Law students nationwide band together to help refugees banned by Trump

This Saturday, over 800 law students from all 22 law schools across Canada united for legal research relating to the recent travel bans in the United States and Canada’s responsibility to respond to the situation. This event marks the first time that Canadian students have coordinated an effort of this magnitude.

“This weekend, my peers and colleagues demonstrated that we believe in freedom, equality and peace, and that we are not afraid to speak truth to power when our country’s legislation fails to live up to those standards,” says Rochelle Kelava, second-year law student and organizer of the research-a-thon at the Peter A. Allard School of Law. “We came together as a united front to show that the next generation of legal practitioners and scholars will not stand for legislation that harms innocent people.”

Students participating in the Research-A-Thon
at Allard Hall on Saturday, February 4

This “research-a-thon” focussed on gathering information to use in possible legal challenges to the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA). It also supported the Canadian Council for Refugees by raising over $5000 in funds for their ongoing work as it pertains to the STCA.

Here in Vancouver, over 50 law students, along with a cohort of 10 students from the Masters of public policy program at SFU, gathered at Allard Hall for 12 straight hours of research from 8am-8pm. Their work, along with the work produced by the 21 other Canadian law faculties, will be submitted to the Canadian Council for Refugees on Monday.

“This is a very important issue, one in which the value of the rule of law is really on display.  I’m very proud of our students for making time to use their legal skills for this important social justice initiative,” says Catherine Dauvergne, Dean of the Allard School of Law. 

“Our student body does not support the Trump administration's xenophobic actions towards the international Muslim community. As policy students, we feel it's important to push our own government to respond with justice and compassion, and we are proud to support the efforts of law students and the Canadian Council for Refugees,” says Scott Carlson, a second-year student in SFU’s Masters of Public Policy program.

Third-year law student Rana Hazarat has a personal connection to the initiative. “My family came to North America as refugees from war-torn Afghanistan before the Safe Third Country Agreement (STCA) was adopted,” says Rana, “I am in my third year in law school, shortly away from graduating. If the STCA was in place when my family sought refuge at the Canada-US border, we would have been turned away. My parents would not have the opportunity to watch me walk across the convocation stage. With the STCA still in place, other families as deserving as my own travelling from the US do not have the opportunity to bring claims forward at the border. The Canadian Council for Refugees and my peers volunteering for the 'research-a-thon' are fighting to change this.”

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