Osgoode Professor Fred Zemans bids York adieu

Friends, family and colleagues of Osgoode Professor Fred Zemans marked his retirement from York’s law school at a packed cocktail reception on April 21 at Parkdale Community Legal Services, the Queen Street West community legal clinic that Zemans founded in 1971.

Left: Fred Zemans

A who’s who of invited guests, including former Toronto mayor Barbara Hall, former Ontario premier Bob Rae and his wife, Arlene Perly-Rae, Justice Rosalie Abella of the Ontario Court of Appeal and lawyer and politician Robert Kaplan, gathered to pay their respects to a professor whose name during a 32-year career at Osgoode became synonymous with helping to deliver poverty law services to low-income residents of Toronto’s west end.


Above: A cheque for $18,500 in honour of Fred Zemans was presented to Osgoode’s Parkdale Community Legal Services at Zemans’ retirement party. Left to right: Dorothy Leatch, Parkdale receptionist; Irina Ceric, Parkdale board member; Professor Emeritus Fred Zemans; and Osgoode Dean Patrick Monahan.

Among the speakers who paid tribute to Zemans – with such descriptions as “a heroic figure in Canadian legal education” and “a tireless champion of legal aid and legal clinics” – were Osgoode Dean Patrick Monahan, Parkdale clinic director Kevin Smith, former Osgoode dean and York President Emeritus Harry Arthurs, Osgoode Professor Dianne Martin, University of Ottawa Professor Constance Backhouse and Parkdale’s academic director, Professor Janet Mosher.

More about Parkdale Community Legal Services

Parkdale Community Legal Services began with the appointment of Zemans as a faculty member at Osgoode and as director of the community clinic in April of that year. Zemans hired five law students to search for an appropriate location to set up a community-oriented law office.

Left: The entrance to Parkdale Community Legal Services

On September 1, 1971, Parkdale Community Legal Services opened its doors to the Parkdale community for the first time. The site for the first clinic was donated by Dave Usher, a local businessman, for the rent of $1 per year. Previously, the building had housed a food store.

The staff then consisted of one lawyer/director, two secretaries, one social worker and 16 law students. Shortly thereafter, Mary Jane Mossman joined the office as PCLS’s first articling student. Simon Fodden, an Osgoode professor, and lawyer Brian Bellmore served as part-time supervisors to the students.

Today, Parkdale Community Legal Services has 23 staff members: a clinic director, academic director (appointed by Osgoode Hall Law School), four staff lawyers, six community legal workers, an office manager, five secretaries, two articling students, two receptionists and a cleaner. There are 20 law students each term and 20 students who are hired as paid workers each summer. The service also has several cultural interpreters who help the clinic provide better service to clients whose first language is not English. Once the only community-based legal clinic in Ontario, the service is now a part of a province-wide network of 70 clinics and it continues its close ties to Osgoode Hall Law School.