Concordia students now have the opportunity to see the inner-workings of the Court of Quebec through select judges.
“Getting the acceptance letter moved me beyond happiness,” said pilot project participant Gelu Balan, a student in the Law and Society program.“[It] filled me with the sense that I was slowly paying my parents back, for all the sacrifices they had to make to bring us to this country, and to give me the life they would have never been able to envision us having back home.”
Balan is among the seven students who were chosen for this pilot project, which starts in the Winter 2020 semester. The dean of Arts and Science, along with Scott Hughes, senior associate chief judge of the Court of Quebec, signed an agreement for a three-year relationship between Concordia and the court. There will be a different group of students involved each term.
Jurist-in-residence and retired chief judge of the Municipal Court of Montreal, Morton Minc, along with Robin Schiller, director of programming for the project, are spearheading this new partnership with the Court of Quebec. Next semester, the seven students will each partner with a judge from the Court of Quebec. They will have the opportunity to immerse themselves with the inner workings of the court, observe trials and have a sit-down with the judge after the trial to discuss the complexities behind the decision.
Understanding and knowing the legal system is an important element in a free and democratic society,” said Minc.
Minc continued that the project is a necessary bridge between the abstract nature of university studies and the realities of the court.
“We were looking for ways to get students out of the classroom and out of the university, to see the things they are learning about in action,” said Law and Society Program Director Eric Reiter. “One of the great things about having a Jurist-in-residence at Concordia is [giving students the opportunity to have] this sort of practical and experienced-based learning.”
For students like Balan, it’s a dream come true. He is aiming to become a criminal defence attorney who specializes in juvenile crime. “I want to gain the tools necessary to one day serve as a buffer between the accused and the state. I do not want to stand-by while youths have their lives destroyed before they even begin,” he said.
Reiter explained this project is unprecedented for a university that doesn’t have a Faculty of Law, and will give Concordia students the opportunity to understand how complicated the justice system really is.
“I think this will really give them a sense of how the justice system responds to much more everyday problems, rather than the big national issues that we tend to hear about in the media,” said Reiter. “[The Court of Quebec] is much closer to people and their ordinary concerns.”
The students who were chosen for the pilot project were carefully selected because, as Reiter explained, it’s quite demanding on the court. Invitations were sent to students based on specific criteria, such as bilingualism, high academic achievement, and their progress in the program. They also had to have completed specific classes in order to understand some of the content they will be faced with in court.
“I felt honored that my hard work and dedication over the past few years enabled me to be one of the students considered for this project,” said Balan. “I wish to acquire skill-sets that will enable me to do my part in the process of making the world a better place, one case at a time. I really hope that studying law will grant me the opportunity to do something meaningful and right with my life.”
Graphic and photo collaboration by Britanny Clarke and @sundaeghost