The Beaverbrook Canadian Foundation’s gift to McGill’s High School Outreach Program continued to open doors for local teenagers as 170 high school students from Montreal and its surrounding areas took part in a day-long symposium at the Faculty of Law this spring.

Toting Jansport backpacks and sporting Converse sneakers, the high school students streamed into New Chancellor Day Hall: many of them were entering a university building for the first time but they adapted quickly to their new academic environment. Through a series of workshops and discussions organized by the faculty and by the non-profit organization Éducaloi, they entered into vigorous debates spanning a host of issues, from the importance of privacy law to the value of graffiti to the legal rights accorded to children and teenagers.

High school students enjoying lunch in the sunshine

“The symposium continued the High School Outreach Program’s efforts to engage younger students in meaningful interaction with members of the law community,” said Assistant Dean of Admissions and Recruitment, Ali Martin-Mayer. These interactions included sessions with faculty students and professors as well as with practitioners and enforcement officials. RCMP Sergeant Mike McCrory spoke about an the implications of digital cameras in video-equipped police cars while doctoral student Karen Crawley led a lively discussion about making space for graffiti on the streets of Montreal.

“We worked throughout the school year with our partner schools to encourage these students’ interest in issues of law, citizenship and society,” Martin-Mayer said, noting that students from the faculty paid between four to six visits to each of McGill’s five partner high schools: Kahnawake Survival School, James Lyng High School, LaSalle Community Comprehensive High School, École secondaire Pierre-Dupuy and Beurling Academy.

LaSalle student Eddie Lomhaf echoed Martin-Mayer’s emphasis on repeated visits between the students: “This year, we were visited multiple times by the McGill students and each and every visit was fun and interesting. They touched upon all the basics and gave us a good perspective on how law functioned. The McGill students were very understanding, kind, fun and cool. I just hope I can experience it all again next year.”

With a break for lunch on the faculty campus under sunny skies and an afternoon of workshops devoted to environmental law and entertainment law, as well as a detailed outline of the steps of the judiciary process led by the Honorable Court of Quebec judge, Salvatore Mascia, the day’s events helped the high school students feel at home in an institution of tertiary education.

Indeed, the symposium awakened in LaSalle student Alex Brunet aspirations to one day study law. “I was never really sure what I wanted to do in life but once my eyes were opened to law I said to myself that this is a job I could do,” he said. “I am very grateful for this opportunity to see what the study of law is really about.”

By Victoria Leenders-Cheng