By Patricia Valeri Tortis
On October 28th, 2020, the Ontario Justice Education Network (OJEN) led a province-wide Twitter Moot and students from across Hamilton were able to sign up and participate.
Students from across Ontario participated in the online debate/discussion by tweeting their opinions either individually or in teams/classes. The Hamilton Justice Education Network (HJEN) came up with this fun and engaging justice initiative five years ago and there have been robust debates with students from across Hamilton on a variety of issues usually around cell phones and privacy issues.
OJEN decided to run a province-wide Twitter Moot this year and provide students with a fun opportunity to learn about an important and contentious legal issue. This year, the OJEN Twitter Moot debated whether peremptory challenges in criminal jury trials should be banned.
This is a very timely legal issue in criminal circles and students had to review and think about the materials provided by OJEN that raised important legal issues on both sides of the debate. Peremptory challenges in a criminal jury trial allow the crown or defence to remove a potential juror without giving a reason and it was seen as a highly contentious issue in the case of Gerald Stanley in February 2018, a Saskatchewan farmer acquitted of second-degree murder of an Indigenous man, Colton Boushie.
I’m very proud to announce that a Grade 12 Law student named Daniela Lemus won the Twitter Moot! She learned about the law banning peremptory challenges, why this is such a timely legal issue and the recent cases where the use of peremptory challenges was questioned. Then she engaged in a very respectful and meaningful debate with her peers around the province.
Her winning tweet reads as follows:
“Peremptory challenges are a tool that defence lawyers use to ensure there are diverse juries so perhaps they should not be banned. The ban of peremptory challenges was a knee-jerk reaction to the Boushie case. While PC challenges can serve as a tool and an obstruction to aid in diverse juries – perhaps the real issue lays in HOW a lawyer can use PC challenges. Maybe there should be regulations that outline to what extent Peremptory challenges can be used.”
Congratulations to all the students of the HWCDSB that participated in this worthwhile initiative. You represented our Board well and we look forward to debating further issues online in future Twitter debates.