For as long as I can remember I have wanted to be a lawyer. From watching almost every crime documentary that has ever existed on Netflix, to having the opportunity to join the Law in Action Within Schools (LAWS) program at my high school, law has been the career path my heart has been set on. When I was offered a 2022 summer internship at OJEN, it became an offer I didn’t hesitate to jump on. My first interaction with OJEN was in my high school law classes. The textbooks and lesson plans created by OJEN, made law… well easy. All their content was written in easy-to-interpret language, and their instructional lessons were always engaging and informative.
OJEN’s mission statement “to promote understanding, education, and dialogue to support a responsive and inclusive justice system” is extremely evident in all the work that they do. During my time here I was tasked with reviewing materials that would be distributed in classrooms, found on their website, and shared with the general public. By doing so, I learned the importance of providing youth, and those who would otherwise not be given the opportunity, with an adequate education of the Canadian legal system. Oftentimes, the legal world is painted as a place that is inaccessible for the average person. Society throws around reputations that only the elite can attend law school, or the idea that one must have money to access legal services. The work that OJEN does ensures that community members and students are able to connect with legal personnel to learn from them, and gain valuable knowledge that can help break these stereotypes and eliminate the divide between the legal profession and the community. Vise versa, OJEN helps facilitate events in which young people are able to share their experiences and opinions with the legal community in order to better the relationship between the two. I have personally benefited from this aspect of OJEN. When I first found an interest in law, I feared that the field would be inaccessible to me due the prestige it held and the lack of lawyer-connections that I had. However, I vividly remember a law teacher from my school following lessons created by OJEN that made the legal profession feel like one that was actually obtainable! These lessons really helped me break the invisible barrier that seemed to exist, to show me that I too can become well-versed with the legal system.
The work I have been able to experience during my time at OJEN, as well as during my studies, has been extremely eye opening to the issues that exist within the Canadian legal system. It has been very exciting to see all the action that is being taken by a non-for-profit organization to try to raise awareness to these issues, one step at a time. Not only have I been able to revise classroom materials for students to learn from, but I have also been able to attend webinars that focus on prominent legal matters and significant cases. In addition, I have had the opportunity of becoming familiar with the other practices of the organization including the summer law institute, mock trial clubs and so much more that OJEN has created to help bridge that gap. When young people in the community are educated on the legal system that surrounds them, it helps create a just and safe society. Knowing your rights, the adequate steps to take when running into legal issues, and being comfortable with speaking out against unjust behaviours are life long skills that everyone can benefit from learning about. The work that OJEN does has shown the direct positive impact that results from providing legal education to society.
OJEN is filled with several resources that are accessible to everyone, from guest speakers, to attending court cases and educational events. The opportunity to interact with the organization first hand has been one that I am extremely grateful for, and encourage everyone to do the same in whatever capacity they can.