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Pro Bono Stories: Living Our Values Part II

Pro Bono Stories
Pro Bono Stories
Our partnership with Crossroads International and Skateistan

Crossroads International

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Educating women and young girls is critical for the advancement of societies. Not only does it help young women achieve their potential, but it also works toward breaking intergenerational cycles of poverty.At Blakes, we are honoured to work with Crossroads International, a leading Canadian volunteer agency committed to advancing equality for women and girls and eradicating poverty in some of the world’s poorest countries in Africa. For the past 60 years, Crossroads has been engaging and empowering individuals, organizations and communities through mutual learning, solidarity and collective action.

Blakes has over 20 lawyers providing pro bono services to Crossroads from several practice groups in our Montréal and Toronto offices. Since October 2020, our lawyers have spent over 220 hours advising the organization in areas such as:

  • Employment law

  • Commercial agreements

  • Privacy

  • Cybersecurity

  • Real estate/leasing

  • Governance

Blakes Partner Fabien Lanteri-Massa is on the board of directors at Crossroads. Fabien says working with the organization is especially fulfilling as it provides an opportunity to contribute practically to the achievement of the sustainable development goals adopted by the United Nations, including Goal 1 (No Poverty) and Goal 5 (Gender Equality). He adds that Crossroads’ work is local, international and impactful, making a real difference to those who need it most.
 
The opportunity to help Crossroads address poverty and inequality motivated Associate Catherine Gagné to start working with the organization a year ago. Since then, she has regularly assisted Crossroads on employment-related matters. Catherine says her colleagues and mentors at the Firm encouraged her to get involved in pro bono work with an organization that aligns with her personal interests and values.

“By offering our legal services, we wish to provide the support that the organization needs to carry out its activities and to focus its energy and resources on its initiatives that make a real difference for women and girls,” Catherine says. She cites a review of Crossroads’ international volunteer program and procedures in the COVID-19 era as one powerful project she has contributed to.

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Skateistan

Skateistan logo
All children deserve opportunities to play, learn, grow and express themselves in safe spaces with trustworthy adults. After many years of working in Afghanistan, South Africa and Cambodia, Skateistan knows how to provide such opportunities with programs that make a real difference in the lives of children around the world.
 
Founded in Kabul in 2008, Skateistan is an award-winning international development organization with the mission of empowering children through skateboarding and education. Skateistan's programs are geared toward children, especially girls, aged five to 17 from low-income backgrounds and children living with disabilities. The programs focus on education, gender equality, health, peace, security and youth leadership and provide children in vulnerable communities with a safe place to learn and play, free from discrimination and violence.
 
Skateistan contacted Blakes for help obtaining charitable status in Canada so that it could issue official donation receipts to Canadian donors. Blakes has assisted by advising Skateistan on Canada's charity framework and preparing the organization’s application for charitable status.
 
“When Skateistan reached out to Blakes, we were immediately on board,” says Dan Jankovic, a Partner in our Calgary office. Dan says he was thrilled to work with an organization whose education and empowerment of children in vulnerable communities aligns with Blakes values. Skateistan's programs provide a safe space for learning, self-expression and community in corners of the world where young people, particularly girls, face additional hurdles to accessing such opportunities.
 
“We are incredibly fortunate to have played a part in Skateistan’s ongoing global expansion so that more youth around the world can feel empowered and gain confidence through the art of skateboarding and education,” explains Bharbara Parken, an Associate in the Blakes Capital Markets group.

In August 2021, Skateistan suspended its programs in Afghanistan due to political turmoil. Skateistan coordinated the evacuation of staff and volunteers from local skate schools. While the future of Skateistan’s programs in Afghanistan is uncertain, the organization remains committed to its community and the children who accessed its programs. Skateistan is looking forward and planning next steps, including expanding its programming to new locations around the world such as Jordan, Bolivia and Kenya, relying on donations from those who believe in its mission.

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