Relevant Degree Programs
Complete these steps before you reach out to a faculty member!
- Familiarize yourself with program requirements. You want to learn as much as possible from the information available to you before you reach out to a faculty member. Be sure to visit the graduate degree program listing and program-specific websites.
- Check whether the program requires you to seek commitment from a supervisor prior to submitting an application. For some programs this is an essential step while others match successful applicants with faculty members within the first year of study. This is either indicated in the program profile under "Admission Information & Requirements" - "Prepare Application" - "Supervision" or on the program website.
- Identify specific faculty members who are conducting research in your specific area of interest.
- Establish that your research interests align with the faculty member’s research interests.
- Read up on the faculty members in the program and the research being conducted in the department.
- Familiarize yourself with their work, read their recent publications and past theses/dissertations that they supervised. Be certain that their research is indeed what you are hoping to study.
- Compose an error-free and grammatically correct email addressed to your specifically targeted faculty member, and remember to use their correct titles.
- Do not send non-specific, mass emails to everyone in the department hoping for a match.
- Address the faculty members by name. Your contact should be genuine rather than generic.
- Include a brief outline of your academic background, why you are interested in working with the faculty member, and what experience you could bring to the department. The supervision enquiry form guides you with targeted questions. Ensure to craft compelling answers to these questions.
- Highlight your achievements and why you are a top student. Faculty members receive dozens of requests from prospective students and you may have less than 30 seconds to pique someone’s interest.
- Demonstrate that you are familiar with their research:
- Convey the specific ways you are a good fit for the program.
- Convey the specific ways the program/lab/faculty member is a good fit for the research you are interested in/already conducting.
- Be enthusiastic, but don’t overdo it.
G+PS regularly provides virtual sessions that focus on admission requirements and procedures and tips how to improve your application.
Graduate Student Supervision
Doctoral Student Supervision (Jan 2008 - Nov 2020)
This dissertation draws upon a mixed-method research design to propose a person-centred conception of access to justice. A person-centred conception of access to justice focuses on how people experience civil justice situations and the difficulties that they have finding help to remedy those situations. This conception of access to justice is quite different from the conception that has been articulated within the Supreme Court of Canada’s caselaw and within most Canadian legal writing about access to justice problems.Building from a person-centred conception of access to justice, I argue that access to justice problems are best understood as a form of privation, rather than as a crisis besetting the legal system. I also elaborate the core content of the person-centred conception by drawing on Martha Fineman’s vulnerability thesis.My reconceptualization of access to justice emerges from: (1) an extensive analysis of the landscape of legal service providers in Canada; (2) my analysis of the experiences related by interview participants (n=9) who had suffered personal justiciable problems; and (3) an analysis of the After the JD dataset, which offers insights into the relationship between lawyers’ organizational settings and the kinds of work that they do. The interview study, while numerically small, illustrates that empirical work on access to justice which begins from existing institutional frameworks risks overlooking significant dimensions of access to justice problems.Based on my research, I propose four tangible steps to improve access to justice in a way that builds from a person-centred conception of access to justice. These steps are: (1) decreasing first-step barriers for justice-seekers by creating holistic, independent advice institutions; (2) reforming how personal legal services are regulated and delivered; (3) developing an interdisciplinary field of access to justice research, modelled on epidemiology; and (4) encouraging widespread political engagement with access to justice as an important social policy issue.
Master's Student Supervision (2010 - 2018)
This thesis examines the uncertainty in Canadian public law arising from the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in Doré v Barreau du Québec [Doré] regarding judicial review of rights-limiting administrative decisions. Prior to Doré, the courts applied differing approaches when reviewing the constitutionality of discretionary administrative decisions, vacillating between review under the Charter or an administrative law approach. With Doré, the Court has attempted to resolve the longstanding debate about the appropriate methodological approach to judicial review of administrative decisions for compliance with the Charter, holding that an administrative law approach should be applied. The “Doré approach” requires an assessment of whether the administrative decision reflects a proportionate balancing of the relevant Charter values with the statutory objectives. I analyze the Doré approach, with reference to the historical jurisprudence and academic literature. I suggest that a number of questions and uncertainties are raised by the Court’s lack of guidance on how this approach deals with some of the significant tensions in the relationship between administrative law and the Charter. In particular, the Doré approach does not guarantee that administrative decisions infringing on Charter rights and freedoms are subject only to “such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society” (as required by section 1 of the Charter).I propose an analytical methodology for judicial review of rights-limiting administrative decisions that is carried out within an administrative law framework but incorporates the spirit of section 1 of the Charter (and the proportionality analysis adopted by the Court in R v Oakes). This approach builds on the Doré “proportionate balancing” approach to create a review framework that: 1. Provides greater assurance that rights-limiting administrative decisions will only be justified if the limit meets the rule of law principles underlying the section 1 “prescribed by law” requirement, and 2. Scrutinizes the decision in a more rigorous manner than the review undertaken in Doré. This recommended approach offers a more coherent and unified conception of the relationship between administrative law and the Charter, and better respects the requirements in section 1 of the Charter.
This thesis examines the concept of “deference” in relation to judicial review of administrative decisions in Canada, and then compares this approach to judicial review to that which exists in the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia. Canadian courts have adopted a system of “substantive review” of administrative decisions, at least since 1979 (if not earlier), and will generally show deference to the decision-maker. It is important to note that Canadian courts have interpreted the word “deference” not as subservience (an approach that would make judicial review pointless), but as a form of “respectful attention” to the decision under review. Canadian courts recognise that they do not have a monopoly of wisdom on matters of statutory interpretation, but will step in to set a decision aside when that decision is unreasonable in some sense. Courts in the United Kingdom have recognised at least since 1987 that the classic standard of Wednesbury unreasonableness – that the decision is “so unreasonable that no reasonable person could have made it” – is not suitable for all kinds of administrative decisions, and have moved to a system whereby there is a “variegated standard” of reasonableness on judicial review for matters not covered by the Human Rights Act 1998, and a proportionality approach for those that are. The law in New Zealand is not as clear, because the Supreme Court has yet to squarely approach the issue, but the lower courts certainly appear to be moving in a similar direction. However, Australian courts vehemently deny that they show any deference to administrative decision-makers, and Australian academic commentators are equally insistent that such an approach is legally suspect at best and mere obsequiousness to government at worst. This is despite the fact that Australia has always recognised Wednesbury unreasonableness as a ground of judicial review. This thesis attempts to dispel some of the Australian arguments against a deference approach, particularly in relation to s.75 of the Australian Constitution, and concludes that Australia would be best off adopting a form of substantive review of administrative decisions, similar to that which exists in Canada.
Access to justice, particularly access to civil legal services, is a well-recognized problem for the Canadian legal system, with a recent estimate suggesting that 44.6 per cent of Canadians over the age of 18 – approximately 11.6 million people – have experienced a civil legal problem over the last three years, but also that less than 10 per cent of those individuals obtained legal assistance for that problem. Another problem for the Canadian legal system is the high rate of dissatisfaction among young lawyers – particularly the high rate of attrition among women and minorities. This thesis suggests a corrective for both these problems: an innovative type of law firm that provides accessible civil legal services while also providing an attractive work environment for lawyers. Through a case study of Pivot Legal LLP, a small firm formerly located in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, this thesis examines whether it is possible to run a sustainable legal practice that includes providing legal services to low- and middle-income individuals. Based on this case study, there is reason to believe that an innovative law firm model that provides low cost legal services is possible and would be a useful contribution to other efforts to improve access to justice.