|Faculty of Law students take treaty talks to high schools|
|Posted Wednesday, April 4, 2012 9:56 AM|
|In the library of a Winnipeg high school, a group of students and teachers listen to a panel speak about the state of Aboriginal education in Canada. Among the panelists is an animated third-year law student from U of M’s Faculty of Law, sharing what he has learned about residential schools. |
Across the city, a first-year law student speaks to a group of newcomers to Canada about the Charter and what it means to Canadians. “My students really liked the part of the presentation about how human rights apply in real-life situations. They could have probably asked a zillion questions about that,” says Heidi Reimer, who teaches English as an additional language.
In a Grade 10 geography class, another law student shares what she knows about Aboriginal hunting rights. Using three precedent-setting cases, she explains the concept of Treaty rights from the perspective of each stakeholder.
The presenters are volunteer students from the Faculty of Law who are giving their time and knowledge to help make the law more accessible at the high school level.
The university’s new Centre for Human Rights Research has been fielding requests for speakers since it was established. Law student Dayna Steinfeld agreed to speak during Human Rights Day at Elmwood High School in spring 2011 to students interested in learning more about the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Soon, the need of students and teachers across Winnipeg for information that connects their curriculum and the law in an accessible manner became apparent.
The Centre for Human Rights Research initiated a Speakers Bureau for the 2011-2012 academic year with assistance from the Faculty of Law Endowment Fund. The idea was to connect volunteer law students with teachers and their classes who want to learn more about how the law relates to human rights, the Charter and Aboriginal issues.
Third-year law student Brendan Jowett spoke to Kimberly McDonald’s Grade 7 class at Seven Oaks Middle School. “My students enjoyed the presentation and were engaged during the entire afternoon. It was an excellent addition to the human rights component of our social studies curriculum,” McDonald commented.
Over the past five years, the Manitoba government has made many changes to the curriculum, particularly in the social studies area. Emphasis has been placed on First Nations, not only their culture and contribution to history, but what it means to be a First Nations citizen today.
“The issue of land claims is so new to many of the students and very, very new in the curriculum. It is great to have someone with more expertise in the area to help frame it for students,” said Grade 10 Geography teacher Candice Behrendt.
Law students involved in the program have an opportunity to make connections with the community, hone their speaking skills and become confident in their new knowledge.
“The speaking engagement was one of the best experiences that I have had in a long time. It gave me hope about Aboriginal issues. I feel that the students took a lot from it and gained a better understanding of what is currently and historically occurring regarding Aboriginal rights,” said first-year law student Monica Shannon.
Teachers appreciate that the volunteers avoid “legalese” and explain concepts in a way that is not above the students’ comprehension level.
“I think it’s a fabulous idea to have young people do the presentations, as students are far more inclined to listen to someone who is younger. The speaker had a great sense of humour, so it got them tuned in and was more fun than it might have been had she been very serious or professorial,” Behrandt said.
CHRR academic director and U of M Law professor Karen Busby works with the volunteer law students to refine their presentations and answer any questions they may have on a given topic.
“The Speakers Bureau not only provides a service to the community, but also gives law students a chance to share the knowledge they have gained and to practice presentation skills. Robson Hall professors work hard to find enhanced learning opportunities for our students,” she said.
The Speakers Bureau currently has 28 volunteer law students, primarily from first year. Since September 2011, students have spoken to more than 20 classes. The free presentations have been offered in both French and English from September to April, however, arrangements can sometimes be made for presentations outside of those months.
|For more information, contact:|
Faculty of Law
Phone: (204) 480-1452
Fax: (204) 474-7580