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From the OJEN Blog

The 2020 Spring Charter Challenge happened! And it was awesome!

The Charter Challenge is probably OJEN’s most challenging program for secondary students.  In normal times it is difficult to complete. In the current environment of remote teaching and learning, it seemed impossible.

And yet it happened!

Students, teachers and justice sectors volunteers had constructive discussions on our online forums and, although most teams couldn’t complete their facta, many came very close.

Five facta from three schools were submitted. The justice sector volunteers who reviewed them told us that they had rarely seen such well written, well researched and creatively articulated work.

The two finalists of the 2020 Spring Charter Challenge were:

Appellant: DON RIVER LAW SOCIETY from Marc Garneau C.I.
Defendant: LAW SOCIETY OF UPPER BLOOR from Bloor C.I.

Check out their facta

Law Society of Upper Bloor: Download
Don River Law Society: Download

Taking the hearing online

Obviously, there was no way we could offer the hearing at Osgoode Hall that usually caps our program. But thanks to the efforts of the teachers, Luis Filipe from Bloor C.I. and Michelle Woodley from Marc Garneau C.I., and from all the amazing people at the Ontario Court of Appeal, including Justice Julie Thorburn, Counsel Helena Likwornik and clerks Rachel Chan, Ankita Gupta, Jolene Hansell and Daniel Sisgoreo, we were able to beat the odds by organizing an online hearing, for the first time in OJEN’s history. 

What might have been a very disappointing end to the program became an experience that students won’t forget.  The panel was extremely impressed by the quality of advocacy of the students who excelled despite extremely challenging circumstances.  Both teachers agreed that participating in this program was a bright spot in an otherwise very challenging time for both their students and themselves.

We learned a lot from the online hearing and we will consider using a similar setup in the future if one or both teams come from distant parts of the Province and/or if we decide to organize semi finals.

The judgement

The panel decided it would not be appropriate to render a judgment on the merits of the appeal for three reasons:

1) A similar fact pattern and/or similar issues may arise before the court at some point in the future. If the panel renders a judgment on the merits of the moot now, even if it is based on hypotheticals, it may appear to be this court’s position on these legal issues and may, in appearance, undermine the impartiality of the court.

2) The problem provided to the students involved a simplified fact pattern with narrow legal issues. It would be difficult for the panel to render a judgment on the merits without the benefit of a full factual record or comprehensive legal submissions.

3) Charter rights are inherently complex. It often takes several months to draft decisions revolving two contentious Charter issues. It would be difficult for the panel to make a decision on the basis of students’ facta and oral submissions without further research and discussion.

Based on these remarks, OJEN will reconsider the practice of deciding a winner on the merits. In law school mooting, panels do not render substantive decisions. Mooting focuses on oral advocacy and, in the mooting context, the quality of oral submissions do not always correspond with the merits of the law.

If you are a teacher and think it would be beneficial for your students to be part of the Charter Challenge in the future, don’t hesitate to contact Thomas Gallezot.

Take care and stay safe!

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