THE ADVOCATE ADVOCATE V O L . 7 6 P A R T 2 M A R C H 2 0 1 8 239
By Charis Kamphuis*
EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING AND SOCIAL JUSTICE AT TRU LAW
The Thompson Rivers University Faculty of Law offers its students a wide
range of curricular and extra-curricular opportunities to develop practical
problem-solving and advocacy skills over the course of their legal education.
These opportunities include competitive moots, the TRU Community
Legal Clinic and a number of other courses. In 2017 the faculty expanded its
scope in this area, offering two new experiential learning seminar courses
with a special focus on social justice advocacy in a transnational context. I
had the privilege of instructing both courses: Civil Society, Dissent & the
Law in the winter semester and Transnational Lawyering: Social Justice,
Communities & Resources in the fall semester. Both courses evolved from
pro bono student research initiatives that I have facilitated since joining
TRU’s law faculty in 2014, and previously as a Ph.D. candidate at Osgoode
Hall Law School.
Both courses employed experiential learning pedagogy. They required
students to engage with the real-life problems of specific civil society actors
by collecting data, analyzing fact and law, identifying strategies and drafting
documents, including letters, submissions, case studies and legal memoranda.
Each student undertook his or her individually designed research
assignment in coordination with interested civil society organizations.
Under close supervision, students corresponded with partner organizations
over e-mail and conference calls where they discussed their research and
incorporated comments and feedback on various drafts.
In Civil Society, Dissent & the Law students explored the multifaceted
ways that law governs meaningful civic participation in public policy making
in Canada, including the capacity to express opinions and critique. The
* Charis Kamphuis is an assistant professor at the Thompson Rivers University Faculty of Law.