The OBA/OJEN Competitive Mock Trial Tournament (OOCMT) completed its fourth season last month, with record numbers of schools participating. Since it was launched in 2014-2015 school year, the number of schools enrolling in the program has grown from 87 to 175. Along with its popularity, the need for additional support at the local level, has increased dramatically. Over the last year, several new OJEN Committees have been established, at least in part, to assist in the coordination of these local tournaments.
The Waterloo Region Committee is one of the newest OJEN committees, established at the end of 2017. Co-Chairs, Justice Catrina Braid of the Superior Court of Justice, and Erik King, a teacher with the Waterloo Region District School Board, head a committee that includes judges, lawyers, court staff, police officers and teachers. This spring they worked together to deliver their first justice education activity…the Waterloo Region High School Mock Trial Tournament.
Eight schools from Waterloo Region entered the tournament. The committee recruited lawyer coaches to go to each school and work with the student teams helping them prepare their case. They also found lawyer volunteers to judge the mock trials on the day of the competition. Two committee members – assistant Crown attorney Stephanie Marple and criminal defence lawyer Ryan Heighton of Heighton, Soehner LLP – spoke to OJEN about their experience coaching the team at Glenview Park Secondary School in Cambridge. Both had previously coached high school mock trial teams and were pleased to have the opportunity to support a tournament in their local community.
The mock trial team at Glenview Park was an extra-curricular group. All the students on the team were extremely committed to the activity. Stephanie and Ryan met with the team several times leading up to the competition and shared their perspectives about preparing a defense and prosecution for the case – R v Rogers a “one-punch” manslaughter case. The students were eager to learn everything they could from their coaches and were always prepared with good questions.
According to Ryan, the students were very engaged. “I was impressed by their ability to conceptualize the problem. They were really focused on the practicalities of putting their case together – how to conduct a cross examination, how to construct a closing statement…”
Stephanie added that their teacher, Thies Scheele, was strongly supportive of the team, which is an important factor for success.
Although, in the end, it was the team from the Galt Collegiate Institute that went home with the trophy, both Stephanie and Ryan agreed the experience was positive and look forward to continuing their involvement in the tournament in future years.
Shortly before the tournament, Margaret Janzen, an assistant Crown attorney in the Kitchener office and a highly respected member of the legal community, passed away after a battle with cancer. As a tribute to her, the Waterloo Committee dedicated their mock trial tournament to her memory. Her son, Ben Janzen, an assistant Crown attorney from Toronto, attended the Waterloo Region High School Mock Trial Tournament and presented the Margaret Janzen Memorial Cup to the winning team.
As Stephanie explained, “Margaret was committed to mentorship and justice education. She was a skilled and effective advocate who exemplified the best attributes of a lawyer. We would hope that the students participating in the mock trial tournament would take from the experience her spirit of generosity and professionalism.”
After a short break for the summer, the Waterloo Region Committee is looking forward to launching its next major justice education activity in the fall – a 10 to 12 week Youth/Police Dialogues program. The program will be offered to specific communities in the Waterloo Region. The program aims to provide opportunities for respectful exchanges that lead to greater mutual understanding.
The Waterloo Region Committee is getting off to an exciting start. With new members getting on board every time they meet, and lots of ideas for justice education projects for their community, it promises to be an agent of positive change in the Waterloo Region.