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December Updates for Committee Members

Best Wishes for a Happy Holiday!

To all the local OJEN committee members who have continued to plan justice education activities in their communities throughout all the challenges we’ve faced this year, a huge “thank you” from all of us at OJEN!

Although the Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on how most of us live and work, it has not prevented our OJEN family from expanding.  We are pleased to extend a very warm welcome to our newest local committee: the OJEN Algoma Committee. The Algoma Committee began offering justice education initiatives to local students a couple of years ago, but only recently joined the OJEN family, holding its first OJEN meeting in November. Chaired by Justice Romuald Kwolek (OCJ), the Algoma Committee is looking forward to providing access to justice initiatives for youth in Sault Ste. Marie and throughout the Algoma District.

OJEN committee meetings throughout the fall focused on assessing the feasibility of offering justice education programs during the Covid-19 pandemic.  With in-person delivery discouraged or impossible, many of us wondered whether our programs could be adapted to an online format. Even if we could offer them virtually, would they meet the changing needs of our education and community partners?

Educators on OJEN committees advised that the teaching and learning environment has undergone dramatic changes this fall.  Both students and teachers are experiencing high levels of stress as a result.  Classes are conducted in-person or online or a combination of both.  Instead of the typical semester system, most school boards in Ontario have adopted a quadmester system, with some even opting for an octomester format.  These changes have made some OJEN programs incompatible with some school calendars.  In the current environment it is understandable that teachers may have enough to handle without taking on the extra challenge of administering an OJEN project!

Regardless of the teaching model they use, teachers gave positive feedback on two OJEN programs at committee meetings this fall:

Classroom Visits – teachers are using the request form on the OJEN website to invite local justice sector volunteers to visit their classroom and engage with their class.  This is a great way to connect young people with volunteers who work in different areas of the law.

Twitter Moot – students and teachers both enjoyed this activity, which was piloted as a provincial activity in October.  Students tweeted their opinions, for or against the question – should we allow peremptory challenges in criminal jury trials?  OJEN plans to hold at least one more Twitter Moot this year.

As the year comes to a close, OJEN has released plans for a modified version of the OBA-OJEN Competitive Mock Trial (OOCMT) program for the 2020-21 school year.  It provides two options for students to participate.  One stream is similar to the original program but in an online format.  The other stream allows students, individually or in teams, to submit opening or closing arguments using the same fact scenario.  Providing both options to teachers will allow as many students as possible to participate.

We all hope that 2021 will see our lives return to normal.  Until then, we deeply appreciate all you do during these extraordinary circumstances.  We wish you and your loved ones peace and good cheer throughout the festive season!

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