SPINLAW (Student Public Interest Network Legal Action Workshop) is an annual conference organized by students from University of Toronto Faculty of Law and Osgoode Hall Law School of York University, which aims to raise awareness and generate discussion about public interest issues. The conference creates a space for students, local activists and community members to share their experiences and perspectives on current social justice issues.

This year's conference, 30 Years Under the Living Tree: Reflections on the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedomswill be held on March 16th, 2013 at Osgoode Hall Law School

Admission to SPINLAW is free. We have a strong commitment to accessibility, and aim to reduce barriers to conference participation as much as possible. Participants can look forward to a breakfast, lunch, and evening reception. Refreshments will be served throughout the day.



The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms has become a hallmark of Canadian identity. 30 Years Under the Living Tree is inspired by the ‘living tree’ doctrine of constitutional interpretation that warns against limiting the interpretation of the Charter, which could cause rights to become:

frozen in time to the moment of adoption with little or no possibility of growth, development and adjustment to changing societal needs. … If the newly planted "living tree" which is theCharter is to have the possibility of growth and adjustment over time, care must be taken to ensure that historical materials… do not stunt its growth.

Re B.C. Motor Vehicle Act, 1985 CanLII 81 (SCC), [1985] 2 SCR 486 at para 53.

In 2012, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, 1982and the Ontario Human Rights Code, 1962 celebrated milestone anniversaries. These anniversaries represented an opportunity to critically examine the Charter’s contributions to Canadian society. Throughout that year, academics, legal professionals, community organizers and students reflected on the accomplishments and challenges posed by these significant equality laws. The Charter and the Code have sparked optimism and criticism. Some view these equality laws as critical venues for the protection of the rights of people who have experienced oppression in Canada. Others view them as minimum standards type laws that do not sufficiently promote, protect and enforce human and social rights. This year’s conference draws from these discussions in order to look forward into future decades of Canadian equality law.

Conference Sessions

30 Years Under the Living Tree will focus primarily on the relevance of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in the Ontario context; in particular its relationship to the Ontario Human Rights Code.

Plenary Sessions

During the plenary sessions, Charter experts Raj Anand, Joseph Arvay, and Fay Faraday will provide contrasting perspectives on the critical trends and pressing issues that will shape the next decades of the Charter.

Panel Presentations

Through panel discussions, guest speakers will contextualize the Charter by examining its historical context and critically discussing its future. If Charter interpretation is a living tree, has it grown to shelter and promote the rights of all individuals and groups?

Through focused panel discussions, we will explore the following questions:

·     How does the Charter affect Ontario human rights legislation?

·     Is s.15 an adequate framework for examining different forms of discrimination?

·     To what extent do sections 7 and 15 impose a positive obligation on governments to advance socio-economic rights?

·     How has the recent elimination of the federal Charter Challenges Program influenced access to justice? Can clinical legal education fill this gap?

·     To what extent has the Charter helped or hindered the litigation of racial discrimination cases?


Legal Panel Representatives:


Honouring the Roy McMurtry Visiting Clinical Fellows

This year’s SPINLAW will also coincide with the launch of Osgoode Hall Law School’s Roy McMurtry Visiting Clinical Fellowship, which welcomes distinguished lawyers and inaugural fellows Joe Arvay, Raj Anand, and Fay Farraday to the Faculty. The McMurtry Fellows will connect Osgoode students, faculty and staff with broader practice networks, insights and expertise. They will help build bridges between the Law School and the community to advance experiential education. Each of these fellows is a guest speaker in our keynote and plenary sessions.  The fellows will be honoured at a reception directly following the SPINLAW conference. All participants are invited to attend, compliments of Osgoode Hall Law School.


Past Conferences

SPINLAW 2011: Canada 2020: The Future of Public Interest Law 

1. Access To Justice

The panel will attempt to illustrate the various ways to fund public interest work. It will bring together individuals who have managed to successfully litigate using different financial models. The panel will consist of Nathalie Des Rosiers, General Counsel at CCLA, Kenn Hale from ACTO and Meryl Zisman Gary, a private practitioner.  2.

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SPINLAW Gives Back

Instead of providing our valued speakers with honoraria, SPINLAW shows its appreciation by making a donation on their behalf to an organization that does work consistent with the ideals of the SPINLAW conference. 


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