Focus On

Law Foundation of Ontario announces two fellowships

Monday, September 14, 2020 @ 11:58 AM | By John Chunn


The Law Foundation of Ontario announced that Prasanna Balasundaram and Laura Tamblyn Watts have each received a 2020-2021 Community Leadership in Justice Fellowship (CLJF).

“Prasanna and Laura have each proposed such interesting topics that will help Ontarians in practical ways,” said Linda Rothstein, the foundation’s board chair. “Though the fellowships are quite different, each aims to directly empower people with the legal information necessary to lawfully and ethically carry out important roles in our society, namely refugees in their pursuit of transitional justice and people who are acting as a power of attorney. We’re eager to see what comes out of the fellowships.”

Prasanna Balasundaram

According to the law foundation’s press release, the CLJF gives senior-level employees in non-profit organizations the opportunity to spend all or part of an academic year at an Ontario law school, university, or community college department dedicated to legal or justice studies. It gives non-profit leaders the opportunity for professional development and career renewal and it strengthens the bond between academia and community-based non-profit organizations, fostering partnerships that last beyond the term of the fellowship. The CLJF also broadens and enriches students’ academic experiences through innovative approaches to teaching and learning. The CLJF provides funding up to a maximum of $65,000 toward the cost of the fellow’s salary and provides funding up to $15,000 to the academic host for equipment and program-related expenses.

Balasundaram is a staff lawyer who supervises the Refugee and Immigration division at Downtown Legal Services, a community legal clinic and a clinical education program operated by the Faculty of Law at the University of Toronto. His work focuses on complex refugee and immigration matters, particularly those involving inadmissibility, exclusion and constitutional issues. He has an interest in advancing legal aid based clinical legal education. He instructs law students in a refugee and immigration law clinical course and supervises their casework.

Balasundaram will be hosted by the Centre for Refugee Studies, York University, starting September 2021. He will work with professor Sean Rehaag, who is director of the Centre for Refugee Studies and an associate professor at Osgoode Hall Law School.

Through his fellowship, Balasundaram will conduct research and develop resources to empower refugees and refugee-serving organizations to become meaningful transitional justice actors. “Transitional justice” means the post-conflict pursuit of accountability for gross violations of human rights or mass atrocities. Accountability measures can include criminal prosecutions, truth and reconciliation commissions, institutional reforms and memorialization.

Laura Tamblyn Watts

Tamblyn Watts is CEO of CanAge, a Canadian seniors’ advocacy organization. She is a nationally and internationally recognized expert on aging issues, with a specialty in law reform, policy, partnerships and community and media engagement. She is an adjunct lecturer at the University of Toronto and has held senior-level roles at the Canadian Association of Retired Persons and Canadian Centre for Elder Law.

Tamblyn Watts will be hosted by the University of Toronto, Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work (FIFSW) where she will work with associate professor David Burnes, associate dean, academic at the FIFSW.

Through her fellowship, Tamblyn Watts will create a free online course to teach Ontarians how to decide to be and how to act as a power of attorney (POA) for property and personal care.

A first of its kind in Canada, the course aims to help close a knowledge gap in existing public legal education and information (PLEI). Existing PLEI capably instructs people on how to create or revoke a POA. This proposed course will instead provide specific information on how to carry out the role of a power of attorney and the legal and non-legal implications of doing so. Topics will include: substitute decision-making; mental capacity; elder abuse; working with third parties such as medical and financial professionals; and working with the Public Guardian and Trustee and the court system.