Thank you to all who participated in the Walsh Family Law Moot and Negotiation Competition on Saturday, March 13th.
We are pleased to announce the recipients of this year’s event:
BEST APPELLANT FACTUM
University of Toronto (Raoof Zamanifar and Venessa Sectakof)
BEST RESPONDENT FACTUM
University of Ottawa (Connor Henderson and Taylor Bain)
2ND TOP ORALIST
Hannah Lank (University of Toronto)
PHILIP M. EPSTEIN AWARD FOR TOP ORALIST
Florian Nagy (University of Toronto)
SECOND HIGHEST CUMULATIVE SCORE FOR A TEAM
Kevin Mac Neil
(University of Windsor)
HIGHEST CUMULATIVE SCORE FOR A TEAM
(University of Toronto)
1st – Valerie Sedlezky (Osgoode Hall Law School)
2nd – Chelsea Walwyn (University of Ottawa)
3rd – Julianna Galifi (University of Windsor)
1st – Danielle Talbot & Sabrina Mangiapane (University of Windsor)
2nd – Chelsea Walwyn & Paige Miraglia (Team 1, University of Ottawa)
3rd – Omair Jafrani & Mirsa Duka (Team 2, University of Ottawa)
BEST NEGOTIATION PLAN
Keith Davis and Antoinette Monardo (Osgoode Hall Law School)
It takes a village to raise a virtual moot and negotiation competition!
Many thanks to the judges who gave up their Saturday to preside over the competitions and who were charged with the difficult task of scoring and ranking such a skilled and talented group of law students. Their encouraging and constructive feedback was much appreciated by the students.
Negotiation Competition Judges
Justice Heather McGee
Justice Lene Madsen
Justice Jennifer Mackinnon
Justice Alex Finlayson
Justice Tracey Nieckarz
Justice Manjusha Pawagi
Justice Kendra Coats
Justice James Diamond
Justice Philip Sutherland
Justice Julie Audet
Justice Marylou Benotto
Justice Suzanne Stevenson
Justice Lise Parent
Justice George Czutrin
Justice George McPherson
Justice Stanley Sherr
Justice Andrea Himel
Justice Marvin Kurz
Justice Sheilagh O’Connell
We are also very grateful to those who agreed to take on the difficult and painstaking task of marking facta. Again, their time and effort is greatly appreciated, along with the thoughtful comments and suggestions provided to the student competitors.
Thanks are also due to our volunteer timekeepers, who also gave up their Saturday to support the event. Without their assistance, we would not been able to ensure that students, judges, coaches and observers were in the right zoom breakout rooms at the right time, or that the competitions proceeded within the tightframes established in the rules, or that all of the scores were submitted on time. In short, without their help, it would not have been possible to run this complex event.
Cindy Holovac Leithead
Finally, we owe a huge debt of gratitude to the dedicated members of the various organizing committees, who devoted hours and hours of their personal time between August and March to planning and organizing this event. They are:
Carolyn Leach, Chair
Michael Zalev, Negotiation Co-Chair
Mary-Anne Popescu, Negotiation Co-Chair
Sina Hariri, Moot Chair
Tanya Road, Sponsorship
Kathy Batycky, Sponsorship
Zachary Liquornik, Sponsorship
Negotiation Competition Sub-Committee
As always, we are very grateful for the generosity of our sponsors and volunteers. This event would not be possible without your support.
What goes into planning this annual event? When do preparations begin?
There are many people involved with putting this together: a moot subcommittee, a negotiation competition subcommittee, a sponsorship subcommittee, and then a larger coordinating committee composed of the chairs of the subcommittees and myself. The event takes place in March each year, and we typically begin planning for the event in September. Over the fall, the work is focused on bringing together the committee and subcommittees, selecting the case for the moot, and developing the problem for the negotiation competition.
This year, however, we began work in the spring. By then, it was already pretty clear that we were unlikely to be able to host an in-person event due to Covid restrictions. We needed to begin thinking about how it could be adapted as a virtual event and what professional support we would need to get us there. Over the summer, we worked on finding a vendor to help us with the technological aspects of the now-virtual event, and then began planning in earnest in September. The coordinating committee has met every couple of weeks since September, and will now be meeting on a weekly basis until March 13.
When did the Walsh Family Law Moot & Negotiation Competition begin, and why?
The AFCC-O hosted the first Walsh Family Law Moot in 2013. While there were several mooting competitions available to law students at that time, none was focused on family law. patti cross, who was the driving force behind establishing the Walsh moot, saw the moot as an opportunity to promote family law as a career path for talented young lawyers – to respond to the real need for family lawyers in the province, especially outside the larger urban centres. She was soon joined by Steven Benmor in managing the event.
The competition was named after the late Justice George Walsh, to honour his contribution to the development of family law in Ontario (see the AFCC-O website Walsh page under “Events” for more details).
In 2015, the event expanded to include a negotiation competition, which was the brainchild of Justice Heather McGee and Justice Jennifer Mackinnon, brought into fruition by Tami Moscoe and Elizabeth Hyde.
Why did you want to get involved with this event?
I actually volunteered as a judge the first year that the moot took place. Appellate litigation was one of my favourite aspects of my practice at the Office of the Children’s Lawyer (OCL), plus I have always enjoyed working with our law students. As well, I shared Patti’s view that Ontario needed more bright young family lawyers and I was happy to be part of initiative that would promote this area of law. So, this was a very appealing volunteer role. I jumped at the opportunity to take over from Justice Clay as committee chair of the event and have thoroughly enjoyed the role. The very hard-working and dedicated Walsh coordinating committee makes it easy, and their teams devote hours and hours of their time to make the event a success.
I have participated as a judge in both competitions (moot and negotiation) at various times over the years, and always felt that it was a terrific event. As a lawyer, it’s great to see firsthand, from the perspective of a judge, what works and doesn’t work when making submissions. I really think this aspect has helped me improve my own advocacy.
What are the highlights of being involved in this event?
The highlights for me every year are (1) being completely blown away by the talent and skill demonstrated by the students in both competitions; and (2) the sense of the family law community coming together to provide this opportunity for law students, whether by volunteering or by providing sponsorship funds, all in the name of improving the quality of our family law bar and providing better service to families and children experiencing separation and divorce.
What do you think the event does for students, and for those judging?
For students, it’s a fantastic opportunity to develop practical advocacy and negotiation skills that will serve them well, no matter what kind of practice they take up. It can also be an opportunity to connect with family lawyers, mediators, and judges.
Judges and other volunteers generally find it very rewarding to be part of the growth and development of law students, and enjoy that sense of joining with the broader family law community to make the Walsh a success. Also, for those looking for articling students, it’s a great way to check out the talent!
How has COVID-19 changed the event this year?
It’s pretty much turned it upside down. Normally, we kick off the event with a cocktail party for competitors, judges, volunteers, and sponsors, hosted by Epstein Cole. That obviously can’t happen given the Covid restrictions, so we are reconceptualizing it as a fun virtual event – details to follow in the coming weeks! The competitions themselves will proceed in the same format, although they will take place entirely via zoom. Due to the complexity of the event (we will have 30 separate Zoom break-out sessions to coordinate, plus judges and timekeepers to move around), we have hired a vendor to plan and execute the technical side of the event. The vendor has also created an online scoring system for us – no more running from room to room collecting scoring sheets and tallying up the scores!
Finally, the Walsh usually culminates in a wonderful luncheon and awards ceremony, which will be replaced by a more streamlined online event this year. It has been a challenge, for sure, but also quite fun to figure out how to make it work. Unfortunately, the new technological requirements have also meant that this year’s Walsh Event is going to be quite expensive to produce and host, so we are really counting on the generosity of our sponsors to pull this off. We’ve reconceptualized our sponsorship grid and have come up with some exciting new ways to promote our sponsors and recognize their support. It would be great to have some new sponsors come on board and become part of this event!
The Task Force appointed by the AFCC-O prepared its Parenting Plan Guide and Parenting Plan Template to assist parents, lawyers, mediators and judges in developing child-focused, realistic parenting plans. The process of preparation of these materials involved input and review by many members of the AFCC-O.
These materials were released in January 2020 and are being used by lawyers and mediators to help prepare their clients for making parenting plans, as well as used directly by self-represented litigants. They have also been cited by judges as a “very helpful” source of information for parents and the courts: Saunders v. Ormsbee-Posthumus, 2020 ONSC 2300, J.N. v. A.S, 2020 ONSC 5292. The materials have been presented at a number of AFCC-O sponsored webinars for Ontario family justice professionals on making parenting plans, most recently in the Kingston area on January 27, 2021.
The AFCC-O Board has decided to undertake a revision of the materials in light of experiences to date, and the fact that the CLRA and Divorce Act amendments will be in force as of March 1, 2021. The members of the original Task Force have agreed to undertake this project (except for Andrea Himel, who is now a judge), and with some members added to better reflect the professional, linguistic and cultural diversity of the province.
The materials have generally been very well received, but there have been some specific suggestions for possible minor revisions, such as encouraging parents to add an extra day for long weekends rather than having special provisions that can lead to a “three weekends in a row” situation for parents with an alternating weekend arrangement.
It has also been proposed that the materials should more explicitly recognize the “maximum parenting time,” though the words “maximum contact” have actually been removed in new legislation, so this proposal is controversial.
The Task Force has begun its work, but suggestions and comments are still welcome. Please send by Monday Feb.22 to the Task Force Chair at email@example.com
Funding is being sought from the Department of Justice to allow for translation of the materials and to assist with publication, education and research related to these materials and parenting plans.
Task Force Members (Version 2.0)
Nicholas Bala, Law professor, Kingston (Chair)
Rachel Birnbaum, Social Work professor, London
Brian Burke, family lawyer, Toronto
Antoinette Clarke, mediator, Peel Region
Crystal George, Co-ordinator of Social Services, Aamjiwnaang First Nation, Sarnia
Kim Harris, psychologist, London
Carolyn Leach, Children’s Lawyer, Toronto
Archana Medhekar, family lawyer and mediator, Toronto
Rana Pishva, psychologist, Ottawa
Dr. Shelly Polak, psychologist, Toronto
Vicky Ringette, family lawyer and mediator, Hamilton
Michael Saini, Social Work professor, University of Toronto
Jennifer Wilson, family lawyer, Toronto
As 2020 (finally!) comes to a close, on behalf of AFCC-O, we would like to wish you and your loved ones a safe, joyous and restful holiday season.
This year has been like no other, with many experiencing personal and professional tolls and challenges. However, it has also been a year which highlights human strength and resilience, adaptability, families and communities coming together, and the important work we do for children and families.
While the objective of moving court services online has long been pending, COVID-19 has fast tracked the planning into reality. The change has been transformative, a modern day industrial revolution. Service and filing of court materials takes place electronically, making fax machines relics of the past. For the most part, meetings, dispute resolution services and court attendances are virtual. Services are available without geographic barriers, the delivery of which is more expeditious, cost-effective and environmentally friendly. Many of these advances promote greater access to justice.
It is remarkable to see many professionals within our community step up and provide leadership on issues that affect child well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic including tips and guidance for more functional coparenting in times of stress and significant uncertainty. It is hoped that these silver linings brought out by this global pandemic continues.
As we look forward to positive change in 2021, I have hope that, together, we will be able to rise to new challenges and address needs before us. I look forward to being able to see you and thank you in person for all the work that you do.
May the light brought on by this holiday season shine on through 2021 .
Dr. Shely Polak,
“Domestic Violence in Immigrant Communities: Case Studies” is a freely accessible eCampus Ontario Pressbook containing case studies of immigrant women experiencing domestic violence to be used as educational materials. The contents were created by analysing closed legal case files of 15 immigrant women living in Ontario who experienced domestic violence. The comprehensive case studies that emerged from this research present domestic violence experienced by immigrant women in all its complexity, highlighting their unique vulnerability at the intersections of race, gender and immigration status. The book also highlights the different legal processes that these women encounter in seeking justice and the challenges they face in relation to re-establishing their own lives and the lives of their children. In addition to the cases, the book contains questions for reflection; a description of legal processes involved in DV cases, and a glossary of the terms used throughout the case studies. This interactive Pressbook is an ideal resource for social work and legal practitioners, including students in social service work, social work and law programs, in order to increase their understanding about the complexity of domestic violence cases in immigrant families and develop strategies for culturally informed interventions.
Good news! We are extending the call for proposals until the AFCC-O annual conference on October 16 (midnight). We appreciate that COVID-19 and the beginning of school at all levels has been a challenging time. Thank you to those who expressed an interest in putting in a proposal.
The AFCC is an interdisciplinary and international association of professionals dedicated to the resolution of family conflict. AFCC Ontario members share a strong commitment to education, innovation, and collaboration in order to benefit communities, empower families, and promote a healthy future for children.
In 2020, AFCC Ontario will award funding to a research project that provides relevant impact-driven insights into families following separation/divorce or co-parenting. We particularly encourage empirical and interdisciplinary research that could inspire effective interventions/solutions or policy initiatives.
This year a survey of the AFCC Ontario membership has identified the following priority themes:
The main focus of this call will be on the three themes outlined above; however, submissions outside the priority theme areas are welcome, as long as the proposal is original and relevant to AFCC Ontario’s stated mission.
SPECIFICATIONS FOR SUBMISSIONS
HOW TO APPLY
Please submit your proposal to firstname.lastname@example.org
ASSESSMENT OF PROPOSALS AND RESULTS
If you have any further enquiries about the aim of this call for proposals, the priority themes or the application procedure, please contact Dr. Kim Harris at email@example.com
AFCC-O congratulates past president, Andrea Himel, on her appontment as a Judge of the Superior Court of Justice of Ontario, Family Court Branch.
In addition to her role as a past president, Justice Himel was Co-Chair of the Conference and Research/Policy Committees. She was also a major contributor to the development and marketing of the AFCC-O’s Parenting Plan Guide and Template. Since 2012, Justice Himel has mentored students through the externship program at the University of Toronto, providing opportunities to learn about the family justice and child protection systems. Throughout her career, Justice Himel has been a frequent presenter at educational programs and has published articles on a variety of topics.
Each year AFCC International recognizes outstanding contributions of leaders in the field at its Annual Conference. This year’s awards were presented virtually, and AFCC Ontario Chapter members were honoured to receive two awards: Irwin Cantor Innovative Program Award, and Tim Salius President’s Award.
The Irwin Cantor Innovative Program Award was created to recognize innovation in court-connected or court-related programs created by a member of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts. Nominations for this award should be for programs, not individuals. The award is named for the late Hon. Irwin Cantor, former AFCC President.
The AFCC-O is a partner in the Ontario Family Law Limited Scope Services Project which is an important initiative to help improve access to affordable family legal services. Tami Moscoe accepted on behalf of the program. Read more about the program.
The Tim Salius President’s Award is presented annually to an AFCC member who has provided exemplary service to the association. In 2015, the award was named in honor of the late Anthony “Tim” Salius, the only two-term president in AFCC history. Under his leadership in the mid-1980s, AFCC expanded to a truly national and ultimately international organization. Mr. Salius served as Director of the Family Division of the Superior Court, Connecticut Judicial Branch, for 36 years during which time Connecticut became a leader in providing court-connected mediation services and in collaborating with the domestic violence advocacy community.
Barbara Fidler and Nicholas Bala served as guest editors of Family Court Review for the April 2020 special issue on parent-child contact problems, which features 17 articles on many aspects of the controversial, multifaceted topic.
Last year, Ellie — a cockapoo puppy — became our family dog as a birthday gift to our young son. She became his best companion and filled our home with joy and laughter. Ellie started to accompany me to the office, and in no time the office atmosphere became warmer and more affectionate. Ellie became the star attraction for my child clients, whom I represented in the family courts. Having a puppy around during interviews was the most effective ice breaker, as the children relaxed quickly around a furry friend. It made me curious about the new trend and effects of having trained dogs around children who are engaged in the justice system.
We have come a long way in understanding the profound effects of violence against children. Children who witness violence or are victims of abuse are at risk for long-term physical and mental health challenges. The Canadian legislature took seriously the various harmful effects of involving children in the legal process and passed the Testimonial Support Provisions for Children and Vulnerable Adults Act (Bill C-2) requiring that a child “shall” be permitted to testify via closed circuit television or from behind a screen. The Parliamentary debates leading to the enactment of Bill C-2 suggest that the accommodation of closed-circuit television is intended “to make it easier for child and youth witnesses to testify.” In the 1980’s in Ontario, this technology brought a wave of change by creating distance between the witness and the child victim via close-circuit television (CCTV) and privacy screens. Since 2014, children, youth, and vulnerable adult witnesses in criminal courtrooms now have the additional support of the courthouse facility dogs. From the use of technology to the companionship of animals, we have witnessed a profound shift in the judicial system, driven by various innovative child-focused justice system partners.
Since 2014 there has been a steady increase in the use of support animals by young and vulnerable witnesses in courtrooms across the country. Presently there is no specific provision in the Criminal Code for seeking testimonial aid, but the applications for a court facility dog to support a witness are made under s. 486 and s. 13 of the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights. Progress has been similar in the United States. In 2015, Arkansas became the first state to pass legislation allowing child witnesses to be accompanied by a certified facility dog while testifying, and half a dozen other states followed suit soon after.
In 2014, Hawk from the Calgary Police Victim Services Unit became the first dog to officially support a young witness while testifying. One year later, in a decision of the B.C. Provincial Court, R. v. J. L. K., (2015) B.C.J. No. 1055, Judge Oulton allowed an application to have Caber, an accredited assistance dog, to become the Province’s first in-court therapy dog. Judge Oulton noted in his decision that, “it is unusual that a dog come and be a support person to this young complainant,” but allowed the application as “the spirit and intent of the testimonial accommodation legislation was meant to ensure that witnesses who could be perceived as more vulnerable, were provided with support so that they could give full and candid accounts of what they were being asked to testify about in court.” As a result, Caber the therapy dog supported a nine-year-old complainant by sitting at her feet while she testified.
In Ontario, Brampton court invoked s. 13 of the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights, which states that “every victim has the right to request testimonial aids when appearing as a witness in proceedings relating to the offence” in the case of R. V. C.W O.J. No. 5647. The court allowed Gordon, a Golden Retriever and support dog from the organization “Therapeutic Paws of Canada,” to sit as a “testimonial aid” beside a young victim of human trafficking as she gave a highly emotional statement to the court.
Rachel Braden, Child Witness Project Coordinator at the London Family Court Clinic (“LFCC”), discussed the use of support animals in an interview for this article. She noted that there are currently 45 courthouse facility dogs working across Canada, and 11 of these dogs work in Ontario courts, including at London Courthouse Facility Dogs Project. Braden explains that a courthouse facility dog is a professionally trained assistance dog, suitable for providing quiet companionship to vulnerable individuals in legal settings without causing any disruption of the proceedings. Braden noted the distinct terminology of “facility dog” used by the London Courthouse Facility Dogs project, rather than other widely used interchangeable terms such as service dog or court support dog, etc., as these and other terms could suggest that the witness is suffering from a condition caused by the accused.
The London Courthouse Facility Dog Project uses professionally trained and accredited dogs to ensure that the dogs are not obstructive in the courtroom and are able to remain still and calm for long hours. The dogs should not react when a witness becomes emotionally distressed. Child witnesses meet the courthouse facility dog at least once before the court date, and the facility dogs typically sit at the feet of the witness during testimony. Their handlers are professionals in the justice system, who receive special training for this role and are skilled in working with vulnerable victims. They are also familiar with the legal system and courtroom behavioural norms. This differs from other examples of support animals in which dogs are required to be on leash while at work, and require the presence of their “civilian” handler who may be excluded from the courtroom.
Merel was the first facility dog to be placed in a courthouse setting in Ontario, and she was trained for London Family Court Clinic by National Service Dog (NSD), a not-for-profit organization in Cambridge, Ontario. Merel is a black Labrador/Bernese cross and she likes to sit on the feet of the child witnesses, laying her head on their lap. Since 2016, Merel has been supporting children who have testified about sexual abuse, human trafficking, or other crimes. Merel’s calm presence and helping paw have a positive impact on child witnesses, as clearly expressed by one 12 year old victim: “Without Merel, I would have never been able to talk about what happened to me”.
Via LFCC, Merel and Rachel have supported over 200 child witnesses and victims who have made statements, testified, or delivered victim-impact statements. Merel’s services are made available to all of those under 18 in the London region who have witnessed or been victims of a crime. Merel now has a friend to work alongside as Yzer has recently joined the team.
The calming effects of trained dogs on human health and well-being—both physically and psychologically—are largely supported by scientific studies. For example, see: Wells, D. L. (2009), “The effects of animals on human health and well-being”. Journal of Social Issues, 65, 523-543.). As such, the number of courthouse facility dogs across Canada is quickly growing. Many organizations are waiting for dogs to complete their training and become part of the support team. Courthouse facility dogs have helped numerous children deal with the fear of testifying in court and have enhanced their ability to tell their story to the court. These dogs are indeed an innovative way of allowing children to use their voices.
Archana Medhekar, Certified Family Law Specialist and Family Mediator practicing in Toronto, Ontario. Archana was a member of PPC and is a current AFCC-O Board Member and Newsletter Committee member.