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Feb. 9, 2021

UCalgary Law moot team makes history

Students compete in Isaac Moot for first time, exploring Charter of Rights issues in the collection of race-based data during pandemic

Four University of Calgary Law students made school history last weekend when they participated in the Julius Alexander Isaac Moot, in the first time the law school has competed in the moot.  

Hosted by the Black Law Students Association of Canada, the moot is named after the late Chief Justice of the Federal Court of Appeal, Julius Alexander Isaac, who was the first Black judge to sit on the Federal Court of Canada.  

For second-year student Keshia Holloman-Dawson, participating in the moot was a great way to put the work she has been doing in the diversity and equity space into practice. 

“Being on the team for the Isaac has been really great,” explains Holloman-Dawson. “Not only have I been able to learn from my teammates about the law in general, but I have been able to share my knowledge about some of the things that I learned over the past several months about equity, diversity, inclusion and inequality.” 

In addition to Holloman-Dawson, the team includes third-year students Shay Klein, Kevin Lee and Madyson Schmidt, and is coached by Edmonton-based human rights lawyer Arman Chak. 

2021 event examined Critical Race Theory 

For Klein, participating in the moot was a way to engage with litigators, academics and the Canadian judiciary on some of the important issues we are facing today. She wanted to participate “because the legal profession should be but is still not — a leader in celebrating diversity and promoting inclusion.” 

This year’s problem allowed students to examine the interplay between the COVID-19 pandemic and the collection of race-based data, and potential violations of the Canadian Charter of Rights. The problem was written by UCalgary Law alumnus Joshua Sealy-Harrington, JD’13, one of Canada’s burgeoning experts in Critical Race Theory. 

“It is a testament to the incredible academics and lawyers coming out of our law school to have Joshua write the moot problem this year. His work is cited in some notable court decisions, and he taught the Critical Race Theory portion of the newly implemented anti-racism training this year, so it is really wonderful to work on something that he prepared,” says Holloman-Dawson. 

Experience a way to gain skills, challenge thought processes   

For Lee, participating in the moot was a way to get practical experience in oral advocacy.  

This experience was a chance to practise advocacy skills at a high level and get practical experience turning the academic principles of Critical Race Theory into legal arguments, which is essential for appellate work that seeks to improve society.

Schmidt agrees, adding that understanding Critical Race Theory has important applications in everyday life. “This moot was an opportunity to challenge my thought processes and change the way I move through the world.” 

Even though the team did not win this year, they did exceptionally well, especially on the second day. As coach Chak put it, “They did awesome. Today was impressive. They were robbed!” 

Find more Black History Month events and stories from UCalgary.   

Black History Month is a time to learn more about the Canadian stories and the many other important contributions of Black Canadians to the settlement, growth and development of Canada, and about the diversity of Black communities in Canada and their importance to the history of this country.