Osgoode students provide pro bono legal service in the Philippines

Osgoode Hall Law School students Chad Aboud, Shane D’Souza, Sarah Robicheau and Grace Wang, who are working this summer in the Philippines as part of a law school initiative known as the International Legal Partnership (ILP), hosted a forum on June 1 to assist the province of the Guimaras Island in the aftermath of the Philippines’ worst oil spill.

Right: Osgoode’s ILP Philippines team (left to right): Shane D’Souza, Sarah Robicheau, Grace Wang and Chad Aboud

Dubbed "Legal Policies and Issues on Environmental Rehabilitation: A Second Look at the Guimaras Oil Spill", the forum was a great success drawing influential members from provincial government departments, non-governmental organizations and academia. In a round-table discussion, the Osgoode students posed some possible pressing legal issues concerning environmental rehabilitation efforts and then helped prioritize those issues with the assistance of conference participants.

Left: Delegates participate at the forum

The ILP, a non-profit student organization based at Osgoode that provides pro bono legal service to developing countries around the world as well as international experience for law students, is partnering with the Canadian Urban Institute (CUI) to assist Guimaras to better understand local, national and international legal frameworks that govern environmental rehabilitation. The project was prompted by the Philippine’s worst oil spill, which took place in the Western Visayas region, which contains Guimaras, in August 2006. Since the oil spill, the CUI has offered assistance to Guimaras in the coordination of the various local government units, donor organizations, and NGOs working on recovery efforts.

The Osgoode team’s Philippines summer placement was preceded by a one-week training session during which the students studied cultural diversity, differences and development issues; leadership; team work; and advanced research skills. Osgoode Professor Benjamin Richardson and Norman Letalik of Borden Ladner Gervais LLP volunteered their time to instruct the team on issues of environmental law and marine law, respectively. Marianne Rogers in Osgoode’s Law Library instructed the students on research tactics.

The project, which will result in the development of a policy paper, is unpaid work. However, CUI (through funding from the Canadian International Development Agency) is covering student costs directly related to the project. Project directors for the ILP Philippines team are students Ashley Webber and Catherine Novak.

Other ILP projects are also under way this summer in Kenya involving Osgoode students Tasha Adams, Joanna Bryan, Paul Carbonelli and Jason Mehar with project director Muneeb Yusuf, and in Cambodia with Heather Clark.