With a passion for protecting human rights, recent graduate Flora Vineberg knew early on that she wanted to go to law school. At a young age her mother took her to a memorial for the Montreal Massacre, the tragic shooting that took place at the The École Polytechnique in 1989: “It was sort of my first exposure to the idea of injustice,” she said. “I guess as I grew up and matured, my thoughts were able to progress and I just realized that knowledge is power. One of the best ways to combat injustice, to foster inclusion and to give a voice to the voiceless is through the law.”
Originally from Toronto, the 32-year old has made it her goal to fight against impunity and apathy while improving access to justice. After completing her undergraduate degree at Cornell University in industrial and labour relations (where she also played on the varsity ice hockey team), Flora moved to Costa Rica to do a master’s degree at the UN-mandated University for Peace. She then began searching for other roles where she could make a positive difference to the lives of others. Before attending law school, she worked with the provincial government of Ontario, implementing orders from the Human Rights Tribunal. She also managed a field office for a non-governmental organization in northern Ghana, which focused on fresh water initiatives and improving access to education for young girls.
Flora has remained committed to her vision throughout her time at law school. After receiving an International Research Abroad Grant from the Allard School of Law, she spent the summer following first year working in Tanzania and Rwanda for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, compiling best practices on how to investigate and prosecute sexual violence crimes in post-conflict zones.
In addition to her work abroad, Flora had a great impact on the law school community during her time at Allard Hall. After applying to law school, she made a commitment that, once accepted, she would take advantage of all opportunities the Allard School of Law had to offer, which she says were many. Flora was a mentor to both current and prospective students through the legal buddy and student ambassador programs and worked in various other capacities around the school—with the Outlaws queer student group and the Women’s Caucus and as co-organizer of a one-day conference on sexual assault prevention. In a strong gesture of recognition for her contributions and presence, she was voted valedictorian of her graduating class.
Flora says she made a conscious choice to attend law school in British Columbia because of what she saw as an opportunity to gain a unique perspective into a shifting area of law. “I think that in our lifetime, there’s going to be a profound shift in aboriginal rights,” she says. “What it will look like, whether it’s towards sovereignty, I don’t know, but to be in BC, which is the pinnacle of aboriginal rights in some senses, has been quite significant”.
In spite of her impressive record of involvement and advocacy, Flora remains humble, pointing to the experience of being surrounded by such passionate individuals at the law school, including professors, who have done extremely meaningful work. Of her time at the Allard School of Law, Flora states: “It has been a privilege. Being surrounded by such bright, curious, capable people who will be so influential in our lifetime has been really meaningful.” She says she enjoyed being pushed to her intellectual limit and having her entire way of thinking shift.
Flora articled at the Toronto law firm Hicks Adams LLP last summer. She aspires to continue doing international human rights field work and has high hopes for herself and her former classmates. “I feel like the work is never done. I hope we can continue to inspire others to participate in these types of degrees, to benefit from them and to spread the message.”