I have been working with OJEN remotely from Thunder Bay for a little less than eight weeks as a summer student. I haven’t had the opportunity yet to work with youth and see firsthand the impact OJEN’s programs can have on them, so this blog post will be a little bit different with a focus more on my thoughts about justice education.
I’ll admit that I only started to think about the importance of justice education for youth fairly recently. This past year was my first year studying Law at Lakehead University. Within the first couple of weeks of school, I realized how little I knew about the very basics of the Canadian justice system. I wasn’t fortunate enough to have an organization like OJEN deliver justice education programs at my elementary or high school (OJEN had just been publicly launched when I was in high school). I also never considered a law course in high school because I wasn’t interested in becoming a lawyer at that time. The more familiar I became with the justice system this past year, the more I wished I had known about it beforehand, however, not necessarily as preparation for law school. Basic terminology, rights and legal processes seemed like something that I should have known about just as an average Canadian citizen, regardless of my field of study.
When I heard about OJEN and its popular programs like Mock Trials, I thought about how great it would have been if programs like these were available to me when I was a youth. They’re fun, informative and may have sparked my interest in pursuing a legal career earlier than it actually occurred. What’s really important about OJEN’s programs though, is that they are not just for youth interested in studying law or a related field. They help develop knowledge, skills and attitudes in youth that will assist them if they have future experiences with law from a different perspective, like through confrontations with police. Learning about this aspect of OJEN’s programs really drove home for me the importance of justice education for youth.
During my time with OJEN, I’ve been part of team creating a Facilitation Guide for Aboriginal Outreach Programs. The guide will outline and offer tips on how facilitators can adapt OJEN’s current project models specifically for an Aboriginal youth audience. It’s been great being a part of this organization and being able to contribute, even the slightest bit, to bringing justice education to Ontario’s youth.
– Amy Short