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From March 20 – 26, please vote yes in the Legal Clinic Fee Referendum to help the Legal Information Clinic at McGill do even more for graduate students while supporting access to justice. Link for when voting begins: https://mcgill.omnivox.ca.
Do you agree to increase the non-opt-outable Legal Information Clinic at McGill association fee paid by all graduate students on the downtown campus, excluding post-docs, from $2.00 per student per semester (excluding summer) to $4.50 per student per semester (excluding summer), starting in Fall 2017?
Why Vote Yes:
Our Student Advocacy department is the only service on- or off-campus that provides Student Advocates who advise and represent you in academic proceedings such as disputes with thesis supervisors or McGill University, disputes about intellectual property, issues of student standing, and disciplinary actions. PGSS does not offer any comparable service.
Our legal information department is the only service on campus that answers your legal questions. The service is offered in English and French, by-phone and in-person, and open 40 hours/week. We provide you with legal sources for you to deal with your situation without the help of a lawyer.
There has been an increasing demand for our services, yet we lack the ability to bring on more volunteers to meet this demand. Our office space is limited; we need to manage shifts for 100 volunteers with just seven desks.
We will explore the possibility of bringing on lawyers to provide legal advice for graduate students facing particularly complex problems.
The fee paid by graduate students has not increased since its introduction in 1990—an increase is required to keep up with inflation and increasing costs. A “No” vote may mean that it will not be possible to guarantee the same level of service for graduate students.
What will the money be used for?
The main uses for the money will be as follows:
Allowing for faster service to graduate students by renting larger offices and bringing on more volunteers as well as student advocates for your cases.
Continuing to improve service quality by keeping up with rising expenses due to inflation.
Discussing hiring a lawyer to assist with complex cases.
What Does the LICM Do?
The LICM does more for graduate students than might be obvious. Our office is divided into two departments: the Student Advocacy office, and the Legal Information office. All our services are free.
- We represent graduate students in their disputes with McGill University. See all that Student Advocacy can do for you.
- We provide legal information, perhaps in more ways than you thought!
- We stamp your documents that need a commissioner for oath.
- We tailor-make and deliver presentations on the law for your groups if you are interested in a particular subject area.
Voting yes in the referendum means that you will pay an additional $2.50 per semester for access to free student advocacy services and legal information. Like an insurance, it provides you with peace of mind because you will not have to face these problems alone.
Have More Questions?
Please have a look at the FAQs below for more reasons why you should vote YES!
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You can skip to a certain FAQ by clicking one of the titles below.
- Why do graduate students need more office space and student advocates/volunteers?
- When was the last time the graduate student fee for the LICM was increased?
- What can the LICM do for me?
- Do other services on campus or in the community offer the same thing as Student Advocacy?
- Do other services on campus or in the community offer the same things as the LICM’s legal information department?
- How many people do you help in a year?
- Why does the LICM also help non-students?
- What will happen if the referendum does not pass?
1. Why do graduate students need more office space and student advocates/volunteers?
It would ensure that you have faster access to Student Advocacy services. It would also ensure that you can more comfortably meet with student advocates to discuss your issues, as well as have faster responses to your legal information questions.
Student Advocacy advises graduate students on sensitive issues ranging from disciplinary offences to supervisor disputes. Due to a lack of space, our student advocates sometimes have to meet their graduate student clients in public spaces to discuss their case. While measures are taken to protect the confidentiality of the information discussed at these meetings, the trouble to find a quiet place could relatively easily be avoided by having the funds to afford larger office space with more meeting rooms.
Similarly, wait times for legal information are sometimes up to two weeks. The demand has significantly increased in the last years. Having more space would allow us to bring on more volunteers so you get called faster from the waiting list. Increasing volunteers would then require more phones, desks, computers, etc.
For example, in summer 2016, we had 143 volunteers interested, but our office can only support a 100-person staff. Our space constraint forced us to turn away individuals who were ready and willing to help clients. At the same time, clients must be put on a waitlist before receiving information. This increase in funds would therefore allow us to complete more cases per week, thus ensuring that graduate students’ questions are answered more quickly.
2. When was the last time the graduate student fee for the LICM was increased?
In 1990, there was a referendum to set the fee of $2.00 that would be paid to the LICM. So we have been receiving the same amount of funding from graduate students for over 25 years. By contrast, the undergraduate students voted to increase their fees to the LICM to $4.50 in 2014.
Since all our services are free, we need student fees to pay our expenses to provide you with the help you need. With inflation, the funds received by graduate students has effectively shrunk over these 20-some years. By way of comparison, the Quebec minimum wage in 1990 was $5.30, whereas it is now $11.25. Source: http://www.cnt.gouv.qc.ca/en/wages-pay-and-work/wages/history-of-the-minimum-wage/index.html
3. What can the LICM do for me?
The LICM does more for graduate students than might be obvious. Our office is divided into two departments: the Student Advocacy office, and the Legal Information office.
Examples of topics Student Advocacy can help students with:
- Resolving disputes with a thesis supervisor.
- Appealing an unfair failure of a progress report or a thesis.
- Helping students resolve funding disputes with the University.
- Seeking remedies for students whose research has been stolen or misappropriated.
- Representing students accused of disciplinary offences such as plagiarism, and even non-academic offences.
- Helping students file complaints of sexual harassment or assault.
- Representing students at grievance committee hearings to defend their rights when they have been treated unfairly by University administrators.
However, we do more than advocate for you on a personal basis. We review and comment on McGill-wide policies from a student-centric perspective. For example, this year we participated in formal processes for reviewing the Charter of Students’ Rights, the Policies on Intellectual Property, and the new University-wide Policy against Sexual Violence. In past years, Student Advocacy has participated extensively in reviews of the Code of Student Conduct and Disciplinary Procedures and the Sexual Harassment Policy.
Our Legal Information department provides information about the following topics, and more:
- Tenancy: asbestos, cancelling a lease, dealing with sublettors.
- Immigration: work permits, study permits, working while studying, being detained at the border.
- International Law: the validity of foreign marriage licenses in Canada/Quebec.
- Municipal Law/By-laws: tickets, language rights.
- Business: incorporating a business or McGill club.
- Employment: validity of non-competition clauses in an employment contract, reasons for dismissal, workplace harassment and/or discrimination.
- Family: divorce, child custody, child/spousal support, situation of common-law spouses.
Voting yes in the referendum means that you will pay an additional $2.50 per semester for access to free student advocacy services and legal information.
Like an insurance, it provides you with peace of mind because you will not have to face these problems alone.
4. Do other services on campus or in the community offer the same thing as Student Advocacy?
Other services exist to help refer students to the right resources on campus (e.g., PGSS Advocacy). But Student Advocacy is the only service at McGill that has student advocates who provide information, advice, and representation to students. Importantly, McGill’s policies prohibit students from bringing an outside lawyer to hearings at the University. Therefore, LICM’s Student Advocates are the most trained and qualified people to represent students at University hearings.
5. Do other services on campus or in the community offer the same things as the LICM’s legal information department?
We have a unique blend of offerings. We offer a free, over-the-phone and in-person service providing specific legal information on diverse areas of the law.
- We offer a phone and a walk-in service regarding various aspects of law. This is rare among legal information circles.
- We are open 40 hours a week for the entire year, including the summer (excluding statutory holidays, certain weeks for team turnover, and standard university breaks).
- We offer a free commissioner for oaths service.
- We cite the law when delivering our responses so individuals know where to find the law for themselves when asserting their rights.
- We give free information sessions on the law.
- We assist those who cannot qualify for Legal Aid.
Other services are important, but they have specific mandates such that many graduate students cannot seek help there. For example Pro Bono Quebec is limited to public interest cases, cases involving irreparable harm (e.g. permanent injuries), and extreme cases.
6. How many people do you help in a year?
In 2016, we solved 2,345 cases and commissioned 4,032 pages as part of our free commissioner for oaths service.
In regards to Student Advocacy cases, the amount of time spent on cases involving graduate students significantly exceeds the amount of time spent on cases involving undergraduate students. Since graduate student cases typically involve more complex interpersonal disputes and important relationships to manage, they take longer to resolve.
7. Why does the LICM also help non-students?
The LICM serves a broader purpose by helping less privileged members of our community get access to justice. By helping the LICM, you are contributing to the community. It is also a way to invest in your future, for a service that will be accessible beyond your time at McGill. Answering legal questions from non-students trains our volunteers on other aspects of the law such that they improve their legal research skills to better help graduate students.
Also, our Student Advocacy department is only available to McGill students.
Finally, we prioritize legal information cases with McGill students. For example, even when our phone lines for legal information are closed, McGill students can still always come in to make an appointment for an in-person meeting with us.
8. What will happen if the referendum does not pass?
As we need to ensure that our level of funding is sustainable to keep up with demands on our services and inflation, we will not, with regret, be able to guarantee the same level of assistance to graduate students if this referendum is not successful.