Accessible Legal Aid into Action
Over the past few months, Workforce WindsorEssex has noticed an increase in employers prioritizing multilingualism in their job postings. Workforce WindsorEssex Research Associate Marissa Bumanlag interviewed local employers on the topic of hiring those who can speak multiple languages and what kind of benefits they bring to the organization.
Jordy Claudel Haringanji, Bilingual Community Legal Worker from the Windsor-Essex Bilingual Legal Clinic speaks to Workforce WindsorEssex’s Research Associate Marissa Bumanlag about his work in the community. Haringanji has been part of the Windsor-Essex Bilingual Legal Clinic since August 2019 but has been an intern law student with them for the past two years. Haringanji explains the significance of speaking different languages in his workplace and the importance of how that specific skill connects members of the community at large.
In addition to this, Haringanji works specifically with the Southwestern Integrated Legal Clinics’s French Language Service Program. Working with local clients and those who call in, he is able to provide summary advice with supervision in an accessible way for those who French services and to direct clients to legal clinics that can provide legal services in French in their region.
Throughout the conversation, Haringanji explains how there are 6 positions at the Windsor-Essex Legal Aid Clinic that require bilingual services of both English and French. These positions include the executive director, in-take workers, lawyers, paralegals, community legal workers and office manager. Haringanji also notes that their services are for local individuals seeking services in his or her native language and for connecting with people from all over the world in order to provide them protective services as well for free. Although English and French are required languages for him to know in the organization, knowledge of other languages are an asset as well such as Spanish, Arabic, Swahili and Mandarin in order to serve the needs of the population. With this being said, Haringanji mentions that the knowledge of multiple languages can especially help with refugees that are coming to Canada and require help with sponsorship and getting other family members over to Canada too. As the Windsor-Essex Legal Clinic has had these multilingual services available since its inception, one of the main goals of the organization is to ensure that their clients are aware of their rights as migrant workers within Canada as well.
Legal Aid for Low-Income
Haringanji elaborates on how the legal clinic is funded by Legal Aid Ontario. The idea of establishing a legal aid clinic revolved around the idea of how legal assistance can be made accessible for low-income families within Windsor-Essex County. Primarily, this service has been an extreme help to also the migrant workers that have relocated to Windsor-Essex County. Aside from this, the organization also helps international students in Canada and was introduced in 2017. This program is dedicated to help international workers help them exercise their legal rights and their overall well-being. Specifically speaking, different events such as sports leagues, trips amongst various areas in Windsor, information fair, English and Spanish lessons, and primary care from doctors and translations have been a huge help with developing English language speaking abilities.
Bringing It All Together
Overall, the benefits of having a multilingual team at the Windsor-Essex Bilingual Legal Clinic have been tremendous as cultural barriers have been understood when it came to their clients and how they can adjust to the expectations of the Canadian workplace. My having different perspectives within the company, speaking multiple languages can provide diversity and alternative ways of thinking when it comes to communicating information. Haringanji describes the value of hiring individuals that can speak multiple languages as “a better stride for your organization” as it “helps the organization reach more people by addressing accessibility within the community”.
How does your team remove language barriers at work? Contact Research Associate, Marissa Bumanlag for an interview: firstname.lastname@example.org.
To read more in our Multilingualism in the Workforce Blog Series, please click here.