Law In Action Within Schools
Our Impact Why We Exist
LAWS’ goals are to:
- Use legal education as an academic tool to encourage students to graduate high school and access postsecondary education;
- Increase students’ ability to advocate on behalf of themselves and others;
- Increase the diversity of the legal profession in order it better reflect, serve, shape and strengthen Canadian society; and
- Provide a positive and engaging exposure to legal issues, the justice system and legal sector careers.
LAWS is a program partnership between the University of Toronto Faculty of Law, Osgoode Hall Law School at York University and the Toronto District School Board. It runs under the leadership and governance of the two law schools in collaboration with its seven TDSB partner high schools.
Our Story What We Do
On April 28, 2005, more than 1,000 high school students, teachers, University of Toronto Faculty of Law staff, parents, lawyers and members of the media, crowded into the auditorium at Central Technical School for the program’s launch with two high schools.
Ten years later, LAWS is a robust, flourishing and well-respected collaborative justice-themed education engagement program that partners seven TDSB high schools with Toronto’s two law schools’ and hundreds of champions across the legal profession. We comprehensively serve more than 1000 students facing personal and systemic barriers to education success annually.
Accolades and Accomplishments
- Recipient of the 2015 Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children Children’s Rights Supporter Award.
- Recipient of a 2014 Toronto Foundation Vital People Award.
- More than 20,000 meaningful youth contacts from April 2014 - March 2015.
- Deliver almost 500 legal workshops annually.
- Partners with Toronto’s two law schools and the majority of Canada’s largest law firms.
- Placed 100+ youth in paid summer employment with 70+ legal sector employers through our 2015 Summer Job Program.
- Pairs 110 youth with lawyers annually for one-on-one mentorship.
- Two LAWS graduates are now attending law school, and many others are successfully completing a wide-range of postsecondary education.
Our Programs How We Do It
LAWS has two program streams:
- Core LAWS Program
- Newcomer Youth Program
Core LAWS Program
Through Core LAWS we work with cohorts of students in a three-year program (grades 10, 11 and 12) that is integrated into students’ school curricula and enriched by a wide range of extracurricular opportunities. While students take the same courses as their peers, LAWS infuses its curricula with law and justice themes—encouraging students to see every subject through a legal and rights focused lens. LAWS staff and teachers collaborate to build cross-curricula links across different LAWS courses, bringing learning to life. Students can also participate in mentoring, paid summer jobs, tutoring, LAWS conferences, afterschool clubs, job-shadowing, and fieldtrips to university campuses and courthouses.
Core LAWS provides high school students facing barriers to education success with increased legal literacy, critical thinking capacity, and a heightened sense of personal agency. We help students graduate high school ready to access the postsecondary programs of their dreams.
Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program
An increase in the divisions in the city and the inequality among them means that if nothing changes 60% of the city’s neighbourhoods will be low- or very low-income by 2025. The 40-year pattern of income trends that has created three increasingly unequal “cities” in Toronto has been highlighted in the Toronto’s Vital Signs Report since 2009.
LAWS’ overarching goal is to address the un-level playing fields that prevent equitable access to postsecondary education and higher paying careers. The opportunity to access postsecondary education and professional careers provides significantly increased opportunity for improved socio-economic outcomes for our youth, their families, and their future children.
Newcomer Youth Program
LAWS’ Newcomer Youth Program is an engaging, and interactive way for newcomer students to build their understanding of the Canadian justice system and our democratic processes, enjoy positive interactions with members of the legal community, explore the wide range of justice sector careers, learn about Ontario’s postsecondary education options, and work towards the goals of the ESL/ESD curriculum set forth by the Ontario Ministry of Education. We deliver in-class legal information workshops, courthouse visits, law school and university campus visits, justice sector career carousels, mock trials, and an annual Newcomer Youth Conference.
Learning about the Canadian legal system allows newcomers to fully understand and participate in the social, economic, political, and cultural life of their local communities and of Canada as a whole. Law and justice education equips newcomer students with the tools they need to be able to use English effectively to advocate for themselves and their families. LAWS’ Newcomer Youth Program also provides a context for students to demonstrate and understand the rights and responsibilities of Canadian citizenship and of the contributions of diverse groups to Canadian society.
Toronto's Vital Signs® indicator(s) addressed by Program
Despite reflecting more than 40% of Toronto’s population, visible minorities made up just over 13% of Toronto City Council in 2013. The strongest predictor of low voter turnout is a high concentration of immigrants and visible minorities. Diversity in elected representatives not only sends a powerful message of inclusion to minority groups, but it may also lead to different policy outcomes, as minority group representatives bring unique perspectives.
By increasing the diversity of the justice sector LAWS works to increase the diversity of Toronto’s leadership. Legal professionals shape and apply our laws and figure largely amongst decision and policy makers as elected officials and directors of large and influential corporations and public institutions. LAWS programming engages youth in justice themed conversations and initiatives in order they recognize the intrinsic value their experiences and perspectives bring to city-building dialogues. We aim to help youth find their voices, articulate their points of view, and advocate for themselves and their communities.
What You Can Do
Core LAWS Program and Newcomer Youth Program
Some of the ways you can participate:
- Donate to the Postsecondary Education Bursary Fund.
- Donate to the Law Summer Job Program Fund in order to place students in paid summer positions at legal aid clinics.
- Sponsor a LAWS event (such as our annual Graduation Ceremony or Summer Jobs Program Reception) or program (such as our Court Experience Program).
- Volunteer as a mentor to a group of students, run a workshop or coach one of our extracurricular activities such as Mock Trial or Model United Nations.
Donations and sponsorships enable LAWS to provide our full range of programs and activities to help our diverse student population overcome barriers to academic success, and access postsecondary education.
In particular, donations enable us to provide bursaries to graduating LAWS students who are proceeding to postsecondary education. As most LAWS students face significant financial barriers, your donations make a significant difference.