Youth and The Law Media Project

Over the past two months dedicated staff from Regent Park Focus Youth Media Arts Centre has been working with young people at John Polanyi Collegiate Institute (JPCI), a Toronto District public school located in the Lawrence Heights area, to run a 12 week after-school project. The project is dedicated to educating young people about the law and was funded by the Ontario Law Foundation. 15 high school aged youth registered in the program. Here is a summary of the project to date.

The first session began on February 16th with the facilitators, Adonis Huggins and Patrick Reynolds, introducing themselves and finding out more about the program participants through name games and ice breakers. This was followed by a discussion about the goals and objectives of the program and finally an exercise to determine how knowledgeable the youth were about difference between Civic Law and Criminal Law. Most of the youth had very little understanding of the difference between Civic and Criminal law.

In the second session held on February 23rd, the program explored young people's perceived access to the Justice System. Almost everyone reported feeling uncomfortable about dealing with issues related to the Justice System including their comfort in accessing a lawyer, filing a police complaint, disputing a ticket or a fine, and finding out their rights. Afterwards the group played a game exploring common myths related to the justice system and broke out into small groups reflecting on different production roles related to filming.

The third session, held on March 2nd, focused entirely on understanding the camera and the different angles that are used in a production.

In the fourth session, held on March 9th, the group reflected on an employment scenario in which a young waiter working in a restaurant had unlawful deductions taken out of his pay (charged for accidentally spilling his tray of drinks). The group discussed different options the youth had to resolve this issue. Afterwards the group came up with a video project in which each youth would ask a question on camera related to what they wanted to know about the law.

The firth session was held on March 23rd. In this session the youth viewed the video they filmed last week. Afterwards the group was introduced to the Regent Park Focus program partners Enisone Kadiri, from Ontario Justice Education Network (OJEN), and Grace Pluchino, from Lawrence Heights Community Legal Services. Both Enisone and Grace talked about their work. Following the introductions the group discussed Agent of Landlord issues related to trespassing and policing and carried out a role play reflecting upon the issues that were discussed.

In the sixth session held on March 30th, Enisone introduced Lisa, a colleague at OJEN. Lisa presented a video about an incident on TTC featuring a dispute between two passengers. The group discussed the video trying to determine who was at fault. Following this the group was introduced to Andrew, a crown lawyer. Andrew talked about some of his trial cases involving young people and help participants understand some of the issues young people faced in the Justice System and in interactions with police. Afterwards Andrew and Grace Pluchino from Lawrence Heights Community Legal Services went on camera to answer some of the questions the youth in the previous sessions.

In the seventh session held on April 6th, Enisone introduced the group to Robin, a senior crown lawyer. Once again the group had the opportunity to hear from a senior crown lawyer about his court experiences involving youth. Robin's discussion with the group was filmed as part of the group's documentary about the project.

In the eighth session held on April 13, the group set up the camera equipment and began interviewing other youth outside the program about their knowledge of their rights and Agent of landlord issues. Overall the youth are learning a lot about the justice system. The goal over the remaining sessions is to do a video role play of the Agent of Landlord issue and to complete the two other videos that participants are engaged in. Stay tuned for more.

Submitted by Adonis Huggins
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