Summer Intern Farewell: Q&A with Stefan Rinas

Friday, August 23, 2013

By Laura Tribe

This summer CJFE has been joined by an incredible team of students. We've been raving about them for months, as they have been an amazing addition to the office. However, as summer comes to an end, it’s time for another student to finish their work with CJFE and head back to school.

Today is the last day in the office for CJFE’s Legal Research Assistant, Stefan Rinas. We have been privileged to have Stefan working with us for the past three months, helping us with a great deal of writing, research and analysis, and providing an insightful legal perspective.

As with interns Spencer and Nouran, we asked Stefan to provide a few final reflections on his time here at CJFE before he leaves.

What was your favorite part about working with CJFE?
Probably the variety of writing projects I was able to work on. I wrote, among other things, an extended paper on freedom of assembly in Canada, a feature article on the legal action taken in years following the 2010 G20 summit in Toronto, a blog post on Edward Snowden, a #FollowFriday post on Russia’s recent “nontraditional sexual relations” propaganda law, and numerous advocacy letters for international free expression violations. This meant I was constantly adjusting the tone of my writing – making sure I didn’t slip back into “legalese” wasn’t always easy! Also, as these forms were often new to me I was encouraged to collaborate with my colleagues, which was a pleasure.

What have you learned about free expression from working at CJFE?
There is a vast and active network of people in Canada dedicated to upholding the values of freedom of expression. Between researching various issues and engaging with CJFE staff, board members, and IFEX staff, I encountered so many impressive organizations, academics, lawyers, and campaigners doing work that anyone passionate about freedom of expression should be proud of.

As a student at a U.S. law school, this was my first extended engagement with Canadian law; so needless to say I was building up my understanding of freedom of expression in Canada more or less from scratch. My work has entailed learning about the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Criminal Code, important pieces of provincial legislation, and various common law doctrines relating to defamation, freedom of assembly, and the rights of journalists to protect confidential sources, among others. I would like to think that I’ve gotten a good introduction to the landscape of legal issues relating to free expression in Canada.

What project that you worked on here are you most proud of?
I have written a few legal research papers about free expression rights in Canada that will be incorporated into a future CJFE project. This forced me to condense vast amounts of information on complicated legal issues into a form that will be accessible for the general public. Knowing that in some measure I will have contributed to our audience’s understanding of aspects of the law I feel strongly about is really rewarding.

What are you up to next?
I’m heading back to New York City for my last year at Columbia Law School. Afterwards, I’ll hopefully spend a summer working at a law firm in Toronto, followed by various bar exams and then maybe an opportunity to travel and do some human rights work before, ideally, returning to Toronto to article.

Anything else you want to add?
Thanks to Julie for reaching out to me after I submitted my volunteer form this past winter. Thanks to Julie, Amy, Laura, Alex, Nouran, and Spencer for being insightful editors and good company. Finally, thanks to the CJFE staff and everyone at IFEX for creating such a welcoming work environment.