Research that champions the rights of marginalized people

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This morning we are at the soup kitchen in Hull, it is a place that provides meals at lunch and supper so twice a day to a population in difficulty who have a need for food and in fact it is also a place where there are different services for these people. It is here that we do the meetings at the interdisciplinary clinic in social law of the Outaouais with people in difficulty who have legal problems and thus they can present themselves at the clinic every Wednesday without appointment.

I am studying social work.

I am a trainee in paralegal technique, I am finishing this year and I work at the clinic.

How has it been for you in the last year in terms of housing?

The mission of the interdisciplinary clinic in social law is to defend the rights of marginalized and judiciary people but also to accompany them, to support them in the other aspects of their life because a person who has legal problems often has other life issues in their life so we aim to help them in a global way. So with trainees in law, social work and nursing we will look at all their legal problems in order to support them completely.

The other major component of the clinic is interdisciplinary learning, which means learning between the law, social work and nursing professions.

I’m a law student, the fact that we’re with social work students as well, it was very appealing to me because I felt that we lacked certain interpersonal skills in our program.

When we have the support of other perspectives, for example in social work, in health, we are going to think about the complete needs of the person because when you have a health problem or something else, you are not going to be able to deal with your legal problem.

One of the important aspects of the clinic is also the research component which seeks to document the experience of the people who use the clinic and of the trainees in social work, law and nursing.

Another aspect of the clinic is to participate in the defense of collective rights, so to help identify issues in the community with other organizations and to help try to resolve them or to understand what the problems are.

I have worked with the homeless population and it is true that we are often in an emergency situation, we will try to find you a place to live, we will try to find a resource but it is difficult sometimes to get out of this emergency situation and to try to find solutions that are more integral and on the long term.

No, I think I’m going to do social law, yeah.

You could say that I’m learning in the legal field, but above all you could say that it’s a life learning experience.

It’s very important, I think, that people who are marginalized, that people defend them and I think that the clinic does a really good job in this regard and at the same time, takes advantage of it to be able to take interns like me and give them an experience that will completely change their lives and that will allow them, I think, to do great things later on.

The issues of homelessness and social marginalization are becoming more and more pressing in Quebec. Several factors contribute to this such as the COVID-19 pandemic or the housing crisis.

The Clinique interdisciplinaire en Droit social de l’Outaouais (CIDSO) was founded in 2020 by a multidisciplinary team of professors from the University of Ottawa and the Université du Québec en Outaouais. As a clinic affiliated with two academic institutions, one of the priorities is to translate research data into practice, while addressing the real needs of those primarily affected. CIDSO addresses both legal and non-legal issues affecting marginalized populations such as access to justice, access to housing, mental health issues, youth protection and many others. The CIDSO fosters a culture of learning and interdisciplinary work by welcoming students from the Faculty of Law, Civil Law Section and the Schools of Social Work and Nursing of the University of Ottawa, as well as the Department of Nursing of the Université du Québec en Outaouais. Since January 2023, the clinic also welcomes paralegal students from the Cégep de l’Outaouais. This interdisciplinary model, including paralegals, is unique in Quebec.

After a year and a half of operation, the CIDSO is already well established in the Gatineau community. It offers concrete, global and coherent solutions to people living on the margins of society in the exercise of their rights.

Some examples of services offered by the CIDSO:

Individual consultations to provide legal information and assistance in writing letters, completing forms, applying for welfare benefits and legal aid services, etc.

Social accompaniment services in court or in administrative, health and housing matters.

Preparing clients for their hearings or interactions with government services, for example by explaining the process.

CIDSO’s activities take place at the Hull Soup Kitchen, 297 des Allumettières Boulevard in Gatineau, Québec, every Wednesday, with or without appointment.

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