Helping women facing violence

June 27, 2017
Article Source
Canadian Lawyer Magazine

Deepa Mattoo's work at the Barbra Schlifer legal clinic is part of a long-term strategy to train a new breed of lawyer.

In August of last year, Deepa Mattoo started a new role as legal director of the Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic in Toronto — a busy space with a small staff at College and Bathurst Streets in Toronto that helps women who have experienced violence seek legal and emotional support.

For more than 30 years, the multi-lingual clinic has provided legal, counselling and interpreter services in 100 languages (Mattoo herself speaks six languages).

A few months later, Mattoo learned she was the recipient of the Community Leadership in Justice Fellowship from the Law Foundation of Ontario, a non-profit organization that funds other groups to provide education and initiatives on access to justice. Her research is examining the relationships between race, gender and immigration status during the year-long fellowship. It dovetails with her work of the last 10 years that has focused around the rights of non-status immigrant women.

It will specifically look at racialized women who have precarious immigration status and the gaps they face in accessing support not just for legal services but health care, housing and childcare. She has teamed up with the University of Toronto's Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, academics from the law and sociology faculties and the Rights of Non-Status Women Network for the project.

This spring, Mattoo began offering workshops to share the results of her study with law and social work students, settlement workers, lawyers and key agencies in Ontario that assist with non-status immigrants. The goal is to develop a tool kit — a live document she describes as a "social services wiki" — that can be updated by social service agencies.

In a way, it’s a culmination of the work she's been doing in Canada over the last 17 years focusing on gender-based violence and how immigration policies, such as sponsorship rules, affect immigrant women negatively.

Her job at the Schlifer clinic is to oversee the various aspects of the important work the clinic does including assessment of the legal issues faced by the clients who contact them. Clients typically call the clinic via a centralized telephone line and then are triaged to determine the services they need. They are then sent for a legal assessment; Mattoo supervises that assessment program and from there the clients are allocated to either the immigration division or family law division. The immigration group includes just one paid staff lawyer, an articling student and Mattoo, who also practises immigration law. 

Read more: Helping women facing violence