It has been almost a dozen years now since I was given the great honour of leading this amazing organization, the Community Legal Assistance Society (“CLAS”). Over that time, our organization has weathered financial crises; been successful on a number of important test cases of national note; undertaken some groundbreaking systemic advocacy initiatives; and, through it all, steadily provided high calibre, frontline legal assistance to thousands of people addressing some of their most critical legal needs on an almost daily basis.
During this period, we’ve also continued to expand our organization and services at a steady rate to the point that this fiscal year we will reach an operating budget of over $4 million and a staffing level of over 45 employees. With one of our senior management team, Rita Hatina, our Director of Administration and Finance, planning to retire after almost three decades at the organization, it caused me to reflect on my own future here and think about whether this might not be a good time for me to also pass the torch to someone new to lead CLAS afresh in this era of a much larger organization that is continuing to expand its reach and that will now require a full-time Executive Director.
I thus made the difficult, but I feel very right, decision to transition out of my role as a half-time Executive Director / half-time lawyer into becoming a full-time human rights lawyer at CLAS. As with finding a replacement for Rita’s position, this will be a process that will take some months and will require the engagement of a top executive search firm in order to find the right two people for these important roles so that we feel confident we are putting CLAS in the best hands possible.
I am happy to say that we have now engaged Leaders International for our executive search, a firm that can not only deliver exceptional candidates, but is a leader in diversity recruitment. In the meantime, Rita and I will continue on in our respective senior management positions doing everything we can to make this transition as smooth and successful as possible.
Once this transition has been completed, I know that CLAS will be in as strong a position as it ever has been and I can embrace my role as a full-time lawyer taking on human rights cases, which has always been a great passion of mine, and, of course, continue to do my part in making this organization as great as it can be.
Aleem Bharmal, QC