Our Executive Director
Michele Leering, Executive Director/Lawyer
(B.A., LL.B., M.A., PhD. Candidate) is the Executive Director and a lawyer with the clinic. In addition to providing
traditional legal services in poverty law areas, she has been extensively involved in community development and law reform. Key commitments historically
have included domestic violence service coordination, organizing injured workers, and instigating local participatory action research into issues of poverty,
homelessness, and, more recently, access to justice.
Since 2002, she has engaged in various projects to transform legal aid services to be more responsive to the needs of clients
and communities through collaboration and coordination with partners at Legal Aid Ontario. She has worked on diverse public legal education projects including a
domestic violence handbook, a local guide to living on a low income, a website, rural newspaper columns, a blog, and “legal health awareness checks” that reflect
her passion for encouraging legal literacy, capability and empowerment. She believes strongly in the power and promise of “trusted intermediaries” – service providers,
friends and neighbours and others – for reaching people who need legal information and support before a crisis hits. Projects to work with trusted intermediaries
have become an important part of her work. Particularly in rural and remote areas, this strategy is crucial for reaching people who might not otherwise know they
needed legal help.
Additionally, she is committed to leveraging new resources for access to justice work through better knowledge management, sharing and creation, and, developing
“integrated reflective practice” as a core competency to strengthen the legal profession’s capacity for justice system innovation and commitment to improving access
to justice in the myriad ways that are possible. To that end, she has undertaken further graduate research at Queen’s University and will be on leave from her position
as Executive Director from January to September 2016.
She is a member of the International Legal Aid Group and has presented on access to justice topics at conferences in New Zealand (2009 – reaching hard-to-serve communities)
and Netherlands (2013 – the crucial role of trusted intermediaries). She has volunteered with the Open Society Foundation’s Justice Initiative to share information about
community legal clinics as a vibrant and responsive access to justice and legal empowerment model. This has included organizing an Ontario study tour for Ukrainian organizations (2010),
presenting at conferences in Ukraine (2009, 2012) and Turkey (2013, 2015), and participating in a consultation on paralegal development as a global legal empowerment strategic
initiative (Nepal, 2014).
List of selected
Deirdre McDade, Co-Director Legal
Deirdre obtained an honours degree in political
science and a law degree from Queens University. She joined the
clinic in 1999. Deirdre supervises the clinic’s social assistance
and Criminal Injuries Compensation Board files and test case and
Appellate litigation. She is active in the movement to end violence
against women. She is a past Board member of the Kingston Sexual
Assault Crisis Centre and Three Oaks Shelter for Abused Women, the
former volunteer coordinator at the Sexual Assault Centre in
Belleville and a former member of the Quinte Coordinating Committee
against Violence and the Dedicated Domestic Violence Court. Deirdre
is currently a Board member of the Income Security Advocacy Centre
and the Poverty Roundtable.
Gina Cockburn, Co-Director Legal Services
Called to the bar in 1990, Gina worked in private
practice, primarily in family law, including work for the Children's
Lawyer, until 2001 when she joined the clinic staff. She is the
supervising lawyer of our housing and employment teams. Gina is
Board Chair of the Community Development
Council of Quinte and a member of the steering committee of the
Poverty Roundtable Hastings Prince Edward. She has been a
member and Board member of a number of community organizations,
including the Affordable Housing Action Network, the Affordable
Housing Working Group Prince Edward, Alternatives for Women and
Three Oaks Foundation.
Samantha was called to the bar in 2008. She
graduated from York University with an undergraduate degree in
Psychology in 2003 and obtained her law degree from Queen's
University in 2007. Her current work at the clinic focuses on the
area of housing and ODSP appeals. Prior to joining the clinic in
2009, Samantha worked in private practice, mainly in the area of
family law. Samantha is a former Treasurer for
the Three Oaks Foundation Board of Directors and is currently the
Vice-Chair of the Board for the Canadian Mental Health Association.
Trisha was called to the bar in 2011.
graduated from the
an honours degree in Criminology. She received her law degree from
at Queen's, Trisha was involved with Queen's Legal Aid and the Pro
Bono Students Canada.
Prior to joining the clinic in 2013, Trisha worked in private
practice, mainly in the area of family law.
Trisha’s current work at the clinic is primarily in the areas of
WSIB and ODSP appeals. Trisha sits on the Board of the John Howard
Melissa MacRae (on leave)
Melissa was called to the bar in 2013 after
receiving her law degree from Queen’s University. Melissa’s current
work at the clinic focuses on community education, social assistance
law and ODSP appeals. Melissa is on leave from September 2016
to September 2017.
Lisa was called to the bar in 2014. She graduated
from the University of Guelph with an undergraduate degree in
Psychology in 2010 and obtained her law degree from Osgoode Hall Law
School in 2013. Her current work at the clinic focuses on the area
of housing, ODSP appeals, and social assistance.
Danielle obtained Honours undergraduate and Master’s degrees in
English Language and Literature from the University of Windsor. She
attended law school at the University of Ottawa where she worked at
the University of Ottawa Community Legal Clinic, primarily in the
public legal education and outreach division. Danielle was an articling student with us in 2016. Upon
completing her articles, she is staying with us as staff lawyer,
filling in for Melissa MacRae who is on leave. Her current
work at CALC focuses on Consumer & Debt law, ODSP appeals, and
Liz obtained an Honours degree in women’s studies
from the University of Toronto and a Master’s degree in women’s
studies from York University. Prior to obtaining her law degree, Liz
spent several years working for women’s anti-violence organizations
in Toronto. She is a past Board member of Planned Parenthood Toronto
and Carty House. Liz’s current work focuses on employment law,
social assistance, ODSP appeals and Criminal Injuries Compensation