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From the OJEN Blog

Two Formats for OBA-OJEN Competitive Mock Trial (OOCMT)

The OBA-OJEN Competitive Mock Trial (OOCMT) program is one of our most popular annual activities. Each spring since 2014 until the arrival of Covid-19 last year, hundreds of students throughout the province compete in regional tournaments held at local courthouses. The experiential nature of the mock trial and the exposure to justice sector professionals make it an exciting way for students to learn how the justice system works.  For many Ontario high school students, it is the highlight of their academic year.  

With the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic, running the program in its original format was not an option. 

Over the summer and fall of 2020, OJEN’s Educator Support staff consulted with teachers and regional organizing committees to determine how to adapt the program for the Covid-19 teaching environment.  It became evident that depending on the region and the school board they work in, teachers had varying needs. Although some classes take place in person, most teachers teach at least some classes remotely.  Many school boards have adopted a quadmester system, which divides the academic year into four blocks instead of the usual two. This condenses each course into a significantly shorter period of time.  The capacity for offering extracurricular activities also varies among school boards. All of these variations impact the delivery of the OOCMT program. Accommodating the differences in participation ability, regional resources, and participant and volunteer capacity presented a sizable challenge.  Designing a single format that would work for everyone was impossible.

The adapted OOCMT program offers two separate paths for participation, making it possible for as many students as possible to participate: 

  • The traditional Competitive format offers participants the same opportunity to engage in a full online mock trial. 
  • The Alternative format allows teachers and students the opportunity to engage with the material while avoiding specific time commitments. 

Both the competitive and alternative formats use the same case scenario. R v Kim, centres around an alleged assault causing bodily harm. 

Registration for the Competitive format opened in January and students are currently hard at work with volunteer lawyer coaches preparing for the mock trial tournaments taking place from late March to early May.  Some of the larger regions continue to hold their own local tournaments. Where local tournaments are not available, teams have the opportunity this year to compete in a provincial-style tournament. 

Participants in the Alternative program have the option to work individually or in teams to prepare and submit Opening and Closing statements.   Students can view videos of mock witness examinations based on R v Kim prepared by OBA lawyers.  They can also post questions to lawyer volunteers on message boards as they work on their statements.  Lawyers will review the submissions and provide feedback. 

Learning about the trial procedure, and interacting with justice professionals is a valuable experience that many students look forward to each year. We appreciate the efforts of so many amazing volunteers and teachers who have made it possible for the OOCMT program to continue in these difficult times. 

For more information about the OOCMT program, visit our website.

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