest in possibility gives
them a certain openness to radical ideas.
In terms of more policy-like reflection, the dominant conceptua l framework of the Faculty is legal plura lism, t he idea that you have to think about how
legal normativity interacts with other normative orders. For me, this conceptual
framework, wh ich pops up in many classes, was always an opportunity to th ink
about how the law fits (or does not ) into social change . Again, wh ile no legal
pluralist at t he Faculty is a radical, their insights freq uently inspired me to think
(quasi) radical t houghts.
T hese are just a few illustrat ions. If I had more space, I would include tons
more (and othe r students have better ones: I knew someone who earned six
credits writ ing a 100 page essay on unlawfu l assembly). The upshot is the Faculty is rife wit h these kinds of possibilities, even in first year . After all, what are
contract and property law but crash courses in the background legal entit lements that make capitalism funct ion? Leaming this stuff is not going to teach
you how to change the wo rld, but it will give you insight into how the wo rld is
the way it is. If you app roach it from a certain perspective, t his kind of knowl edge can have a radicalizing dimension (possibly maybe?). And again, these
classes can occasion interesting ideas: it just happened to be my contracts professor who suggested to me in private conversat ion that corporations should

have finite lives, like human beings.
I n sum, I had a lot of opportunit ies at the Faculty to critique the prevailing social order and I was helped in this by a lot of professors. To be sure, most
class lectures and d iscussions will never be your ideal image of what should be
happening . A lot of it will be thoroughly, hopelessly obnoxious (read "offensive'').
For many of my more radical classmates, it became a matter of gritting their
teeth and bearing it. I understand why th is was the case for them and I respect
it. For me t hough, the Faculty's humanities orientatio n gave me the space to do
the t hings I wanted to do. Even in the most inhospitab le environments, I learnt
things very much wort h learning. Of course, a humanities orientation is not for
everybody . But if you have leanings that way, if you bear in mind that this is t he
main orientat ion of the Faculty, it might help you breathe a little easier.
Gene Kruger is a recent g-adlate of

the Faculty.Botchedby rational thouifit,he~ a fellow who, in a

ShelSilversteinkind of war, would cne day like to have a good time.


the Streets a!'IJ11'1
the Courts: Howthe Se\'e!'I-YearS1uat

f ou9ht the Lawa!'IJWo!'I

-Mandy Hiscocksand Amy Miller

In June of 2002, Canada hosted a summit of the eight largest economic national
powers, the GS, in a remote Rocky Mountain resort. In solidarity w ith protests
taking place around the world, act ivists from across the Northeast called for two
days of action in Ottawa under the banner "Take the Capital!" During the events
in Ottawa, police and protesters alike were surprised when the first day's march
stopped at 246 Gilmour Street, a house in the city's downtown . Infamous for
having been left to rot by its owner, the house at 246 Gilmour had been unoccupied for over seven years.
In Ottawa that year the vacancy rate was 0.2% . For the 12 000 families on the
seven year wait ing list for social housing, it is criminal that usable, liveable bui ldings like 246 Gilmour rema ined empty and vacant, whi le the absentee landlord
courts condo deve lopers and parking companies fo r more profitab le offers. On
June 26, 2002, amidst the act ions and rallies of 'Take the Capital!", 246 Gilmour
Street ceased to be vacant. Unveiling from a second floor balcony a banner that
read: "Sick of Waiting? OCCUPY!", t he Seven-Year Squat was born.
Suddenly, people had a safe place to sleep and the massive project of reversing
the landowners neglect began. Garbage was cleared out, floors and walls were
cleaned, peeling paint was stripped, dangerous areas blocked off or fixed, gardens planted and hundreds of meals prepared and served. The work was nonstop. The occupiers aimed to convert the building into usable, liveable housing,
run by t he collect ive of indiv iduals who lived and worked there. The Seven-Year
Squat attempted to open discussion w ith the City of Ottawa to secure t heir support for the conversion of 246 Gilmour Street into social housing. Reacting instead w ith massive surveillance and continual police intim idat ion and harassment, the Mayor's office made it clear that they were yet again refusing to address issues of poverty and homelessness in Ottawa.
Fortunately, support for the act ion came from every other direction: tenants of
nearby buildings, trade unionists, housing and anti-poverty activ ists from Ottawa
and Hull, and even a few sympathetic city councillors . People from many of Ottawa's communities toured the house to see or participate in the work being
done, and dropped off donations of food and fu rniture. Rnally on July 2, due to
mounti ng public support, a meeting was secured w ith City offic ials. Yet neither
the Mayor nor the Councillors who promised they would attend were present
w hen the meet ing finally occurred. In disgust, the Seven-Year Squat broke off
negotiations - it was clear that the City had no intention of meaningfully engaging in negotiations with the 246 Gilmour occupants. That night hundreds of police officers moved in, declaring the three square blocks around the squat a
"crime scene" and arresting and evicting anyone w ithin that zone. They shut
down the entire neighbourhood, preventing media and the public from


witnessing the violent raid and arrests that ensued. T he Ottawa tactical unit, in
full riot gear, moved in with pepper spray, tear gas and batons, brutalis ing occupiers, bysta nders and media alike.
In all 22 people were arrested on indictable charges including break and enter,
mult iple counts of mischief, unlawfully presence in a dwelling house and obstruct
pol ice . Over 110 crimi nal charges were laid.
Nine court appearances and 26 month s later, the 5 remaining Seven Year Squatters had the ir 6 weeks in court in September and October 2004. With the Crown
finally settling on 3 counts of mischief under $5000, break and enter and obstruct police, the defendants each faced a maximum possible sentence of 18
years in prison. While this was of cou rse very unlike ly, the Crown had indicated
he wo uld likely push for ja il time in the range of 6-9 month s. Each of the SevenYear Squat defendants self-re presented , though there had been a great deal of
support from many people with experience in the j udicial shitstem. The t rial was
broken up into t wo parts. From August 30t h-September 2nd the defen dants argued to have their case thrown out on Constitutional grounds. The second part,
the Trial by Jury, began on September 27th and ran until October 22nd • The legal
strugg le is an alienating and expensive process for anyone , but with commun ity
support, significant change is possible. Sadly, the City has demo lished 246 Gilmour. Th e real crime remains poverty and homelessness.
The Seven-Year Squat lasted only seven days but the legal stuff, from date of
arrest to our final court date, took about two and a half years. Most of that involved set dates, meeti ngs, phone dates, email discussions and a lot of reading
up on legal proced ure and precedents. 22 people were arrested; a few split off
from the g roup early and many took divers ion later on so t hat in the end only 5
of us were tried. But t hose five people owe our success in part to basic strategy
decisions made earlier on as a much larger gro up in long and sometimes frus trating meetings , as well as to the amazing support from many ex-defendants
and the Ottawa activ ist community as a whole. People cooked meals for us and
our court supporters every day , ran last minute erra nds that we were too rushed
and stressed to deal w it h, made space for out of towners in their homes, looked
over our arguments, and showed up to the courthouse in large numbers . We
tried to have regular community meals in t he park where we could spend time
wit h supporte rs in a less stressful environment. The courtroom was never
empty, and on the day of our closing arguments it was packed .
It is this sense of involvement - of both the defendants and the community that is missing when lawyers take on a case. Often they neither fully explain
wh at t hey're do ing to the accused themselves nor ask for their input , let alone
open it up to other inte rested people. People are far more likely to come out to a
trial when they can understand what's going on and feel like t heir input is
needed and appreciated - and as self-representing individuals, we provided that.
In return, we as defendants were far more inspired and confi dent knowing that
peop le were there for us both physically and in spirit.

In the bigge r picture, it is crucial that the court be aware that the outcome is
importa nt not j ust to the accused but to a wider community, Also, it is crucial to
avoid the media-fuelled div ision of act ivists into "good " act ivists who raise
awareness but know when to stop and "bad" activists who go too far and get
arrested. After all, often times - as was t he case with us - there were tons of
people part icipat ing in the action and it is in part a matter of circumstance who
is t here at the time of the bust. In retrospect, it 's difficult to pin down how much
of the following we already knew, and how much we learned during our time in
the courts or have pieced together since, but here are some of the more important th ings we 'd like to pass on to people considering defend ing themselves.
Rrst of all, not having a lawyer representing you in court means you have to
work harder and make some sacrifices. It's importa nt to th ink hard about the
time and energy you 'll need to put into running your own trial, to consider what
you wou ld be doing otherwise, and decide what is more important and usefu l to
your life and your activism.
There 's obv iously no right
answer to th is. Not using a
lawyer also means you 'll
make mistakes, but those
mistakes - just like the successes - will be yours, and
you can claim full responsibility for them . Like any
time people refuse to be
told what is best for them
or allow their lives to be
put in others ' hands, this is
an amazing ly empowering
th ing. This isn't to say that we did n't value the input of legal profess ionals (who
after all have spent a lot of time learning all th is stuff) because we did occasionally consult w ith lawyers and paralegals we tru sted for explanations and advice,
and are grateful to them for thei r input. But the fina l decisions were always ours
and we alone are accountable fo r the ev idence and arguments that ended up as
part of our case.
Defending yourself also gives you a lot of flexibility in terms of how the trial will
proceed. Lawyers are restricted in what they can do because they have been
trained to get their clients off, or get the m the lightest possible sentence, w hile
being respectfu l of courtroom decorum and having to keep the ir career and
reputation in mind. Self-rep resent ing accused have a lot more leeway in some
very important areas. For example, when making legal decisions you can consider how they will affect not only yourself and your future but also others who
were charged at t he same event or action. As well, you can consider other activists currently in the legal shitsem or w ho will be in the future, and how your trial
will affect the move ment in ge neral. It also allows you to remain true to your
principles. This opens up a range of possibilities when it comes to pleading

guilty or tak ing diversio n vs. going to trial and being tried individ ually or as a
group. I allows you set a range of goals: Do yo u want to set a good precedent
by winning? Do you want to make the trial political? Do you want to foc us on
learning t he system or setti ng non-verdict precedents even if it might sacrifice
the verdict itself? Do you make the trial technical or political or both ? And it allows you to decide betwee n judge alone or judge and j ury; to choose your witnesses and your case law, and so o n. When you aren't rely ing on a lawyer, you
can we igh these options in the context of solidarity in much the same way you
would make decisions outside the courtroom.
Lawyers believe that the system is fair, or at least must act as if they do. As activ ists we know better, therefore our decisions can and must take into account
privilege and oppression. Criminal records are more damag ing to some lives t han
others are. Group trials may help or they may hinder the most vul nerable in your
group. Judges and jurors can be (and probably are) prej udiced and this can (and
probably will) be reflected in verdicts and sentences. Going to trial is more difficult fo r some than ot hers for a mu ltitude of obvious and not-so-obvious reasons;
a precedent-setting case could affect a lot of people if you win but also if you
lose; and so on. There are other reasons we feel it 's important fo r people to defend t hemselves. Legal aid is becoming harder and harder to get, so it 's imperative t hat more of us know t he system and can help demystify it for others w ho
don't have the option of having a lawyer. Defending an action in a courtroom
can also be very informative when it comes to avoidi ng arrest at a similar act ion
next time , or beating a simila r charge in the future. For example, here of some
of the many (!) things we learned. Research into potent ial squats (who actually
owns them , if city ordinances have ever been issued, if the landlord has plans for
the bui lding, and so on) is pretty easy to do and could have a huge effect on the
t rial. Video surveillance starts further away from the act ion itself than you probably tho ught ... The list goes on and on. Many times throughout the tr ial we
thoug ht "if only we'd known this" or "that was such good adv ice" - and the deta ils we learned are far too many to put in this article. But the knowledge we
came by is incredibly useful and we want to share what we learned w ith those
who need to know it. Please feel free to email us any time, we 'd love to hear
from you . And good luck !
Amy MIiier Is an organiserbased In Montreal.MandyH/scockswai<s, fivesand organises In GJelph
O?tarlo.Both wereself-defendantsof the 7 year scµat trial and were acquitted of all charges.
TheSeven Year Squat'scaseIs calledRegina vs.A:kerley et al. Theymadea constitutionalmot/en1
s. 7 of Oif g-eat Olarter to recµest financialassistancefor their cOift costsand legal fees. As
It stands, one has the ri[/?t to self-defend,but not the rlif,t to flnanc/alassistanceIf one doesn't
have a lawyer. Thou[/?the jJdge did not have jrlsdlctlon over Legal IJ/d O?tarlo,he ordered the
Attorney Generalto pay for the Seven YearScµatters' costs. Thiswas a majr vietorr, setting a
precedent where self-defendants argued a Chartermotion, won, and got the state to cw[/? LP the
dou[/?. Usingplenty of case law on property, using internationallaw, arguing diminimus,colcxr of
rirj?t, freedom of express/en,honestbelief, and more against the chargesof mischiefand obstruction, the Seven Year Squattersgot a hu7g jry . Theµy deliberatedfor 5 clays,longer than for most
mlfder or rape trials. TheCrowndecidedthat It would not be In the interest of the state to f)lrsue
the chargesagain and the Seven YearScµatters won a stay of proceedings!


-Sam Singerand TatianaGomez
The Administration's official position is that t here is no curve at McGill Law. This
wou ld imply that students are granted the grades they deserve. However, you11
soon learn that the administration does have a "target zone" in which grades
should fall, which means that most grades must fall w ithin the sanctioned B
range. Hence the expression "you pay your fees, you get your B's", wh ich we
heard coming from the mouth of some of the senior teaching staff in our first
year. As such, professors must account for the ir grade d istribut ion and if they
have "too many" A or A- or B+, they must justify it. Thus, students are not necessarily granted the grades they deserve in the competitive evaluation methods
of our legal education system.
The "ta rget zone" provides certain law sectors with easy criteria for selecting
students interested in clerkship positions, grad uate studies in law, the corporate
sector and some government positions . For those interested in other law areas
(including family , criminal defense, labour, poverty, and immigratio n law) and
for those interested in radical lawyering in general, GPA is not as relevant. In
fact, many lawyers/NGOs/community based legal clinics/non-profit firms don't
even ask fo r grades. For these sectors, grades are not an essential selection
crite ria - relevant experience, whet her paid or not , is much more important.
However, for most law students, no matter the irrelevance of getting those "A's"
to t heir futu re aspirations, learning how to approach the "target zone" is a huge
hurdle in first year. Being the over-achievers that got them into law school, the
challenge of "beating the target zone" leads most students to obsess over every
assignment's minute details and work SO hours on an assignment that can really
be completed in 15. Not only is such a level of t ime investment often unachievable for law students with other commitments, it is also unhealthy, leading to
levels of anxiety that are detrimental to most students' mental health. The
mytho logical need to "beat the target zone" in order to be eligible for work after law school does not reflect t he reality of the selection criteria used by the
sectors that inspired many of us to apply for law school. Moreover, trying to
"beat the target zone" leaves you with little time to do more importa nt and more
productive things with your time (like work that extra shift to pay your bills or
organ ize !).
In law school, grades often seem arbitrary and/or unfair. If you find yourself
questioning your path and skills because of the "target zone", accept quick ly
that grades neither reflect your overall abil ities nor do they mean that you "can't
hack it as a lawyer''. You11learn after your first year that exams do not test your
knowledge of the material, but a particular set of skills. They test your ability to
synthesize and verbalize the material within t he allotted time, using the sanctioned language. Some might argue that this means that you are starting to
"think and ta lk like a lawyer", however "r eal worl d lawyering" works differently
than the classroom exam despite myths to the contrary, especially radical

lawyering. Moreover, think ing and talking like a lawyer is neither the virtue it is
hacked up to be nor does perpet uating such think ing lead to innovative and progressive applicat ions of the law. Rather, radical lawyering involves subverting
such th inking. It invo lves develop ing genuine relationships of equality and mutual respect with t hose we work with, demystifying t he symbol ic aut hority of t he
state, recasting how legal confl icts are characterized in the law (by revealing the
socioeconomic and polit ical fou ndations of legal d isputes), and deve loping legal
strateg ies that expand polit ical consciousness and increase people's sense of
personal and polit ical powe r .
First year stude nts spend a lot of t ime tryi ng to figure out how to get good
grades (as if B's aren't good grades) . What we learned, as st udents who struggled to reject the model presented to us, but inevitab ly find ourselves caught up
in it and waiting to stay within the "target zone", is regurgitate, regurgitate, regurg itate. While most professors will claim that they reward innovative and crit ical thinking, the truth is that crit ical thinking is only permitted within a sanctioned framework, and that true free thinking is not. So, in Civ il Law Property for
instance, when asked to speak to the "absolute rig ht of owners hip" on your
exam, make sure to make a few "critical" comments, but certai nly don't q uestion
the foundations of private property or you11find yourself wit h a little surp rise.
Obviously, some professors do reward students who genuinely think outs ide the
box, however they are the exceptio n. We are convinced that the outcomes of
exams do not reflect w hat you learned o r your abilit ies, but rather how well you
were able to answer the exam questions in the way the professor thinks t hey
should be answered according t heir analysis.
One "sk ill" t hat exams are meant to test is your ability to "cogently" expose both
sides of an argument. You wi ll soon realize that thinking and talking like a lawyer
includes being able to arg ue both sides of an issue since " law is arg ument and
proof and lawyers have to expose both sides in order to decide which is the
most compelling in coming to a conclusion" . Apparently, t his is one of lawyers'
strengths because it makes them neutral and even handed in their argume nts,
howeve r it also means that lawyers will argue anythi ng for anyo ne for any reason - unscrupulously. As a pedagological app roach, not only is it an impoverished one, but it also serves as a tool of indoctrinat ion . That is, by having students constantly argue bot h sides, our educations are depol iticized and students
are discouraged from thinking crit ically about what they are arguing, for whom,
and t he ethical and social justice consideratio ns behind the ir arguments. Furt her,
arguing both sides obscures the fact that law is not just argument and proof, but
also ideology and power and when we ignore this fact, we are indoct rinated to
think that law is neutral and lawyers are even handed. As one professor stated,
maybe whe n we get to the revolut ionary milestone of switching to pass/fail
evaluation, will we address th is as well.
So, when writing exams be crit ical, but beware . And even when you choose to
regurgitate, know that you are regu rgitat ing and don 't lose your true voice.
Sadly, we must jump threw thei r hoops to get the degrees to do what we really
want to do - j ust don't lose yourself in the process. Most of all, remember that

grades are arbitrary and meaninglessand that when you buy into them, you are
buyingnot only into the system, but into the rat race.
SamSingerand TatianaGomezskippedway too many classesand dlch't do enaefi of the readings,
Theygoog/edand wlk!pediadtheir way thraefi first year, Theyboth wori<edand organizedIn addition to doing full-time schooland fell perfectly well Into the "target zone", Theyare now In their
SamSinger dlch't cµit his jJb as a travai//eurde rue/milieu at a commLnltyorganization In CentreSI.K!whenhe started law school. Withoutthe help of his study buddies,with whomhe alternated
classes,exchangednotes and summariesfrom generaJSupper years and studied for ten ho..r catchLP sessions,he wouldnever have madeIt thrOl.lf/'Ifirst year.
Tatiana Gomez,the dauif1ter of wori<ingclasslmmfg-antparents, Is an organizerwith Solidarity
AcrossBorders,the Jmmig-antWori<ers
' Center, and the Peep/e'sCommission,In addition to supporting the work of other organizations.

.JIU'S:T .e,o "lb
www .critic.al ttli nkin&oom

cNP c:;;:.Lic::.K.ON
~aN!>weRS ":"



So you arrive in first year of law school and often can't make sense of most of
what t he professors, your readings, and even some of your fellow students are
ta lking about. When faced with unfamil iar vocabulary (good faith?! contract of
adhesion?!) schools of philosophy (Lockean what?! Hobbes who?!), the internet
is your "law partner" and will have answers to many of your questions. Even
better, for those of us who don't have as much study time, because of choices
we make or limitations we have, the internet can spell out an area of law in
broad strokes when reading 800 pages two days before that 100% final just
isn't possible.
"Goog le" (www.google.ca) offers a quick path to such exam-sav ing websites as:
http:/ /en .wikipedia .org/wiki/Main_Page - an all-in-one encyclopaedic website
with summaries of most major law topics, including some major cases. (It's
open source too!)

http://www.oqlf.gouv .qc.ca/ressources/gdt.html - Le grand dictionnaire terminologique is an online dictionary offering translation from English to French, vice
-versa, and defin itions of French terms.

provides summaries of Canadian law

provides definitions of legal terms and law related con-

Constitutional Law
with small summaries of main constitutional
law issues under their topics section.
constitutional documents.
constitutional keywords.
constitutional law topics.

mon law contracts topics .

has links to all Canadian

.cfm provides defin ition of many

.cfm provides summaries of many

provides summaries of most Canadian com-

http://www.law.comel l.edu/wex/index .php/Tort - provides summaries of American common law torts topics and many major tort cases.

-Erica Martin

We are learning to be lawyers- we are different. We are better. -- We are
entering a world of honorable work, requiring different thought processes and
new working styles . Better . We're going to learn to think legally,
Legal thinking isn't think ing analytically- often it is- but there are some things
you can't/shouldn't analyze. And its not quite thinking critically either- I've seen
many actual thinkers isolated for their critical analysis.
Not analytical, not crit ical. Legal: Law is a good, in and of itself, and can be
studied independent from the implications it has.
In your first year of classes you will hear "That's a political question, not a legal
question" so many times that the ridiculousness of this phrase w ill eventually

fade: as if our stud ies do not have massive political implicat ions (!) . As if you
can learn law, indepen dent of the political culture from which it evolves, or
which it supports(!). I know, I know -you came here to learn about law, not
about politics. But law is political (see pgs. 1- of th is handbook) . Sure, in
classes you11 hear anecdotes and read cases where the d isenfranchisation and
oppress ion is so evident that some polit ical discourse will be allowed. But the
mores and values of our legal system runs so much deeper t hen these examples, and this is hidden behind the myt h of neutral legal stud ies. This apolit ical
neutrality is at best na'ive, and at worst, co-optive.
Law is nothing wit hout its context. Law isn't a science. It's a product of our society. And examining law disconnected from these social forces helps us sleep
better at night, but at the expenseof real compreh ension of the systemicviolence we support.

But what about that day we coveredthe horrible racist historyof our judicial
systemin Constitutional Law- aren't politica l discussions sometimes tolerated if
it's "Ident ity Politics"? (as if all identities are the same). Sure- but only in small
doses,on ly on specific topics, only in designatedclasses,And only if you agree
that our judicial system has only a racisthistory, not a racist (sexist,classist)
Tokenism plays heavy in keepingthis academicexperienceapolitical pretending that these broad issuesof sexism,classismand racism don't underlie everythingwe learn.
We're all brought here to share our perspectives.I know I feel good when queer
issuescome up and the queer studentsfeel like they're expectedto say someth ing. Or that one day we did Critical RaceTheory - if you didn't have white
skin you really should share with the class.
No, no, no- not your perspectiveon everything. Save it for when it comes up gender inequityis only relevant 1/ 39'&1
of the time.
There will be a token day. There's a day for queer issues. And a day for race
issues. And if the classdoesn't get too bogged down with Fuller and Dicey, we
might get to ge nder issuesat the end of the syllabus. And then we can treat
our intelligent, brilliantly analytical classmateslike token students. Then we can
really value what they're saying.
1. Property law C.31 be studied w i'&lout examin ing '&le assumpt i:lns of a c~ italist society, as if Aborig inal r ights C.31
be exa mi'led witho ut a study of imperialism, and Pub lic In ternat ional Law without exa mining '&le tyr<Wl
ny of '&le
nation st ate system, In tellectua l Property w i'&lout the fu cked up assumpt ions of '&la t hum.31 creativity can be commodified . Etc.

EricaMartin In Is a Law II, and has been selling out ever sinceshe left the motherland,l\ewfandlancl, at 16.After sell/ngout as president of /\DP McGIiifor severalyears, she sold out even more by
going to law school. Thenshe sold wt even moreby getting Involvedin studentpol/tics. She hopes
this hancbook, and the amazingrad/aw commLnitywill ensu-eshe has a soul for her 22nd birthday.




·. ~


Agitate, Educate, Organize!






Activist at\~ YtaSSr<><>tS
Immigrant Workers' Center: iwc_cti@yahoo.com or (514) 985-2085
Solidarity Across Borders: www.solidarityacrossborders.org
Workers' Solidarity Network : precareencolere@gmail.com
Justice Coalition for Adil Charkaoui: justiceforadil@riseup.net
Indigenous Peoples Solidarity Movement: {)sm@resist .ca

ive Le9al <>r
People's Law Office (Chicago): www .peopleslawoffice.com
National Lawyers' Guild (U$A): www.nlg.o rg
Law Union of Ontario: www.lawunion.ca
Canadian Civil Liberties Association: www.ccla.org
Center for Guerilla Law: www.guerillalaw .com
Law Students, Recent Graduates and Workers of the Law Union of Ontario:
www .srglwg .blogspot.com
The Sylvia Rivera Law Project (NYC): www.sr~.org
Social Activist Law Student Association (Halifax): societies.dsu.ca/salsa/ index.html
Ligue des droits et liJertes: www .liguesdesdroits.ca
American Civil LiJerties Union: www .aclu.org
Transgender Law Center : www.tra nsgenderlawcen ter.or g

Le9al- Cc,(fectives
(For general n formation on Legal Collectives see page .. )
The Midnight Special Law Collective (Oakland).:www.midnightspecial.net
Liberta s (Montreal/ Quebec): liJertas.taktic.org
New York's People's Law Collectiv e: nycplc.mahost.org
DC's Justice and Solidarity Law Collective: ;..isticeandsolidarity .org
Ausfu's People's Legal Collective: http: // p iano.geo.utexas.e du/ fng /aplc/
Legal Support Ottawa: www .flora.org/legal
Up Against the Law Collective: www .defenestrator.org / upagainstthelaw /
Common Font Legal (Toronto): www.ocap.ca /archive/ legalguide/ index .htm l
Just Cause Law Collective (Santa Cruz): www .lawcollective.o rg

The CriticalLawyers Handbook: www.nclg.org.uk/bookl/conte nts.htm
Colours of Resistance: colours.mahost.org/
Planting Seeds CommunityAwareness Proejct: http://www.pscap.org/

Campus <>r
For a list of campus-based activist organizations check out the Quebec Public
Interest Research Group-McGillwebsite: http ://ssmu .mcgill.ca/qpirg/links.html

Basis of Unity
We resist liberal legal discourse and challenge accepted norms in
legal theory and practice in so far as they maintain and re-create
relationships of domination and subordination in society. We embrace
modes of social organization based on direct and participatory
democracy that provide the means for self-determination and grassroots empowerment.
We resist all forms and systems of domination including but not
lim ited to capitalism, imperialism, and feudalism, and reject systems
of oppressio n including but not limited to, patriarchy, racism,
heterosexism, and class. We recognize and condemn t he law's legitimizing role in these structures and we embrace the full d ignity of all
human beings.
We support social movements, advocating forms of resistance that
are not limited to advocacy and litigation nor confined to human
rights discourse and support oppressed people's struggles for just ice.
We embrace an anti-authoritarian orga nizational philosophy based on
decentralization and autonomy.

lawdisorientation @gmail.com


Item sets