Through our award-winning legal clinic, the IHRP lends legal expertise to civil society to support advocacy that enhances the legal protection of existing and emerging international human rights.
Reflections from clinic alumni
"Eighteen months ago, my capacity to brighten someone's day was generally confined to serving them a good cup of coffee. I knew that law school would bring about many opportunities, but I never imagined how quickly I would have the incredible privilege to contribute to the important work of the UNHCR. I want to thank you for all your efforts to connect me with, and prepare me for, this amazing opportunity. I have learned invaluable lessons from the IHRP clinic classes and our project, and I am so excited to engage in work that can not only brighten someone's day, but actually change their life for the better."
- Hanna Gros; 2014 IHRP Clinic Student; JD Candidate 2016
"The IHRP—from the working groups to the internships—was an anchor of my experience at U of T Law, and the Clinic was no exception. Some of the benefits of the Clinic are perhaps unsurprising: it was extremely rewarding to provide legal assistance to those whose fundamental human rights had been violated; the clinic provided an opportunity to apply in practice the legal concepts introduced in the classroom; and the Clinic provided an unmatched environment in which debate the law with a group of engaged and dedicated students. What surprised me, however, about the Clinic was that it also provide a unique opportunity to learn about the law itself. My project—drafting legal submissions to the UN Human Rights Committee on behalf of a Canadian resident under threat of deportation to Somalia—not only taught me about legal advocacy at the international level, but also taught me more about the substance of international human rights law than any other course could."
- Ryan Liss; 2010 IHRP clinic student; S.J.D. Candidate Yale University
"Working with the IHRP clinic was a phenomenal experience. I authored a report on violence against journalists in Honduras in conjunction with PEN Canada and PEN International, providing me with the opportunity to improve my research, drafting and interviewing skills. I practiced my Spanish on almost a daily basis through reading reports and articles, sending emails and translating interviews in real time. I learnt about the incredible amount of effort that goes into drafting a piece of advocacy, including the many steps outside of actually drafting content. I had a supportive supervisor and helpful partners, who provided me with constant feedback that greatly improved the quality of my work. I am truly grateful to have had this opportunity, and I know it will shape the direction of my legal career."
- Kaitlin Owens; 2013 IHRP Clinic Summer Student; J.D. Candidate 2015
"The IHRP clinic was one of the absolute highlights of my law school experience. My clinic project involved filing a petition with the United Nations Human Rights Committee. I benefited hugely from the opportunity to work closely with two classmates under the careful supervision of the IHRP clinic director. Not only did I receive outstanding guidance and mentoring from the IHRP director, I learned a tremendous amount from my classmates. Through this project, I gained invaluable experience both in international law research and legal drafting and, more broadly, in strategic advocacy. I also discovered a passion for refugee law that helped focus my future career plans. I recommend the IHRP clinic to anyone with an interest in public interest law and social justice."
- Katherine MacDonald; 2012 IHRP Clinic Student; J.D. 2014
Celebrating over 10 years of excellence in clinical legal education
The IHRP was established in 1987. In 2002, under the leadership of then Dean, Ronald Daniels, the IHRP expanded from summer internships and student volunteer working groups to include Canada’s first-ever international human rights clinic.
Since 2002, the IHRP has engaged in international human rights advocacy on diverse issues. Advocacy has ranged from direct client representation to policy work, though our current emphasis is on lending our legal expertise to civil society engaged in advocacy in areas that intersect with our Faculty’s expertise and draw upon our location within Canada. The freedom to pursue a diversity of projects has allowed the IHRP to respond quickly to changes in the Canadian and international landscape and provided students with a well-rounded view of the practice of international human rights law. In 2010, the IHRP clinic received a Lexpert Zenith award for public service.
The clinic provides experiential learning opportunities for students and exposes them to the practice of international human rights law. It focuses on professionalism and the tools of international human rights advocacy, including research and fact-finding, litigation in domestic and international forums, grass-roots mobilization, and media engagement. The clinic encourages critical reflection on international human rights lawyering, including exploration of legal, procedural, strategic, ethical and theoretical issues. Wherever possible, the course will provide students with the opportunity to interact with international human rights advocates.
There are two components to the clinic: clinical projects and the seminar. Through clinical projects, students have the opportunity to participate in advocacy under the supervision of qualified lawyers. Project work may include formulating theories and advocacy strategies, conducting legal research, legal drafting, fact-finding field work, creation of public legal education materials, etc.
The seminar meets once a week for 3 hours and will be structured around skill-building sessions, case-studies, thematic analysis, and weekly project-rounds (i.e. where students discuss the progress made and obstacles encountered in their clinical projects.) Students should come prepared to debate and discuss current human rights issues.
Applying to enroll in the IHRP Clinic
Please view the current course list
to learn how to apply to the IHRP clinic. The following are a selection of course evaluation comments from 2014 clinic students:
- “This is the best class I have taken in law school. I wish there was a class like this in 1L, it may have changed how I developed my law school experience.”
- “Amazing course – best course I have taken here.”
- “I learned so much out of each session and can walk away with practical skills…This was a great course…my favourite in law school.”
- “The focus on how to do law ethically with the direct example of our clinic work was the most valuable education I have received at UofT.”
- “I loved this class! I learned so much, really improved my research, writing and professional skills. I know I would not get this experience from any other class.”