ASFA Hires New Legal Team: Council

Three-Person Team to Tackle Mei-Ling Settlement and By-Law Revision

  • ASFA announces hiring of new legal team at last Thursday’s council. Photo Tristan D’Amours

The Arts and Science Federation of Associations will be hiring a new three-member legal team, council decided last Thursday. The team, from the Dionne Schulze legal firm, will be led by Elisabeth Patterson.

This article has been updated.

ASFA’s hiring committee, made up of ASFA’s interim president Julia Sutera Sardo, office manager Chris Lechkobit, interim VP finance Francesco Valente, and interim VP internal Rachel Hutchinson, met with six different law firms.

During those meetings Sutera Sardo said they asked the firms questions about elections, human resources, incorporation accreditation, Indigenous law, governance and expertise in non-profits.

The notes and recommendations that ASFA executives drew from those meetings were presented to council on Thursday Oct. 12, at which point council unanimously decided to hire Patterson’s team.

The names of the other members of the legal team—a paralegal and an associate—were left confidential.

Sutera Sardo reiterated that one of the most important things ASFA was looking for in their search was a lawyer who had some level of expertise in Indigenous law. According to Patterson’s profile on the Dionne Schulze website, she works primarily with Indigenous communities on matters relating to commercial and international law, as well as the protection of traditional knowledge and intellectual property.

The legal team will also be working with ASFA on the mediated settlement of the Mei-Ling case. Mei-Ling was a former ASFA executive who was sexually harassed and experienced racial discrimination during her time at the student association. The settlement negotiation had been put off during ASFA’s search for a legal team.

In addition, the federation will be consulting with their lawyers whenever they work with the Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations.

“We want to agree with the CRARR on any means that will be taken to advance our position on anti-racism, intersectionality, feminism, and anti-violence,” said Sutera Sardo.

The mandate for ASFA’s former lawyer, Michael Simkin, ended in June, after which council decided to cease business with him, Sutera Sardo said.

Sutera Sardo explained that Simkin was splitting his time between two firms. She said that it seems as though his larger firm, which primarily deals with class-action lawsuits, was taking more of his time, while ASFA and their needs grew. As a result, she explained, council and the executive team decided not retain his services.

Simkin was contacted, but failed to provide comment by press time.

Sutera Sardo mentioned that the new three-member legal team costs the same as paying Simkin, making the decision easy for ASFA executives and council. She also says that the associate and the paralegal help should alleviate some of the administrative work and by-law revision that the primary lawyer would typically have to do, allowing the legal team to work more efficiently.

“We get more people who are specialized on non-profits and Indigenous issues,” said Sutera Sardo. “Which is something that we need at ASFA to be focused on.”

Correction: The Link previously stated that Sutera Sardo recommended that ASFA fire Simkin. He was not fired, as his mandate with ASFA came to an end. ASFA and Sutera Sardo have since apologized for the retracted comments made in this piece. Their full apology can be seen below. The Link regrets the error.

ASFA and its interim president Julia Sutera Sardo wish to extend an apology to Michael Simkin and the Concordia community for the comments referenced in an article published in The Link. Simkin Legal was not fired, and Simkin Legal did indeed fulfill its contract for legal services. The services contract was not renewed this year, as the Federation has decided to move in a new direction that will fit its growing needs. We sincerely thank Me Simkin for his past service and attention over the years.

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