Ottawa’s Dare to Dream mock trial took place on Monday, January 12, 2015 at Rideau High School. Melinda Andrews, one of our articling students at Nelligan O’Brien Payne, participated in this year’s program as a volunteer, along with other lawyers and students in the Ottawa area, helping students prepare for their roles in the mock trial. Melinda is enthusiastic about the program, which she has found to be a rewarding experience, and said, “It is a great bunch of students we are working with!”
Dare to Dream is an innovative justice education and outreach program for First Nation, Métis and Inuit youth aged 11 to 14 in Canada. It is run by Canadian Lawyers Abroad (CLA) in collaboration with Indigenous leaders, the legal community and like-minded non-profit organizations. Accessibility to justice for Indigenous people in Canada is a significant concern, with Indigenous people overrepresented at every stage of the criminal justice process, and underrepresented in its administration.
The program is aimed at breaking down barriers early by building relationships between Indigenous youth and the legal community. It exposes Indigenous youth to the positive side of the justice system, and expands their understanding of it, as well as highlighting the importance of incorporating Indigenous practices into the justice system, through fun experiential learning activities. The ability to interact with lawyers, judges and law students in these activities increases accessibility of the legal system, and challenges Indigenous youth to set positive goals for the future, “daring to dream” about pursuing a law-related career.
Dare to Dream operates in Calgary, Ottawa, Saskatoon, the Siksika Nation, and Toronto. This year, Ottawa students from Rideau and Queen Elizabeth Public School took part in the program’s mock trial. For more information about the Dare to Dream program, you can view CBC News coverage on this year’s mock trial or view this video by Canadian Lawyers Abroad.