“All rise! Girl Guide Court of the Northwest Territories is now in session.”
Those words opened one of the most unusual court sessions ever seen North of 60 — or maybe anywhere — as girls aged 9-11 were selected as jurors in a bicycle theft trial.
On February 12 the first Yellowknife Guides were joined by Judge Schmaltz of the Supreme Court of the Northwest Territories, along with Crown Prosecutors Sarah Arngna’naaq and Jennifer Mickelson from the
Public Prosecution Service of Canada. In what must be one of the fastest jury trials ever seen, Guider Andrea Korpel testified to having her bike stolen. Guiders Whitney Fisher and Beth Rowlandson played the parts of the accused thief and a witness. The setting – a church basement – closely resembled a typical “courtroom” in Canada’s north, where courthouses are rare and legal proceedings often take place in community halls and school gyms.
It may have been a “mock” trial, but the lawyers took their roles seriously. The young jurors responded in kind, listening closely to the witnesses’ evidence and the judge’s explanation of their role.
The trial may have been speedy, but the jury deliberations, fueled by delicious snacks made by the judge, were not. The girls finally reached a unanimous “Not Guilty” verdict.
The purpose of the exercise was to educate the Guides about the legal system and to increase their comfort level with it, as well as to expose them to community role models. From the snippets of jury conversation audible through the wall (good thing it wasn’t a real trial!), and post-trial discussions, it was obvious that the exercise succeeded. The Guides left the meeting with a new awareness of criminal justice — and of careers they might aspire to.
By guest blogger Paul Falvo, mock trial organizer, Guide parent, and real-life defence lawyer.
What’s your Guiding story? If your unit has participated in a one-of-a-kind event, we want to hear about it! Send your blog pitch to: ggcblog(at)girlguides.ca.