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UNB law students help people change legal names and gender markers

Author: UNB Newsroom

Posted on Mar 30, 2023

Category: UNB Fredericton

For many transgender people, changing their name and gender marker can be lengthy and complicated. However, law students at the University of New Brunswick (UNB) are helping with this daunting process.

As part of the Pro Bono Students Canada (PBSC) UNB Chapter, UNB law students serve clients seeking to change their names and gender markers through the Imprint Trans Identification Clinic.

Created by UNB law alumna Amber Chisholm in 2017, the student-led clinic began by serving Fredericton residents. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and with the world working online, PBSC program coordinator, Frances Borgmann, saw the opportunity to expand the program. As all PBSC projects require insured lawyer supervisors, Borgmann set to work.

She connected with six lawyers from McInnes Cooper’s Atlantic Canadian offices and asked them to join the Imprint Clinic team.

“Without the McInnes Cooper partnership, the clinic would not be possible,” said Borgmann. “We have five lovely volunteer lawyers who give up their time and oversee all communications between students and clients. They’re there to assist with complicating legal factors that are outside the scope of the student volunteers’ knowledge.”

A third-year UNB law student from Mississauga, Ont., Borgmann sees her participation as a way of giving back to the community while gaining an understanding of legal issues specific to the region.

“Law school is so theory-based, to be able to do something practical with my developing legal knowledge feels good,” she said. “I believe that because law students have legal knowledge that is in such high demand, we have a duty to give back to those who need it most.”

UNB law student volunteers run the Imprint Clinic, contributing three to five hours each week to helping clients work through their name and gender marker change.

“Some folks will go through the change forms on their own and come to us with very specific questions,” said Amanda Sooley, a third-year UNB law student and Imprint Clinic coordinator. “For others, it may have been weeks of trying to understand the forms. As a student volunteer, you sit down with the clients and have the experience of assisting them through an important process, which is really rewarding.”

Some clients are further along in the process and are more comfortable meeting. Others are still in the early stages and have not shared with their friends and families.

“You’re navigating sensitive areas of conversation,” said Sooley. “You’re helping someone and not just writing a paper for school. You immediately see the impact your help can make.”

The Imprint Trans ID Clinic is entirely virtual and serves 24 clients each semester from across all four Atlantic provinces.