A few members of the Hummingbird family happily took part in Law Day 2018, a national event focused on celebrating the signing of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Law Day, which is held by the Canadian Bar Association (CBA), was first conducted in 1983 with an aim to educate and inform the public of the role and importance of law and the justice system.
Ella Aiaseh and Adina Schild learned how this education and information can empower the public at large; starting with young minds. Ella and Adina, along with law student Harjot Gill and volunteer Rony Malev, spent two days at a local elementary school and taught two grade-5 classes about the legal concepts and courtroom procedures surrounding a criminal law trial.
“We talked about the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the criminal trial process. We touched on concepts like the difference between the crown and the defense, the rules of a trial as well as mens rea and actus reus – which we explained as the guilty mind and the guilty act,” Adina said.
Ella continued to elaborate, “Adina had the idea to explain the Charter through asking as many questions as possible. The children were involved in the process as they came to their own answers, they were often trying to draw on the knowledge they had; whether that was through having watched something on TV or a movie.
“We also discussed the protections under the Charter. Specifically, the aspects that allow an individual to have access to counsel and not being subject to unreasonable search and seizure. Then Adina and I continued to explain just what those aspects mean.”
This two-day celebration included education on what a trial is and the procedure that a trial follows, and also how to organize and establish an argument for a trial. Of course, this was met with an abundance of curiosity and an ever-growing list of questions from the children.
“The children asked a lot of questions about what you have to wear in court and what is appropriate or inappropriate to wear at a trial. There were a lot of movie references,” Adina noted.
Ella continued, “I was asked, ‘Can you wear something pink, like in Legally Blonde?’ We got a good laugh out of it, explaining that it wasn’t that exciting and things like that really only happen in the movies.”
The children came to understand and focus in on the legal concepts and trial procedures after the clothing questions were answered. Adina said that the children were deeply involved in the process of asking questions. She explained that “there were questions being asked about the format of examination-in-chief and cross-examination questions.”
“The students’ questions covered why some of the questions pertaining to the trial can be asked in one format, but when cross-examining it needs to be presented in a completely different format. The children were very engaged, and I think they really enjoyed the process of learning about the criminal trial procedure.”
After learning the legal concepts and terminology, Ella, Adina, Harjot and Rony helped the children to prepare arguments and organised a mock trial on the second day.
“The mock trial was great. The kids took a lot of time to go through the concepts and prepare their statements and the witnesses took on their roles and learned their parts. It was almost like a play, and they were happy to sit on the stand, be sworn in and give their testimony. A lot of the time they even had to make up information based on the questions they were asked,” Adina said.
Ella added, “The mock trial was a lot of fun! I brought my robes so that the children could see what we actually wear in court. I played the judge for the two classes. It was interesting too as one jury came out of deliberations with a guilty verdict, while the other jury came to a non-guilty verdict.”
Ella and Adina both explained how they were impressed with the children’s ability to grasp some of the more complicated concepts.
Ella provided an example of how the ‘defense counsel’ for the second class did a brilliant job. “It was a rare instance where he was asking specific follow-up questions based on the answers that the ‘witnesses’ were giving.
“It was fascinating to see that presence of critical thinking. He wasn’t tied to his script when he was trying to poke holes in the witness’ testimony. It was so impressive,” she noted
Adina said, “It was cute to see how their minds framed the questions at a grade 5 level. The case scenario dealt with the school unilaterally shortening the students’ lunch and the charges that were laid were for inciting a riot versus your right to free speech and your right to protest.
“They took on this idea of ‘How would I feel if that was happening to me?’ and then they really wanted to act out those emotions through the mock trial.”
While the children did learn plenty about the justice system and criminal law, they weren’t the only ones walking away educated and empowered. The members of our Hummingbird family had some touching takeaways from Law Day as well.
Adina mentioned how, “You walk in there thinking that some of the concepts will be difficult to understand because they’re in grade 5. But they really do come to understand it in their own way. Going through it, it was really interesting to see how they were learning some of the concepts.”
Adina explained her favourite moment of the two-day event, “My favourite moment was when the children had objections. They would yell out, ‘Objection!’ but then they wouldn’t necessarily remember that they had to explain their objection.”
She continued with a laugh, “Ella was the judge and trying very hard to follow the trial process. Where a judge would either overrule or sustain an objection, Ella’s decision to overrule was often followed by, ‘but…objection?’”
Ella touched on the personal aspect of the event, “We had three little girls who took the time to draw a picture of me in my robes when I was acting as the judge. They wanted me to stay until they had finished colouring it in so that I could take a copy of it with me. It was so personal and sweet.
“One little girl asked me when I was leaving if this meant that she would never see me again, so I gave her a little hug and took pictures with the other students. It was something that I was able to walk away with.”
Ella and Adina reflected on how Law Day was a success. With the help of Harjot and Rony, the group was able to keep their efforts engaging and informative for the grade 5 classes that they volunteered with. Watching the children interpret and practice many of the legal concepts and sit down to learn about the fundamentals of the Charter was not only beneficial for the children, but for the Hummingbird Lawyers group as well.