Public Interest Articling Fellowship participants
The Law Foundation of Ontario created the Public Interest Articling Fellowship to help respond to the public’s need for legal assistance and to help give law students valuable experience in public interest law. The Foundation makes a substantial contribution to public interest law in Ontario through this program as many organizations simply do not have enough funding to host articling students.
Meet our most current Public Interest Articling Fellowship participants:
Law school: McGill University
PIAF placement: Amnesty International
Rachel Kohut has 10 years of experience working in the public and nonprofit sectors, with a focus in global health, gender equality rights, human rights law, and digital advocacy. Passionate about turning complex health and legal jargon into accessible and imaginative content, her work has brought her around the world, including to Istanbul, New York City, Tromsø, Copenhagen, and Nunavut.
Early in her career, Rachel worked in public health at the Global Health Research Initiative and the Public Health Agency of Canada’s Chief Public Health Office. Her interest in public health continued throughout law school and led her to work for organizations such as the UNDP’s HIV, Health and Development Team, HIV Legal Network, and the Center for Reproductive Rights’ Global Legal Program.
She joins Amnesty International after being involved in a number of projects over the past three years, including directing the National Association of Women and Law’s project to rebuild feminist law reform capacity, providing relief for the Government of Nunavut’s sexual health portfolio, running community legal clinics and workshops on the prevention of workplace harassment and family violence with the Law Society of Nunavut, and supporting the growth of Ilisaqsivik Society’s 28 Day On The Land addictions treatment program, Our Life’s Journey counselling program, and Community First COVID-19 Roadmap.
Law school: University of Windsor
PIAF placement: Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic
Zara Mercer received her Juris Doctor from the University of Windsor and a Bachelor of Arts, Hons. in Psychology.
During law school, Zara completed legal clinic placements at Legal Assistance of Windsor specializing in immigration law and the Health Justice Program at St. Michael’s Hospital assisting low-income patients with navigating legal and community-based referrals. Working in legal clinics honed her client-centred, anti-oppressive advocacy skills, particularly for women experiencing gender-based violence. During her studies, she collaborated on a legal policy project advocating for “access without fear” municipal policies within the City of Windsor which allows persons without status to access municipal services without jeopardizing their status. This project culminated in a publication for the International Journal of Migration and Border Studies.
Zara was the Co-President of Women and the Law and Vice-President of External Outreach for OUTlaws at Windsor Law where she focused on supporting women and LGBTQ2SIA+ students in her program.
Zara is honoured to be articling at the Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic where she will work to make the law more accessible, trauma-informed, and anti-oppressive for survivors of gender-based violence.
Law school: University of Ottawa
PIAF placement: Canada Without Poverty and The Shift
Paria Asadbikli graduated from the University of Toronto double majoring in City Studies and Sociology. Her passion for law and legal studies led her to enroll in the University of Ottawa Common Law program where she received her Juris Doctorate in 2021.
Paria has always been fascinated by the ways in which we build systems of rules that protect rights, remedy wrongs, and move our society forward. During law school, she perfected her legal research and analysis skills by drafting a report on rental property demolition policies in Ontario.
She is thrilled to be articling with Canada Without Poverty and The Shift. Both organizations are dedicated to protecting and promoting human rights through education, advocacy, and policy development. Prior to her articling term, Paria worked with various organizations as a legal researcher and pro bono student to advance the right to adequate housing. She tends to hone her advocacy skills through activism in housing reform and public policy.
As a proud Middle Eastern immigrant woman, her passion for social justice stems from experiencing the harsh reality of social, racial, and economic inequality. Paria hopes her longstanding interest in social justice and human rights law lead her to pursue her career in public policy at the international level.
Law school: University of Ottawa
PIAF placement: Canadian Civil Liberties Association
Tom Naciuk recently graduated from the University of Ottawa’s English Common Law program, where he focused on constitutional rights and public law. Throughout law school, he supported various access to justice initiatives; he worked as a caseworker at the University of Ottawa Community Legal Clinic (Criminal Division) and previously volunteered with the David W. Scott Centre for Justice and at Community Legal Aid of Windsor. In 2020, he was named a Dean’s Technology Fellow to assist the Faculty of Law with the transition to remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prior to law school, Tom worked as a business analyst in academic administration and on IT projects. He also holds a Bachelor of Social Sciences from the University of Ottawa.
Tom is inspired by community lawyering, public interest advocacy, and critical thinking about the role of lawyers and legal systems in society. He is thrilled to be articling with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.
Law school: University of Dalhousie
PIAF placement: Innocence Canada
Arthur Ferguson is a graduate of the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University. Arthur graduated from Schulich with a Criminal Justice certificate and was chosen as Valedictorian for the class of 2021. Prior to law school Arthur graduated with a BA, Honours, from the University of Toronto in history and political science.
During law school Arthur quickly became interested in criminal law and advocacy. He represented Dalhousie as an oralist at the McKelvey Cup and summered with a criminal defence firm in Halifax. In his last year of law school, Arthur managed a team of 60 volunteer law students as the Internal Director for the Dalhousie Student Advocacy Service, representing students facing allegations of academic and non-academic misconduct. In his final semester, Arthur clerked for the justices of the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal.
Arthur’s interest in wrongful convictions began after having the opportunity to meet one of Innocence Canada’s most recent exonerees, Glen Assoun, and learning of his experience. Arthur is honoured to have the opportunity to contribute to the essential work Innocence Canada does and is extremely grateful to the Public Interest Articling Fellowship program for making it possible.
Leandra (Lea) Keren
Law school: Queen’s University
PIAF placement: John Howard Society of Canada
Leandra (Lea) Keren received her Juris Doctor and Bachelor of Commerce from Queen’s University, where she worked as the Social Issues Commissioner of the student government. As a Jewish Latina, Lea’s interest in law has been focused on human rights. This passion was honed in her time working with the Queen’s Prison Law Clinic, where she found her drive to work with prisoners in advocating for their Charter rights.
In her spare time, you will find Lea on a run or walking her dog, Chickpea. She is an avid reader, enjoys baking, and is most proud of her role as partner, sister, daughter, and aunt to her many and various family members.
Law school: Osgoode Hall Law School
PIAF placement: Peacebuilders Canada
Tyler Schnare (they/them) received their Juris Doctor from Osgoode Hall Law School in June 2021 and a Bachelor of Arts in Criminology from Ryerson University in 2018. Tyler primarily focused their studies on criminal law, advocacy, and social justice.
Tyler had the absolute honour and pleasure of working for several public interest organizations during law school, including the: Osgoode Innocence Project Clinic; Daily Bread Food Bank; For Youth Initiative; and FCJ Refugee Centre. They were awarded Osgoode’s Ian Scott Public Interest Award.
When they were not studying, or raiding the reserves of local coffee shops, Tyler enjoyed acting, writing, and dancing in Osgoode’s annual variety show, Mock Trial. They wrote, directed, and acted in Mock Trial’s first ever drag skit, and was also renowned for their Oscar-worthy performance as Lord Denning.
Tyler is absolutely thrilled to be articling with Peacebuilders Canada and expresses their utmost appreciation to the Public Interest Articling Fellowship program and Peacebuilders Canada. They look forward to supporting youth involved in the justice system and engaging in advocacy to combat the school-prison pipeline, as well as to create a better youth justice system.
Law school: University of Victoria
PIAF placement: Public Interest Advocacy Centre
Rene Kimmett received her Juris Doctor from the University of Victoria, Lekwungen Territory, in 2021, and a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Ryerson University, Dish With One Spoon Territory, in 2016.
Prior to law school, Rene worked as a production manager in theatre and saw first-hand how collective bargaining can reduce harm. Rene’s decision to attend law school was partly motivated by the desire to learn more about labour unions and other forms of community organizing.
In 2020, Rene was fortunate enough to intern with Canadian Lawyers for International Human Rights where she was able to reflect on Canada’s corporate activities abroad and how law responds to, and often sadly is unable to respond to, abusive behaviours.
Rene is excited about the intersections between private and public interests and discussions about how we can meet our collective needs and create true equality as corporate persons continue to replace community spheres. Rene is grateful for the opportunity to participate in the Public Interest Articling Fellowship with the Public Interest Advocacy Centre.