Justice is (ob)served

Fifteen aboriginal students meet with Justice LaForme, McMillan LLP lawyers and staff
Fifteen aboriginal students meet with Justice LaForme, McMillan LLP lawyers and staff

Only five months after their mock trial of an assault case made The Globe and Mail, students of the First Nations School of Toronto toured the halls of a real courthouse and a law firm.

The 15 seventh- and eighth-graders went on a field trip to the Ontario Court of Appeal and McMillan LLP on May 16 as part of Dare to Dream, a Canadian Lawyers Abroad program that teaches Aboriginal youth about the law and encourages them to pursue careers in the field.

Justice Harry LaForme, the first Aboriginal judge to be appointed to an appellate court in Canada, spoke to the students about the importance of their common heritage and showed them the various native displays in his office.

“In my chambers as you can see, I surround myself with who I am and it’s very important to me. Remember, it’s important who you are,” said LaForme to the students. “You’re the next wave, you guys are going to go out there and make us all proud.”

Before visiting the court, the group began their day at McMillan, where several lawyers explained their roles at the firm before sending the kids on a scavenger hunt around the office. The students then interviewed IT technicians, event coordinators and other firm employees in legally-related professions over a pizza lunch.

“So many kids at this age don’t know what they want to do…it’s almost impossible for them to even think about [a career in law] unless you open their eyes to the possibility,” said Jeffrey Rogers, a partner at McMillan who led his firm’s participation in the program. “It’s sort of student recruitment at a new level.”

Dare to Dream’s program will operate in Toronto and Calgary next year.