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Who we are

Board of Directors

Toby Mendel, President
Lee Cohen, Secretary
Alex Neve, Member
Dawn Russell, Member
Scott Campbell, Member

CLD Team

Toby Mendel, Executive Director
Laura Notess, Senior Legal Officer
Raphael Vagliano, Legal Officer
Danielle Landry, Intern
Humna Wasim, Intern


Toby Mendel, Executive Director

Prior to founding the Centre for Law and Democracy in January 2010, Toby Mendel was for over 12 years Senior Director for Law at ARTICLE 19, a human rights NGO focusing on freedom of expression and the right to information. He has provided expertise on these rights to a wide range of actors including the World Bank, various UN and other intergovernmental bodies, and numerous governments and NGOs in countries all over the world. In these various roles, he has often played a leading role in drafting legislation in the areas of the right to information and media regulation. Before joining ARTICLE 19, he worked as a senior human rights consultant with Oxfam Canada and as a human rights policy analyst at the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). He has published extensively on a range of freedom of expression, right to information, communication rights and refugee issues, including comparative legal and analytical studies on public service broadcasting, the right to information and broadcast policy. Toby has an Honours B.A. in mathematics from McGill University and an L.L.B. from Dalhousie University.

Lee Cohen, Board Member, Secretary

Lee Cohen is a practising lawyer in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He graduated from the University of New Brunswick with a B.Ed. in 1977 and from Dalhousie University Law School in 1980.  He was granted his Q.C. in 2002. Lee’s practice is dedicated entirely to immigration, refugees and human rights. He established the Halifax Refugee Clinic, a non-profit, pro bono clinic that provides legal and settlement services for people claiming refugee status in Nova Scotia or requiring humanitarian immigration services, where he currently serves as Chair of the Board and as a volunteer counsel. Lee is a well-known authority on immigration, refugee and discrimination issues. He is a recipient of the Nova Scotia Human Rights Award, the Queen’s Jubilee Medal, the Democracy 250 award, and the Weldon Award from the Dalhousie Law School Alumni Association for unselfish public service. A believer in peaceful resolutions to complex issues, Mr. Cohen challenges listeners to take personal responsibility to confront injustice and bring social and legal change to our communities.

Alex Neve, Board Member

Alex Neve believes in a world in which the human rights of all people are protected.  He has served as Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada since 2000. In that role he has carried out numerous human rights research missions throughout Africa and Latin America as well as within Canada.  He speaks to audiences across the country about a wide range of human rights issues, appears regularly before parliamentary committees and is a frequent commentator in the media.  Alex is a lawyer, with a Masters Degree in International Human Rights Law from the University of Essex.  He has served as a member of the Immigration and Refugee Board, taught at Osgoode Hall Law School, been affiliated with York University’s Centre for Refugee Studies, and worked as a refugee lawyer in private practice and in a community legal aid clinic.  Alex has been named an Officer of the Order of Canada and has received an honorary Doctorate of Laws degree from the University of New Brunswick.

Dawn Russell, Board Member

Professor Russell practised law in Halifax for five years with the leading Atlantic law firm of Stewart McKelvey Stirling Scales before beginning her career as a law teacher in 1987. She has taught in the areas of International Law, Law of the Sea and Ocean Law and Policy. Her writings have focused on international and comparative oceans law and policy, particularly on topics such as domestic fisheries management, the role of international fisheries organizations, high seas fishing of straddling stocks, and maritime boundary delimitation. Professor Russell is on the Editorial Advisory Board of International Insights and of the Ocean Yearbook. She is a member of the Executive Board of the Canadian Council on International Law and of the Board of Directors of the Canadian Institute of Resources Law. She was Dean of Dalhousie Law School from 1996 to 2005 and Co-Chair of the Nova Scotia Law Reform Commission from 1995-2002.

Scott Campbell, Board Member

Scott Campbell is a litigation partner with Stewart McKelvey in Halifax, Nova Scotia.  He has a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) from Carleton University, a Bachelor of Laws from Dalhousie University, and a Bachelor of Civil Law from the University of Oxford.  From 2011-2015, he taught Conflict of Laws at the Schulich School of Law (Dalhousie University). In his practice, Scott routinely advises and represents clients on matters of procedural and appellate strategy, class actions, jurisdiction, private international law, administrative law, and constitutional law.  He has appeared before all levels of court in Nova Scotia and Ontario, in addition to the Federal Court, the Federal Court of Appeal, and the Supreme Court of Canada. Scott has served on the admissions committee for Dalhousie Medical School and was a long-standing board member of the ALS Society of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.  Among other things, Scott currently sits on the Gender Equity Committee for the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society and the Diversity & Inclusion Committee at Stewart McKelvey.  Scott is also Chair of the Eastern Admiralty Law Association and Regional Committee Chair for the International Association of Defense Counsel.

Laura Notess, Senior Legal Officer

Laura Notess is a senior legal officer at the Centre for Law and Democracy with a background in international human rights law. She earned a J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center in Washington D.C. in 2015. After graduating, she worked on land rights for rural communities and Indigenous Peoples at the World Resources Institute. She also has conducted legal research and policy work around issues such as political prisoners, refugee policy, the prevention and prohibition of torture, and protections for human rights defenders. During law school, she completed internships with several non-profits and at a DC-based human rights law firm. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in International Political Economy from Fordham University in the Bronx, and a Certificate in Refugees and Humanitarian Emergencies from Georgetown.

Raphael Vagliano, Legal Officer

Raphael Vagliano is a legal officer at the Centre for Law and Democracy. He holds dual degrees in common and civil law from McGill University and a bachelor’s degree in political science from Columbia University.  After completing his law studies, he worked for a year as a Law Foundation of Ontario Public Interest Articling Fellow at Amnesty International Canada, where he helped advocate for Canadian compliance with international human rights norms on a wide range of issues, including the rights of Indigenous peoples, national security, the rights of women and corporate accountability.  He then practiced as a refugee lawyer at Jared Will & Associates in Toronto for four and a half years. During this time, he appeared before the Federal Court of Canada and the Immigration and Refugee Board in connection with a variety of immigration and refugee law matters. In between his undergraduate and law studies, Raphael lived in Syria and Egypt and speaks Arabic, English, French and conversational Spanish.