Law Times

March 19, 2012

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PAGE 2 NEWS March 19, 2012 • Law TiMes BY HEATHER GARDINER Law Times I n September 2009, two University of Windsor law students were chatting outside their first-year access-to-justice class about all things legal. One of them mentioned the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and suggested it'd be funny for public figures to recite it. Upon realizing the Charter would turn 30 in the same year as their graduation, they decided it'd be a good opportunity to spread awareness about the document. And so, with the help of approxi- mately 30 other Windsor law stu- dents, the Charter Project was born. Two and a half years later, the Charter Project is now a regis- tered charity that aims to engage Canadians in a dialogue about the Charter. It had its official launch at Osgoode Hall in Toronto on March 13. Co-founders and third-year law students Byron Pascoe and Michael O'Brien expressed their gratitude, especially to the Law Foundation of Ontario that has provided substan- tial funding to the project. Roy McMurtry, former Ontario chief justice and attorney general, was also in attendance. As one of the architects of the Charter, he reflected on how much politics have changed over the past 30 years. McMurtry was involved in the negotiations of the 1981 Kitchen Accord that played a key role in the patriation of the Constitution. "I think of the many months that I worked with Jean Chrétien and Roy Romanow to assist in reaching of a consensus," he said. "It wasn't until later that I realized that the three of us represented three dif- ferent political parties, three differ- ent regions of the country, three different linguistic and cultural traditions. It was a form of non- partisanship, which unfortunately I don't think could exist in Ottawa Byron Pascoe, left, and Michael O'Brien helped launch the Charter Project at Osgoode Hall last week. today given the excessive partisan- ship that seems to have taken over." Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley, whose son Robert currently attends Windsor's law school, was the keynote speaker at the event. He suggested that Canadians don't always realize how lucky they are to have the Charter. "I believe that most Canadians feel sufficiently confident in our political system . . . so the discus- sion about rights and freedoms is very much secondary in people's minds to concerns about things like the economy, the environment, and even our favourite sports teams," he said. "And I suggest for this we should probably be grateful." He added that people around the world are fighting and dying for the rights and freedoms that Canadians enjoy. Charter Project co-founder O'Brien says it's important to reflect on the successes and failures of the Charter. "A generation's about a perfect time to be able to reflect on achievements and question whether or not you've met your mark. And if you haven't met your mark, what can we do in order to get there?" he says. Although it may not be evident to the average Canadian, he says the Charter has a huge impact on the way people live their lives. "This is a constitutional document about rights and freedoms that underpin the values of our society and it actu- ally affects our everyday lives. And I think it's important that people try to find out why and how." But he acknowledges that ONTARIO LAWYER'S PHONE BOOK 2012 YOUR MOST COMPLETE DIRECTORY OF ONTARIO LAWYERS, LAW FIRMS, JUDGES AND COURTS With more than 1,400 pages of essential legal references, Ontario Lawyer's Phone Book is your best connection to legal services in Ontario. 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There are several key aspects to the Charter Project, including public service announcements fea- turing Canadian celebrities such as Rick Mercer, Paul Gross, Howie Mandel, and Alex Trebek. As of March 16, Cineplex Media will be airing the videos in theatres leading up to the Charter's anniversary on April 17. The students are also in discussions with several TV net- works to air the videos. In addition, the Charter Project has partnered with the Canadian Bar Association to develop work- shops for high school students on Law Day to provide education about the Charter. Another initiative involves on-camera interviews with legal experts such as former Supreme Court of Canada justices Ian Binnie and Frank Iacobucci, Ontario Ombudsman André Marin, crimi- nal lawyer Patrick Ducharme, and several Windsor law professors. Organizers are also trying to raise funds to establish a social jus- tice fellowship to enable a law stu- dent to work for a Canadian social justice organization during the summer months. As the majority of the stu- dents involved with the Charter Project will be graduating this year, O'Brien says they're working on their legacy plan but notes it'll definitely continue on. "It's important for law students to get involved because we're getting into a profession that's a public ser- vice profession and we need to be able to serve the public and connect with the public," he says. LT Project involves educational campaign about constitutional document Profession gearing up for Charter' s 30th Phot o: H ea ther G ar diner

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