Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Too controversial for high school?

Good Day Readers:

After checking out this next article, we wondered if Canadians were given a very basic test on The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms how many (excluding the legal community) would pass? We dare say most would fail miserably yet in one way or another it touches everyone's lives some more than others.

Upon further reflection, the words of a Winnipeg secondary school teacher from a few years ago came to mind. "Go into any classroom and ask for a show of hands of those students whose parents are separated, divorced, come from a blended family or are at the centre of a custody dispute and at least 50% will indicate in the affirmative.

Next we wondered what, if anything, are school divisions doing about it? Anywhere in the system is a basic course in family law tailored to the needs of secondary school students offered or is the subject too controversial - taboo as it were? If not why not? Is the reality being swept under the carpet as if it doesn't exist too embarrassing to be discussed?
Why not introduce an optional course for those students interested on the basics of family law in Manitoba. Here you're talking about The Family Law Division of Court of Queen's Bench. This would not be advocacy for one side or another in a dispute or offer advice, rather, this is what divorce law says in the province or this is custody law, etc. Perhaps bring in a lawyer specializing in family law to teach the course as a pilot project. Check the daily docket any day at The Law Courts and there you will find several family law cases - guaranteed.

If nothing else at least students through no fault of their own caught in the middle would have a better appreciation of what's happening, what's coming and how they will likely be impacted. Too controversial? Anyone have thoughts on the subject?

Clare L. Pieuk
The Charter as told to children whimsical and learned, lawyers 14-book series five years in the making

By Valerie Mutton
June 1, 2012 Issue

Dustin Mulligan, seen at his Tyne Valley, Prince Edward Island home, came up with a children's book series on the Charter in law school.(Photo by Ella Hutt for The Lawyers Weekly)

It was in his first year at McGill Law School that the creative spark struck Dustin Milligan: Why not produce a book that introduces children to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms?

“I was in the Human Rights Working Group at McGill, and I proposed it as a great idea that someone should do someday, but no one took me up on it — ​so I decided to do it myself,” Milligan recalled.

And now, five years in the making, the young lawyer from Tyne Valley, PEI, has seen his idea come to fruition with the launch of the book series The Charter for Children.

McGill professor Shauna Van Praagh was Milligan’s academic advisor for the project, which he completed for credit over two terms after receiving approval for the unusual idea from the associate Dean.

“As he undertook this project for academic credit he needed to write a guiding manual for the adult who would be reading this to the children, to provide guiding questions and leading cases to initiate conversation,” Van Praagh said.

But Milligan, who also holds an undergraduate double honours degree in history and political science from the University of Ottawa, couldn’t let go of the project after graduating from McGill. From finding a publisher to collaborating with various illustrators for each book, completing the series became both a labour of love and an exercise in persistence.

In time for the 30th anniversary of the Charter, the first six of the 14-book series, published by DC Canada Education Publishing, have been released. They provide a lighthearted and whimsical, yet thought-provoking look at our most important rights and freedoms.

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Lobster features a lobster who loves to paint, and becomes a heroine in her town of Shediac, New Brunswich, when she mounts a visual protest through her artwork against a gang of crabs who impose a law that no one can speak in public.

The Golden Hook tells the story of a cod named Aatma, from St. John’s Harbour, Newfoundland, who is banished from school for wearing a golden hook, a symbol of her religion, “Newfinism.”

And in A Large Jaw in Moose Jaw, a moose named Noah illustrates the right to participate and be included. The story discusses the themes of discrimination, equality in spite of mental or physical disabilities, and the need to accommodate those with differences, when Noah is denied the opportunity to audition for Moose Jaw Idol because his jaw is too big for the microphone.

With a nod to Canadian cultural icons, the stories feature characters such as Alanis Moosette, Justin Beaver and Anne of Green Tomatoes (who takes on the “Veggislature” over an unfair law).

“Each book deals with a different right or freedom, and takes place within a different province or territory,” Milligan said. “The stories start with the infringement of a right or freedom and then the main character seeks to overcome the infringement by civil or political engagement.”

Milligan hopes that the books will form part of school curriculums across the country; the aim is to foster discussion among the teacher or parent, and the children.

“At the end of every story is a note for parents and teachers which gives greater background into the right or freedom being addressed and the impact of the law.”

Milligan said the response so far to the series has been positive. The principal of a local school in his home province of PEI read them to his class, and later some of the students spoke to him about the books and their message.

“The highlight for me is hearing the kids recount the lessons. To have them talk about those concepts is really rewarding,” said Milligan who also has just completed an internship with the Canadian Bar Association, working in South Africa on constitutional litigation.

Van Praagh hopes the stories will encourage other law students to think about different ways their profession can affect others positively. “I think this will inspire other law students and lawyers to see that a creative approach to the law is not just valid, but really important and helpful to becoming a better lawyer.”

Van Praagh was impressed that Milligan viewed the Charter with fresh eyes: “For law students, the Charter is like a piece of the furniture, and yet, it got Dustin inspired.”


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