Alexandra Dodger
The late Alexandra Dodger, seen here in Beirut, Lebanon.

Bringing the law to the community

The law is, at its best, a community’s highest expression of its ideals and values. It is an essentially human enterprise, and for all of the legal profession’s abstractions, its ultimate goal is a more fair and just world.

The Alexandra Dodger Scholarship is a prime example of that humanity. The late Dodger, BCL’11, LLB’11, a young graduate of the Faculty of Law, fought passionately against inequality, demonstrating for the welfare of students here at home and defending the plight of refugees and genocide victims around the world through contributions to the McGill Law Journal. When she died unexpectedly at a young age, her friends, family and fellow students rallied together to honour her memory and passions by creating a fund to support law students who want to pursue a career in social justice.

“The Alexandra Dodger Scholarship reinforces the importance of social justice and human rights by providing tangible financial support,” says Professor Colleen Sheppard, the Research Director of the McGill Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism (CHRLP).

Such students would be well served by coming to McGill Law. The Faculty has been a significant player in human rights law ever since the time of Professor John Humphrey, writer of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. However, the ideals of that Declaration – and human rights law in general – sit uneasily with political and economic realities that govern our lives. It was with this in mind that Gordon Echenberg, BA’61, BCL’64, and his wife, Penny Echenberg, donated $1 million to Campaign McGill to establish the Echenberg Family Conferences on Human Rights.

Hosted every three years by the CHRLP, the Conference bring together legal experts and prominent leaders from the private, non-profit and political worlds to help “bridge the gap” between theory and practice of human rights. It also includes a Young Leaders’ Forum, whose attendees become McGill Echenberg Human Rights Fellows, part of an international network of human rights professionals. “It’s an incredible educational and outreach initiative,” says Sheppard.

Other significant initiatives in this area include the O’Brien Fellowships for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism, established by business leader David O’Brien, BCL’65 to enable top scholars from around the world to focus on pressing issues of human rights law and policy, and the Justice James K-Hugessen Fellowship for the Study of Disabilities and the Law, created by James K-Hugessen, BCL’57, to stimulate research and study in the important area of disability and the law.

The social justice that drove Alexandra Dodger and many like her is also nurtured by a program supported by a $450,000 donation from Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg, one of Canada’s leading law firms, and its lawyers.

The Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg Fund for Community Engagement supports participation in the Faculty’s Legal Clinic Course, which matches third- and fourth-year law students with local community organizations, such as Dans la rue, which offers help to homeless youth in Montreal.

“Work carried out by participating students will have a direct and immediate impact on people who may not otherwise have access to legal information or advice regarding their situation,” says Davies Partner Hillel Rosen, BCL’85, LLB’85.

With initiatives like this, which bring together the power of philanthropy with the talent of students and vision of McGill professors, Professor Humphrey would be impressed – and proud.