Welcome To
Acadia Broadcasting NewsThe Latest and Greatest ContentYour Trusted Local Source


Image: McInnes Cooper

Atlantic Law Firm Wins National Recognition for Volunteer Efforts

By Scott Pettigrew Dec 10, 2022 | 8:00 AM

Atlantic Canadian law firm McInnes Cooper won the Atlantic Business Leader Award at Canada’s Volunteer Awards ceremony, in Ottawa on December 5.

The firm, which has offices throughout New Brunswick and Nova Scotia as well as in PEI and Newfoundland, was recognized for its longstanding volunteerism throughout the region.

“It was so humbling,” says Andrea Hewitt, the engagement advisor at McInnes Cooper who along with a colleague, attended the event on the firm’s behalf.

“The individuals and the organizations that were recipients this year were just astounding …. some of them started [volunteering] when they were 14 years old! It was very humbling and it was just so lovely.”

Hewitt is also an advisor for the firm’s Collective Social Responsibility or CSR, program, and it was in that capacity that she and her colleague accepted the award on the firm’s behalf.

“We do have a formal CSR program that covers five core pillars,” she explains. “Our community engagement. That’s really where we do a lot of our volunteer work; Our environmental stewardship; our pro bono program, which is another significant driver of our volunteer engagements. And then we’ve got a wellness program; and also our diversity, equity and inclusion work.”

“We were recognized for the comprehensive program, but specifically, the way in which we enable and support volunteerism through that CSR program.”

One of the main drivers of the firm’s volunteerism is the pro bono work it does in communities throughout Atlantic Canada, with a specific focus on marginalized groups or organizations that serve marginalized communities.

In Saint John, McInnes Cooper has been working with the Saint John Newcomers Centre providing legal advice around immigration. In Moncton, the firm has a longstanding relationship with the New Brunswick Multicultural Council, helping immigrants overcome the legal hurdles involved in setting up a business.

The pro bono program started in 2012 and has engaged approximately 275 clients across Atlantic Canada.

“We have contributed nearly $3.5 million in free legal services for our program, since its inception,” says Hewitt.

This year the firm also launched two new programs to offer legal services to underserved or equity-seeking groups, the People of African Descent Legal Services Initiative and the Ukrainian Emergency Immigration Initiative.

“The People of African Descent Legal Services Initiative, was created to intentionally engage people from historic black communities in our region,” says Hewitt.  “Initially, we started … just doing some simple will work for them. But we’ve begun to do some other things like incorporating nonprofits or social enterprises.  And we’re working on helping to establish a land trust in Nova Scotia.”

“[The Ukrainian Emergency Immigration Initiative] mobilized pretty quickly to help provide immigration services to people in the country who wanted to stay in or move to Canada as a result of the oppression,” Hewitt says.

Over the years the firm has also engaged with other non-profits. Articling students worked with CNIB on the Know Your Rights program, for New Brunswick and PEI which created a reference guide of everyday rights for the blind community.

“Know Your Rights is designed to educate and empower people who are blind, partially sighted or Deafblind to better understand their rights, navigate their provincial legal systems, and self-advocate to challenge discrimination,” says Duane Morgan, vice president of CNIB in Atlantic Canada.

“Initially only available in Ontario and Quebec, McInnes Cooper has supported the expansion of Know Your Rights in New Brunswick and PEI. From assisting with the legal research and writing components to delivering a legal workshop and participating in a professional development program, McInnes Cooper has provided exceptional in-kind support. We appreciate their incredible commitment to the people we serve.”

The firm has also participated in the Great Fundy Coastal Cleanup with Nature Trust. Started in 2015, the program cleans debris from Fundy beaches.

“The firm encourages their staff to participate annually in the Great Fundy Coastal Cleanup, and have lead sites in recent years in the Saint John region,” says Bethany Pohl Stewardship Manager at Nature Trust New Brunswick.  “The goal of this large-scale, multi-site cleanup weekend is to have people from across the Bay of Fundy (and beyond) going out in one weekend,  and removing as much debris as possible from beaches.”

“Several of their staff have also participated in the Nature Trust’s Ambassador Program to train new volunteers in areas including species monitoring and restoring nature preserves.  In particular, they have helped with our tree planting events along the beautiful Wolastoq (Saint John) River.”

Hewitt says community work plays a twofold role in the lives of McInnes Cooper employees.

“We wanted to make a difference in the community, but we also want to create a sense of community within the firm,” she says. “We recognize that our members have passions, and they have a deep desire to give back to the community in a way that enables them to bring their interests and passion and priorities to their work life.”

“We recognize that it’s the right thing to do. We have certain skills and abilities and resources that enable us to give back to the community and create real change.”

Alex Graham is a reporter with Huddle, an Acadia Broadcasting content partner.


Leave a Reply