The lawyers strike back against Trump // Editor’s Note

Donald Trump
How the legal profession is stepping up

By Melissa Kluger

On Tuesday March 7th, 2017

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The online form was simple. You typed in your name, contact information, practice area, languages spoken and the airport you wanted to volunteer at. But once you clicked submit, you joined something more complex: a network of American and Canadian lawyers who had vowed to fight U.S. President Donald Trump’s discriminatory travel ban. Soon enough, you’d be on-site at a Canadian airport providing free legal information to uncertain travellers about to clear U.S. customs.

Why was it so easy to volunteer? Because, moments after Trump’s decree, a coterie of ad hoc groups of lawyers, in tandem with immigration and civil liberties organizations, mounted a unified response: the Canadian Cross Border Legal Coalition, which stationed lawyers at airports across Canada.

Here in Toronto, Corey Shefman of Olthuis Kleer Townshend LLP led the efforts. “We are collecting information to help the U.S. attorneys,” he explained to me soon after the ban took effect. “And we want to make sure that people who might be stranded have someone on their side.” When I spoke to Shefman, he was amazed and inspired by the number of lawyers who had volunteered to make the trek to Pearson International Airport. And it wasn’t just immigration lawyers. “We have civil litigators, tax lawyers and business lawyers coming out to the airport. The entire Toronto legal community — every corner of it — is stepping up.”

So have law students. Over on PrecedentJD.com, our sister site for Canadian law students, we covered the recent “research-a-thon.” That event saw more than 800 students across Canada search for caselaw that could support a legal challenge to the Canada-U.S. Safe Third Country Agreement. (This agreement prevents asylum-seekers in America from making claims in Canada.) We’ll be sharing updates that arise from that impressive pooling of legal brainpower on our student site.

To the students and lawyers fighting the downright racist policies of our southern neighbour, thank you. And for anyone still wondering how to help, it’s not too late. Even though a federal appeals court has suspended Trump’s travel ban, Shefman still wants lawyers to volunteer. He can’t be sure what sort of help he’ll need, but he does think that everyone who opposes Trump should settle in for the long haul. “What we’ve heard from our U.S. colleagues,” he explains, “is basically this: ‘We don’t have a fucking clue what Trump is going to do next. We need to be ready.’”

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Melissa Kluger
Publisher & Editor
@melissakluger

 


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Photo of Donald Trump by Ninian Reid