The Law Foundation of Ontario is pleased to announce that Julie Mathews is the recipient of the 2015 Guthrie Award.
“We’ve seen Julie’s leadership and passion first-hand,” said Paul Schabas, Chair, The Law Foundation of Ontario. “Julie exemplifies what the Guthrie Award is all about. She’s definitely made a far-reaching impact on access to justice personally, and has led a strong team to deliver high quality legal information throughout Ontario.”
Highly respected in the non-profit and justice sectors, Ms. Mathews is described as an innovator, thought-leader and relationship-builder with an unwavering commitment to the service of marginalized communities.
Since 2000, Ms. Mathews has been the Executive Director of Community Legal Education Ontario (CLEO), the province’s leading public legal education organization. CLEO provides clear, accurate and practical legal rights education and information to people who face barriers to accessing the justice system, including income, disability, literacy, isolation and language.
“Julie plays a unique role in our justice sector and has been a significant influence on the quality of public legal education, innovative research, relationships and access to justice in Ontario and beyond,” said Carol Lee Smith, Counsel, Social Justice Tribunals Ontario and former CLEO chair.
Ms. Mathews has been instrumental in the creation of several innovative projects. Her ability to see the big picture has translated into services that benefit people from across the sector: individuals seeking help, community organizations and public legal education and legal professionals. And, Ms. Mathews has been ahead of her time in the adaptation and integration of technology.
“Julie personifies the goals of the LFO’s Guthrie Award – she has devoted her career to fostering community participation in the legal system and to making that system more accessible for everyone. Under Julie’s leadership, CLEO has become both a thought leader and a leading hub of action in the public interest legal community” said Dean Lorne Sossin of Osgoode Hall Law School.
A testament to Ms. Mathews’ leadership and vision is Connecting Communities, a project that aims to increase the capacity of community organizations to provide legal information to linguistic minorities or those who live in rural or remote communities. The project was born from a recommendation coming from The Law Foundation of Ontario commissioned report, Connecting Across Language and Distance.
CLEO was approached to find a creative yet practical solution to build the capacity of community organizations to offer public legal education. Ms. Mathews, and her colleagues at CLEO, rose to the challenge. They recommended the concept that is now Connecting Communities: an innovative, collaborative model that provides legal information and referral training for front-line workers. They took the project from an idea to the thriving reality it is today, supporting over 20 community-based projects across Ontario.
Ms. Mathews has also been the driving force behind:
- Your Legal Rights – an online portal with accurate and comprehensive legal information.
- PLE Learning Exchange – an interactive website that showcases research and resources relating to effective public legal education and provides an online space for organizations to build partnerships.
- Evolving Legal Services – a ground-breaking research project that aims to empirically evaluate when public legal education is valuable as a stand-alone service and when it needs to be paired with other supports.
The Law Foundation of Ontario has been proud to provide funding to many of the innovative projects described.
Ms. Mathews is a member of the founding board of the Ontario Justice Education Network and past president of the Public Legal Education Association of Canada. She partnered with the Canadian Bar Association and Legal Aid Ontario to provide legal aid and public legal education capacity building in China. Previously, she worked as a lawyer in private practice, a policy analyst for the Ontario government and an assistant to a United States senator. Ms. Mathews is a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada and the State Bar of California.
The Law Foundation of Ontario created the Guthrie Award in 1996 in honour of former Foundation Trustee and Chair H. Donald Guthrie who served as a Foundation trustee for 21 years, including 13 years as chair. The award acknowledges outstanding individuals and organizations for their contributions to access to justice and excellence in the legal profession. Previous recipients include Kimberly Murray, Executive Director, Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada; Justice Stephen Goudge, Ontario Court of Appeal; the Hon. Roy McMurtry, former Attorney General and Chief Justice of Ontario; Alan Borovoy, general counsel, Canadian Civil Liberties Association; and the Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic.