IHRP Clinic

Celebrating 20 years of excellence in clinical legal education

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.

The IHRP was established in 1987. In 2002, under the leadership of then Dean, Ronald Daniels, the IHRP expanded from summer fellowships 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 2017/18 course evaluation comments from clinic students:

  • “So many great speakers providing invaluable insight into their field.  Wonderful group of classmates who were engaged and passionate about human rights, which made it a solid community to discuss issues.”
  • “[The instructor] is also always available after class and genuinely cares about the wellbeing of his students.  He is a great support and mentor.”
  • “It’s the best course at U of T, I learned so many practical skills.  Everyone should take it.”
  • “This course was intellectually stimulating & [the instructor] is a great prof who genuinely cares about the subject matter and his students (which is truly a rarity).”
  • “The Guest Speakers were great.  The Readings were helpful, and will continue to be in a career.  The project was a great opportunity and [the instructor] was supportive in our success.”
  • “[The instructor] is very sensitive to diversity and to the needs of his students.  I can’t say a bad thing about him or the course.”
  • “Best class at U of T.”
  • “The best course I’ve taken with very effective teaching.”
  • “Literally everything was valuable, but I particularly enjoyed learning from a variety of guest speakers and class discussions.”
  • “[The instructor] is probably the best prof I’ve ever had with respect to sensitivity to diversity.  He genuinely cares about his students well-being.”
  • “[The instructor]’s personal experience & anecdotes are very effective learning tools.  The quality of the clinic projects is also commendable.”
  • “[The instructor] is extremely sensitive & considerate about issues of diversity, gender, race, class and mental health issues & vicarious/secondary traumas.”

Reflections from clinic alumni

"The IHRP clinic offers students the unique and invaluable opportunity to engage meaningfully in real advocacy. During the production of two reports on immigration detention in Canada, I had the chance to hear directly from detainees and their families, to examine a detention facility first-hand, and to participate in meetings with the Ministers and government agencies responsible for immigration detention. I was able to see every step in the advocacy process, from the development of an advocacy strategy to the nuts and bolts of releasing a report. This course left me with a deeper understanding of a pressing human rights issue in our own country, a host of new practical skills, and a clearer vision of where I would like to take my career. The IHRP clinic was incredibly rewarding, and I highly recommend it to any student who is interested in policy reform and social justice. There is no better way to learn about human rights and advocacy."

- Yolanda Song; 2016 IHRP Clinic Student; JD Candidate 2017


Picture of Hanna Gros

"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 


Headshot of Kaitlin Owens, 2013 IHRP Clinic Summer Student


"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