A Tragedy Helping Thousands of Lives

Charity Spotlight: This post was provided by Stefania Sdao, Special Event and Volunteer Coordinator at the Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic, as part of our ongoing charity spotlight series.

On any day, at any time, one event can produce a ripple effect and change the lives of thousands of people. Even a tragedy can be a catalyst for great change in our community as seen by a single event which took place over 35 years ago.

Image 1On April 11, 1980, Barbra Schilfer, an up-and-coming lawyer was murdered on her way home from celebrating a major milestone in her life: being called to the Bar from the Ontario Bar Association and officially becoming a practicing lawyer.  That evening, Barbra was sexually assaulted and murdered in the stairway leading to her apartment unit.

Her death was both senseless and heartbreaking, but grieving friends Frances Rappaport and Patricia Ashby chose to shed light on the tragedy by opening the Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic five years following her death – plans which drastically diverged from the trio’s original plan to partner in their own law firm as newly minted lawyers. Both Frances and Patricia hoped the positive change Barbra hoped to make as a lawyer would instead be made by the Clinic in her memory.

Women Helping Women Image 2

30 years later, the Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic has helped over 50,000 women escape violence, and today, the Clinic strives to support more and more women each and every day.

Today, the Barbra Schlifer Clinic offers legal representation, professional counselling and multilingual interpretation to women who have experienced violence and are seeking help.   Our diverse, skilled, and compassionate staff support women through personal and practical transformation, helping them build lives free from violence.

When Jacinta Needed Us, We Were There

Jacinta* recently came to the Barbra Schlifer Clinic seeking our help. This is her story:

“When I was sixteen years old, I fell in ‘love’ with a boy. At the time, I was doing brilliant in school and should have focused on achieving my dream of becoming a doctor. Shortly after, I moved to Canada and got married to the same man I fell in love with years before.  But once we were married, the abuse started immediately, and in the midst of it all, I also became a young mother.

I remained in denial and agony for a long time hoping things would change.  I hoped my partner would mature and someday I would live the life I dreamed of when I was just sixteen years old.  But two years ago, I finally broke free from the cycle of violence with the help from the Schlifer Clinic after I was denied legal aid.

When I finally asked for help from the Clinic, not only was I suffering from intense emotional and psychological strain, I could not deal with legal technicalities. The Clinic was my saving grace and empowered me to make sure I understood all that was happening so I could help direct the process. I had complete confidence that my lawyer provided to me by the Clinic was competent and on top of all the dates and facts of my case, and because of that, we won our case because of the Clinic’s hard work, knowledge and passion for their work.

I counted on the Barbra Schlifer Clinic even when my friends and family couldn’t help me. I gained justice, security and hope for the future for both my child and I all thanks to the Barbra Schlifer Clinic.”

*Name has been changed for identity protection

A Tribute to Barbra

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It is people like Jacinta that make the work we do at the Barbra Schlifer Clinic so meaningful.  To continue supporting women like Jacinta, the Clinic has hosted an annual fundraiser for over 20 years.  A landmark event in the legal community, the fundraiser attracts lawyers, clients, corporations, banks, unions and individuals who care about their community and want to give back in Barbra’s memory.

Recently, the Spirit of Barbra Schlifer Award has been introduced and awarded at our annual fundraiser to honour a woman who has advocated for women’s rights and helped others build lives free from violence.  Past award recipients have included Leilani Farha, Geri Sanson and Deepa Mattoo.

Our 2016 Tribute fundraiser will be held on Thursday, June 9, 2016 at Daniels Spectrum.  Visit our website at www.schliferclinic.com for further details.

Although Barbra was taken far too soon in such a senseless act of violence, the life and story of Barbra Schlifer lives on and has in turn helped thousands of women access the help they need.


To learn more about the Barbra Schlifer Clinic, please visit their Charity Profile Page » 


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