A group of Cold Lake High School (CLHS) students showed off their knowledge of the law earlier this month when they competed at a mock trial tournament in Edmonton.
Eight students and two teachers travelled down to an Edmonton courthouse on April 16 to compete against other schools in the province in a series of mock trials. After three trials CLHS students finished third out of 11 schools.
“Honestly there were 11 teams and our goal was not to finish last,” said teacher David Whan, who was shocked at how well his students competed.
For the first time in the school's history, students from CLHS decided to partake in the annual mock trial tournament and spent the better part of March and April preparing for the event.
The tournament is held on Law Day, which is celebrated on the Saturday closest to April 17 every year. Law Day was first proclaimed by Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau in 1983 and aims to educate and inform the public about the role and importance of the law.
Approximately three weeks before the event the school was sent an information package complete with all of the evidence, witness statements and other documents they would need to prepare for the trials.
“We received photographs of the evidence and affidavits from each of the witnesses. The students then had to come up with a way to prosecute the trial and a way to defend the defendant,” said Whan.
In order to help the students become better prepared for the event, Whan and colleague Tanya Hedberg sought advice from a local law firm. They met with Stephanie Oleksyn and Chantelle Dery-Wicht of Todd & Drake LLP.
“They came in and talked to the kids, gave them advice, explained the Criminal Code of Canada and just shared with them what it is like to be a lawyer,” said Whan.
The law team then spent the next two weeks preparing for each possible case, building an argument as prosecutor and working on a defense. Once they felt they were ready Oleksyn and Dery-Wicht came back in and walked the students through a mock trial, offering tips along the way.
“They helped the kids and coached them along the way. Without them I don't know how well we would have placed. They were a huge help,” said Whan.
In Edmonton their first trial was against a team of students from Old Scona Academic High School. Even though they were in tough against a more experienced team the CLHS students were able to successfully defend their case and won the trial.
“We were very shocked. We had never competed and they compete each and every year. When we knew we were going to beat them we were over the moon,” said Whan.
After another victory over the Edmonton Islamic School the CLHS students were in a rematch the Old Scona with third place on the line. They defeated the school a second time and picked up the third place finish.
“I think they learned a lot,” said Whan. “They learned about the law, about debating, how to public speak and they learned how to look at the littlest detail and rip it apart to show how it wasn't true, or how to reinforce details to show how true they were.”
The group of eight Grade 11 students are all eager to go back and compete in the event again next year with the hope of improving on a third place finish.