Osgoode Environmental Justice and Sustainability Clinic partners with OKT LLP for new summer fellowship

The Environmental Justice and Sustainability Clinic (EJSC) is excited to announce a new partnership with leading Aboriginal law firm Olthuis, Kleer, Townshend LLP (OKT) for a pilot summer student fellowship. This summer OKT will be sponsoring one EJSC student to work with both the firm and the clinic. Through the fellowship, an EJSC student will have the opportunity to work with both the lawyers at OKT on Indigenous environmental justice and natural resource law matters and the clinic co-directors Professors Estair Van Wagner and Dayna Scott on the community-based work of the clinic.

Grace Hermansen, who completed her clinic placement with OKT this past March will be the 2020 summer fellow. She is thrilled to continue supporting legal work that advances environmental justice and sustainability, both through her work with the firm and through assisting with clinic programming and development.

This past year was the first time that the Environmental Justice and Sustainability clinic had a placement with OKT, and Grace was one of two clinic students placed with the firm. During her time with OKT she worked with associates and partners on the implications of recent amendments to provincial environmental legislation for First Nations and worked with a client on consultation issues. The placement provided excellent learning opportunities and supported Grace to develop key legal skills at the intersection of environmental and aboriginal law. “The placement at OKT was fundamental for my legal education and I feel grateful for the commitment of the partners and associates at the firm to provide me with such a valuable and enriching learning experience,” says Grace.

OKT is a leading aboriginal law firm with offices in both Toronto and Yellowknife. They provide legal services to Indigenous governments, organizations and individuals, including in the areas of economic development, rights protection and governance and self-determination. Much of their work is concerned with promoting environmental justice and sustainability for their clients, whether that is through assisting clients with environmental assessments, developing governance structures, or ensuring the Crown’s duty to consult and accommodate is met. OKT Managing Partner Renée Pelletier says “We are very excited to have Grace working with OKT for the summer and to continue our partnership with EJSC. Supporting the self-determination of Indigenous nations over their lands and resources is central to OKT’s mandate, and we know this goal is shared by EJSC.”

The Environmental Justice and Sustainability Clinic is a public interest legal clinic operating out of Osgoode Hall Law School. Students are both placed with environmental legal organizations and complete research for clinic partners with the goal of promoting environmental justice and sustainability in Canada. The Clinic also undertakes community-based advocacy and legal research on topics related to environmental justice and sustainability. According to co-director Professor Van Wagner, “The new summer fellowship reflects our commitment to supporting First Nations’ assertion of jurisdiction over environmental and natural resource governance in their territories. Working with the lawyers at OKT will provide a wonderful learning opportunity for an Osgoode student to engage directly with these issues while also supporting our own advocacy work at the Clinic.”