University of Ottawa legal group to help homeless outside Gatineau

By Terry Davidson

Law360 Canada (October 16, 2023, 3:06 PM EDT) -- A University of Ottawa legal clinic offering help to the homeless in downtown Gatineau, Que., is going mobile.

The Clinique interdisciplinaire en droit social de l’Outaouais, a multidisciplinary clinic run by students, professors and legal professionals out of uOttawa’s law school, will be launching a mobile team to help people at risk of homelessness outside downtown Gatineau.

An Oct. 16 news release notes that the move will “grow the clinic’s footprint in western Quebec.” The mobile team will focus on law, health and psychological support, and will be led by students and professionals specializing in law, nursing and social work.  

The team is being created to serve those unable to travel to the clinic’s physical site, which is in downtown Gatineau.

Gatineau is around eight kilometres north of the university, across the Ottawa River.

“Supported by a fund to provide further access to the law from Quebec’s Ministry of Justice, the mobile team will offer information, legal advice, and support in collaboration with community groups and help people advocate collectively for their rights,” states the release.

Homelessness in Quebec — and in Gatineau, specifically — has been in the spotlight as of late.  

According to at least one news report, Quebec’s Ministry of Health and Social Services reported that there were around 700 people living with homelessness in Gatineau in 2022 — almost five times more than what it was in 2018.

“The mobile team project is the result of what we’ve seen in the clinic’s activities, showing an increase in the number of people living with homelessness appearing in court and the difficulty in reaching some of them. Collaboration between different organizations will help address this problem,” said uOttawa law professor Emmanuelle Bernheim.

The clinic, established in 2020 and run out of the law school’s civil law section, has since 2021 been offering support once a week during the academic year.

The clinic was developed by a “multidisciplinary team” of uOttawa and Université du Québec en Outaouais professors “in response to research showing the increasing involvement in the legal system of those living with mental health issues or homelessness,” states the release.

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