Christopher Hiebert had heard of the Indigenous Community Legal Clinic, a program offered by the Allard School of Law at UBC, long before he became a law student. He lived in a single-room occupancy hotel in Gastown, a block from the clinic’s front door.
He was intrigued. “The clinic inspired the idea that I could do something as a lawyer that wasn’t typical,” Mr. Hiebert says. Once he decided to become a lawyer, the Allard School of Law was the only law school he applied to – with the specific intent of working with the clinic.
Eight years later, in 2018, Mr. Hiebert obtained a JD from the Allard School of Law and is the second-ever articling student at the clinic, a position that was initially funded by a generous donation from Mark Gervin, the Legal Services Director of the clinic and a lecturer at the Allard School of Law. The Franklin Lew Innovation Fund matched Gervin’s donation in support of the first two articling students, and now the position is being funded by the Law Foundation of British Columbia.
The Indigenous Community Legal Clinic, located in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, was started nearly 25 years ago. Taking on everything from criminal defense cases to family law, the clinic exists to provide free legal services to the Indigenous community in the Downtown Eastside, as well as legal education to Allard School of Law students—seven students per semester spend time working on files there.
According to Mr. Hiebert, who is Dene, the clinic is an essential resource for underserved Indigenous people. “The people that we serve often are incredibly poor and don’t really have the opportunity to have their voices heard,” Mr. Hiebert says. “For (our clients) to walk into court with an advocate … it makes a huge difference not just for their confidence but for their outcomes.”
Mr. Hiebert is getting a broad experience as an articling student at the clinic. He works on more involved files, attends policy meetings and appears in court regularly, all while serving the Indigenous Community, which means a lot to him.
Originally published as "A New Advocate in the Downtown Eastside" in Summer 2018 UBC Donor E-Newsletter.