As a not-for-profit charity, PCLS is governed by a Board of Directors. We are a community legal clinic and a teaching clinic. Our Board is composed of both community members and members who have academic experience that supports PCLS governance in education, community lawyering, and community organizing.
PCLS’ Board of Directors are classified into three categories. Class A Directors are voted in by the general membership (up to 10 Directors). The Class B Director (one Director) is voted in by the students currently enrolled in the Intensive Program in Poverty Law. Class C Directors are voted in by the Dean of Osgoode Hall Law School (four Directors). Our current Academic Director is also a Board member. The Board of Directors provides stewardship and leadership to PCLS’ governance.
Board members are elected for two-year terms. Board members’ time commitments vary but typically include:
- Attend monthly Board meetings on the fourth Wednesday of each month from 6 – 8 pm (occasionally longer). We anticipate hosting our meetings remotely for the time being. Should we switch to in person meetings, there will be an option to join remotely.
- Commit to an additional 5 – 10 hours per month to prepare for meetings and participate on board committees
- Familiarity with PCLS’ legal and foundational documents and keeping generally informed about ongoing activities at PCLS
- Actively participate in at least one committee of the board.
- Standing committees include: Anti-Discrimination & Harassment, Personnel, Finance & Audit, Fund Development, Membership & Community Participation, and Policy.
- Ad hoc committees: these vary year-to-year depending on issues arising (eg. Legal Aid Ontario Modernization, 50th Anniversary Planning etc.)
- In the coming year there will be a strategic planning committee formed, and all board members will be expected to be engaged in the strategic planning process.
- Being a good ambassador for PCLS; building and maintaining relationships with community and sector stakeholders
- Be available to serve a minimum of a 2-year term with eligibility for reappointment for successive term(s)
The 2023-24 Board of Directors are listed below.
Class A Directors
Nicole is a feminist social justice lawyer. She brings over 20 years of experience working as a front-line counsellor and advocate for women, children and gender-diverse individuals who have experienced violence, trauma and abuse. She believes that justice and equity are non-negotiable and always worth fighting for and she pursues these goals with empathy and compassion for her clients.
Nicole articled at the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund, a national legal organization promoting gender equality rights through law. She has provided advocacy and support within the criminal justice and family legal systems, working at the Victim Witness Assistance Program and the Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic, supporting survivors of gender-based violence. In the UK, she worked as a researcher, trainer and advocate in a hospital program for pregnant women experiencing violence, assessing risk, developing concrete safety plans and advocating for services.
Nicole interned for the Secretary General of Amnesty International and taught critical thinking and research skills to Chinese high school students in Shanghai. For several years, she managed the Advocacy and Human Trafficking Programs at Boost Child & Youth Advocacy Centre in Toronto.
Nicole holds a law degree from King’s College London, UK, and a Masters in Human Rights Law from the University of London, UK. While not working to promote social justice, you can find Nicole with her partner and two wonderful children, dancing and cooking up a storm.
Emina is a longtime renter in the Parkdale neighbourhood. She began organizing at her building after ownership changed hands. Her and her neighbours launched their first action just as the province was going into lockdown and their landlord was shutting off water without notice and handing out eviction notices to paying tenants. The tenants’ efforts went viral and garnered support from all over the world. They were successful in getting their landlord to agree to drop the evictions and commit to a pause on renovation work in the empty units. Emina has been organizing with her neighbours ever since, and assists other Parkdale tenants and renters across the city in their collective efforts to improve their living conditions and stop displacement.
Emina has a professional background in media, communications and organizing.
Parmbir is a lawyer at Ursel Phillips Fellows Hopkinson LLP. He practises in criminal defence and labour/employment law, representing the criminally accused as well as trade unions and non-unionized workers.
Parmbir is also a Parkdale resident, PCLS alumnus, and neighbourhood organizer. While working at PCLS in 2015, he helped launch a drive to unionize all 20 of its student caseworkers, producing the first bargaining unit of its kind in Ontario. He was later involved in supporting MetCap tenants during the historic 2017 rent strike, after which he and his neighbours organized a successful rent strike at their own building in 2018. Parmbir is passionate about the potential of struggles like these to change existing power relations in fundamental ways. To build this potential, he continues to support others in Parkdale who experience exploitation, oppression or displacement and decide to fight back.
Parmbir joined the Board of Directors in 2019.
Ayan is a community leader and strong equity advocate. She has a deep connection to Swansea Mews and has volunteered for many events within the larger Swansea community. She is a parent of three young children and has served on the Parent Council at the local elementary school for the last 5 years. Ayan is the first Black council chair in Swansea school history.
As a member of the Swansea Mews community, Ayan Kailie organized a tenant food bank and was involved in a variety of other community initiatives. During the recent crisis in Swansea Mews, Ayan was a vocal advocate for her community. Ayan has since moved to Parkdale where she plans to continue her community work.
Randy McLin is a licenced paralegal and community legal worker with strong ties to the Parkdale community. Much of this started in 2012, when he first became involved with the Parkdale Tenants Association and learned about tenants’ rights issues from the CLWs working at PCLS. The tenants’ rights and organizing strategies he learned through PCLS helped him to save his own housing from an attempted renoviction the next year.
He then spent the next 6 years working in many different roles within the social service sector serving precariously housed and homeless clients, before returning to school to become a paralegal. After graduation, he spent two years as a paralegal in private practice where he had the opportunity to work with a number of organized tenants groups in Parkdale, and across Ontario, who were opposing Above Guideline Rent Increases, advocating for repairs and maintenance, and resisting evictions once the COVID19 temporary eviction ban was lifted.
Since 2021, he has worked as a community legal worker in the area of social assistance law at Scarborough Community Legal Services. He is passionate about access to justice and grassroots community organizing with working class communities across Toronto.
Nadia is a Parkdale resident who grew up in Parkdale and attended Queen Victoria school. Nadia’s activism started when she was a kid and her mother would brought her to all the organizing meetings in the neighbourhood. Nadia is a proud member of the Worker’s Action Centre and the Fight for $15 and Fairness campaign fighting for better wages for all workers in Ontario. Nadia is also a member of the Parkdale Tenants Association which organizes with tenants and fights back against slumlord’s in Parkdale. Nadia is also a member of Black Cap and involved in harm reduction and HIV /AIDS education and outreach. Nadia is also a member of the Parkdale People’s Economy and Mutual Aid Parkdale. Nadia was the recipient of the Dorothy Leatch Award in 2019. She loves to be involved in many organizations to help make change and make a difference in her community. Nadia’s goal is to advocate for others in her community as she did during the MetCap rent strike and cuts to legal aid.
Sarah is a former PCLS student case worker and current public servant raising her young family in Parkdale. Her commitment to community involvement has led Sarah to volunteer and participate in a number of Toronto and Parkdale community organizations and initiatives over the years and she is excited for the opportunity to serve her community through the PCLS board.
With an academic and professional background in environmental law and policy, Sarah has extensive experience in community engagement strategizing, collaborative policymaking, and policy/legal education and outreach. She is passionate about enhancing public involvement in government decision making by fighting to address systemic barriers to public participation and contributing to initiatives that empower people and communities to act as strong self-advocates.
Sheryl Sarfin conducts workplace investigations for Walmart Canada, focusing on harassment, discrimination and healthcare compliance matters arising from Walmart’s pharmacies and vision centers throughout Canada. Prior to this, Sheryl spent 5 years in a leadership position with the Professional Conduct department of College of Nurses of Ontario, where she oversaw the investigations team.
While a student at Osgoode Hall Law School, Sheryl participated in the Poverty Law Intensive Program, spending a semester and a summer working in the Social Assistance, Violence and Health Division at PCLS. Following law school, Sheryl was the Education Chair of the Toronto branch of the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) where she planned and implemented educational programs in line with LEAF’s mandate and vision.
Sheryl has an Honours B.A. in Political Science and Economics from McGill University, and a J.D. from Osgoode Hall Law School.
Samara is an associate at Addario Law Group with a broad criminal, constitutional and administrative law practice. She developed her interest in criminal and administrative law while clerking for Justice Louis LeBel at the Supreme Court of Canada. Samara earned her law degree from Osgoode Hall Law School, where she graduated with the Silver Medal. While at Osgoode, she worked at Parkdale Community Legal Services – Immigration Division. She has a B.A. in History from the University of British Columbia, where she was the valedictorian. She was called to the bar in 2014.
Class B Directors
Students enrolled in the Intensive Program in Poverty Law will elect one Board member for the 2023-2024 term
Class C Directors
Danielle is a former PCLS student caseworker and current partner with Cavalluzzo LLP. She came to law school from a background of community organizing with Filipinx migrant workers and their families in Vancouver. She practises in the areas of workers’ rights, equality, health and Aboriginal law. She represents unions and other institutional clients, individual workers, regulated professionals, and First Nations in diverse contexts including labour disputes, government relations, human rights and constitutional law, pay equity, professional discipline, judicial reviews and appeals. She has particular expertise in the health care, policing and public sectors. Danielle regularly litigates before various provincial tribunals and has appeared before all levels of court in Ontario and federally, including the Supreme Court of Canada. She has litigated complex systemic discrimination claims including leading pay equity and equality cases on behalf of women, racialized and disabled workers and public interest intervenors. Outside of law, Danielle is a mom to two small chaotic beings.
Danielle joined the PCLS Board in 2021 and is delighted to support PCLS’ invaluable work in building community power, promoting access to justice, and training courageous and creative advocates.
Professor Patricia McMahon’s areas of teaching and research are civil procedure, law and equity and legal history broadly defined. She is also the Director and Lead Interviewer of the Oral History Program at the Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History and the Co-Academic Director of the Winkler Institute for Dispute Resolution. She joined the faculty in July 2022 after a number of years in private practice at three Bay Street law firms.
Professor McMahon holds a BA in history from Huron University College at Western University, and an MA and PhD in history from the University of Toronto. This was followed by an LLB (with honours) from the University of Toronto, where she served as co-editor-in-chief of the University of Toronto Faculty of Law Review and received the Dean Cecil A. Wright Key. Following a clerkship with the Honorable Justice Ian Binnie at the Supreme Court of Canada, she attended Yale Law School as a Fulbright Fellow, where she completed an LLM and JSD. Her dissertation dealt with how law reform movements influenced English civil justice reform including the fusion of law and equity under the Judicature Acts, which serves as the basis of modern civil procedure in common law systems. At Yale, she was also a student director in a clinic engaged in civil liberties litigation related to the policies of the U.S. government following the attacks of September 11, 2001. Cases involved unlawful detention, search and seizure, due process, international human rights and humanitarian law.
While in private practice, Professor McMahon focused on complex litigation, including class actions, public law and tax litigation. She appeared before all levels of court, including the Supreme Court of Canada.
Her work with the Osgoode Society involves overseeing the oral history collection, which is the largest collection of its kind in the world. In addition to providing strategic direction for the collection, she regularly conducts interviews with lawyers and judges about their contributions to the legal profession.
Bruce Ryder is a member of the full-time faculty at Osgoode Hall Law School where he teaches and researches in the areas of constitutional law and human rights. He is Osgoode’s Director of Clinical Education and the academic director of the Anti-Discrimination Intensive Program, a partnership between Osgoode and the Human Rights Legal Support Centre. He previously served on the PCLS Board from 1992-1994 and 2020-2021 and is delighted to be returning.
Priyanka is legal counsel at Greenpeace Canada. She advises on a wide range of issues including criminal law, protest law, environmental law, non-profit law, and defamation law. Newer emerging areas in which she practices and is interested in are climate law, in particular corporate climate accountability and fossil fuel divestment; and movement law which focuses on building power of communities through legal and political strategies. Her practice also looks at the closing of civil spaces and the corporatization of legislation. She has been an adjunct professor at Osgoode Law co-teaching Administrative Law and for the past 4 years, has been affiliated with Osgoode’s Environmental Sustainability and Justice Clinic where she assists in supervising a student placement. She has served on the Board of the Alliance for South Asian Aids Prevention (ASAAP) and CycleToronto.
In her personal life she’s often found at the Value Village by Lansdowne station or fishing Portuguese buns out of her dog’s mouth. She is excited to support and serve the Parkdale community through this position.
Kara Gillies, Clinic Director
The Board of Directors both meets as a group to works in committees. We also accept non-Board member volunteers on some of our Board committees. If you are interested in volunteering on a Committee, then please contact us. The current committees include:
Anti-Discrimination and Harassment Committee
Receive reports from the Equality Counsel, pursuant the PCLS Discrimination and Harassment Policy and make determinations on whether the policy was violated. Report annually to the Board on the operation of the policy and recommendations for improvements in equity and inclusion at PCLS.
Exercise routine Board management powers not requiring major policy decisions that require an immediate decision and is required; report all decisions at next Board meeting. Consults with Clinic Directors as necessary regarding preparation of Board materials and issues of clinic management.
Provides financial stewardship, monitoring and policy development. Assists the Treasurer in responsibilities for financial records, statements, quarterly financial reports, audited financial statements, and budget preparation.
Funder Development Committee
Monitor and engage in relationship development with core funding partners. Maintains Board presence at the Association of Community Legal Clinics Ontario. Fundraising and risk/opportunity planning. Identifies and presents policy issues from time to time.
- Board development & recruit subgroup
- Membership development subgroup
Recruit and maintain connection and communications with membership; identify nominations and recruitment for the Board of Directors; oversee the Annual General Meeting; oversee the orientation of new Board members.
Provide structure and direction to the PCLS Board and staff for reviewing, revising adopting and rescinding Board policies to reflect current management and Board structures, and best practices in equity, inclusion and not-for-profit governance. Considers policies proposed by other committees or staff, and follows its consultation process on draft policies. Also responsible for developing and managing the process of Board self-assessment in alternate years.
Makes final decisions with respect to grievances arising from the collective agreement; supports development and maintenance of policies.
Strategic Planning Committee
- Board readiness
- Alumni working group
Consider and making recommendations to the Board around its strategic planning processes and how these processes are reflected in staff operational planning.