Ontario Justice Education Network (OJEN)

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Ontario Justice Education Network (OJEN) in Canada was launched in April 2002 and is dedicated to promoting understanding, education, and dialogue to support a responsive and inclusive justice system.

Read about Ontario Justice Education Network

OJEN works in partnership with community agencies, including social housing and youth services to deliver a range of innovative justice education initiatives. Their programmes are designed to meet the specific needs of Aboriginal youth, immigrant youth, francophone youth and at-risk youth and take place in elementary and secondary schools.

There are a wide range of programmes including judge shadowing and court visits which provide students with the opportunity to take part in question and answer sessions with judges, lawyers, managers and others. We have highlighted below their programme of mock hearings.

OJEN have published an excellent good practice guide for judges and other members of the justice sector on how to maximise student learning during classroom visits. The guide covers preparation for the visit to the school, the choice of topics, presentations, the use of visual materials and role playing. It also includes a section on how to engage students and appropriate speaking styles. The guide advises guest speakers:

'Students respond well to personal insights and anecdotes. Identify any such recollections you would be willing to convey. Age-appropriate, comical, poignant, and, ultimately, personal insights play a large role in effective presentations. The more of yourself you are willing to share, the greater the connection between speaker and students.

'Consider using scenarios with the students so that they may grapple with the issues. For example, by including questions like “As the judge, what would you have done in this case and why?” generate active engagement with the material and reflection.'

This is just one of a range of invaluable resources have been developed for law lecturers and teachers, judges, lawyers and other justice sector volunteers. All of these are available on the Ontario Justice Education Network website.

Mock Hearings

A student mock hearing is a simulation of a real court or administrative hearing, with students playing the roles of lawyers, witnesses, accused, court staff and in some cases the judge. During the mock hearings, students reenact every step of a real hearing. OJEN publish a series of mock hearing scenarios covering civil and criminal disputes. They have created realistic cases that students can relate to. For example, the case of Fadey v. Ketkluane High School:

'Marcus Fadey slipped and fell in a puddle of water left over in the gymnasium of Ketkluane High School after a championship basketball game. As a result of his injuries, Marcus lost his chance at a basketball scholarship, and lost his job because he was unable to perform the required duties. After the accident, Marcus sued Ketkluane High School for negligence for leaving the unsafe situation in the gym.'

This mock trial scenario package includes a fact scenario, a description of the relevant law, background information for witnesses, a statement of claim, and a statement of defence.

For each OJEN civil law mock trial, there are three packages: an OJEN Civil Law Mock Trial Scenario; the OJEN Civil Law Mock Trial Role Preparation Package; and the OJEN Civil Law Mock Trial Justice Sector Volunteer Package.

Mock hearings are a great way to bring the law to life for students. Participants develop their advocacy, public speaking, organisation, research, and reasoning skills. They work as members of a team, developing a theory of a case, and making sure all elements of their case are presented harmoniously. Individually, either as a lawyer presenting arguments or leading evidence, or as a witness giving evidence, they develop personal confidence and self-esteem.

Mock Hearings in Elementary Schools

OJEN piloted civil mock trials in elementary schools (for children aged between six and twelve) in January 2009 and is now being delivered in schools across Toronto in collaboration with the Toronto Lawyers Association, clerks from the Court of Appeal for Ontario and Ontario law students.

The goal of the programme is for elementary students to learn more about resolving disputes, the way in which the civil justice system resolves disputes, and the people working within the civil justice system.

The programme consists of five structured sessions that culminate in a non-competitive mock trial. The scenario is based on a civil defamation case that arises from the aftermath of the popular children's story, Hansel and Gretel. In this scenario, the Witch is furious that she has been portrayed as a ghoulish cannibal, and sues Hansel and Gretel for defamation after they posted their version of the story on the Internet.

Other scenarios include 'Big Bad Wolf v. 3 Little Pigs' and 'The Three Bears v. Goldilocks'.

Visit Ontario Justice Education Network for more information.