The Grade 12 senior Law classes at St Thomas More Catholic Secondary School made their mark at Ontario’s Highest Court, the Court of Appeals for Ontario. The students were encouraged by their Law teacher Andrea Leone to enter the Charter Challenge, organized by OJEN (Ontario Justice Education Network). The Charter Challenge is a province-wide competition where students in groups prepare a legal factum based on a Charter appeal case prepared by OJEN.
The students were given a case scenario for which they prepared a written submission of their legal arguments. They could choose to argue either for the Respondents or for the Appellants. Once they finished their factums, actual judges reviewed their case. From 80 teams across the province, the STM team was selected as a finalist. The team consisted of Madalyn Morrison, Jennie O’Brien, Claudia Reyes, and Joshua Sebastian. The students also had the collaborative support from STM Learning Commons Teachers, Peter Luvisa and Angela Finn, who assisted students.
On Thursday, December 21, 2017, the team travelled to Osgoode Hall in Toronto with Principal Sara Cannon, Ms. Leone, and parents of the team members. STM argued for the Respondents and went head-to-head with a Richmond Hill school representing the Appellants. In the end, the Court supported the Appellants’ position.
“It was a STM and HWCDSB first!,” said Ms. Leone. “The student’s hard work allowed them to make strong arguments and handle the judge's questions with ease. Being selected as finalists for the competition is a huge honour.”
The esteemed panel of judges, led by Justice Gloria Epstein and Justice James MacPherson awarded STM student Madalyn Morrison the Justice Epstein Award for Oral Advocacy.
“To have been selected is an honour,” said Morrison. “My team and I worked extremely hard on our case and I am very proud of how we presented our side of the Appeal in court. It truly was an incredible experience I will cherish forever.”
Joshua Sebastian, another team member saw this opportunity as a tremendous privilege and opportunity and “has taught me that hard work, motivation and diligence pays off.”
Hopefully this venture will inspire some of these young students to become legal advocates in the future, added Ms. Leone.