Accolades for legal aid: New award honours Dal alum’s commitment to youth justice
Part of the Dalhousie Difference series
Katherine Wooler - March 5, 2013
Chandra Gosine hasn’t slowed down since he took his first legal aid position 30 years ago, and his dedicated efforts in the name of youth justice recently received due recognition.
On February 16, Dalhousie Legal Aid Services (DLAS) honoured Gosine with the inaugural Irving and Ruth Pink Award for Youth Development and Social Justice, selecting him as an exemplar of community improvement and youth advocacy.
A seasoned advocate
The busy lawyer is still able to make time for a phone interview between jam-packed days of court appearances, taking the opportunity to express his gratitude to DLAS.
“Working in the trenches is not something that is recognized with awards and praise,” says Gosine, who is now a senior staff counsel in the youth and duty council office for Nova Scotia Legal Aid. “I am happy to be recognized for making a difference.”
Gosine admits that he fell into his work with youth legal issues when he started as an articling clerk in 1983 after finishing his law degree at Dalhousie. He joined Nova Scotia Legal Aid at a time when the Juvenile Delinquents Act was transitioning to the Young Offenders Act and has since been an active part of yet another legal transition to the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
After working for 21 years in both youth justice and family law, Gosine narrowed his focus solely to youth cases.
“I enjoy working with young people because I think there is a greater chance of rehabilitation if they stay out of the correctional system,” says Gosine.
A case for rehabilitation
When he is not practising in courts of appeal, youth justice court and the Supreme Court of Canada, Gosine acts as chairman of the Nova Scotia Legal Aid race relations committee, sits on the Canadian Bar Association racial equity committee, and serves on the research ethics board for the QEII Health Sciences Centre.
He has stayed true to his goal of leading change within the justice system and supporting rehabilitation. Two areas where he hopes to continue on that front include the over-representation of certain demographic groups in the criminal justice system and the detrimental effects of adult sentences on young people.
“Youth in the criminal justice system do not have a lot of material resources at their disposal,” explains Gosine, “and people who are charged are over-represented by poor people.”
A legacy continues
DLAS recently received an endowment in honour of Irving and Ruth Pink to support work with at-risk youth and advocacy for human rights.
To celebrate Irving and Ruth Pink’s legacy of public service and advocacy, DLAS launched the award, embodying the organization’s mandate of community development and legal reform and represents their advocacy work with youth.
“We work with youth in many different capacities,” explains DLAS office manager Reena Davis.
DLAS has appointed a committee that works with the Pink family to select an annual award recipient, of any vocation, who works with youth in Nova Scotia.
“It has given me a great deal of satisfaction to work with youth to change the system,” says Gosine, “to make it a judicial system as opposed to a legal system.”
Gosine says that when he does retire he would like to return to university to pursue a degree in English, but retirement is not in his immediate future.
“Irving Pink practiced for 65 years,” says Gosine. “I have only practiced for 30, so I have a while to go.”
This article is part of the Dalhousie Difference series, exploring what the power of philantrophy means to the university and introducing and showcasing some of the 50 innovative projects in development. Learn more at boldambitions.dal.ca.