So You Want to be a Trial Lawyer, eh?
While we are all concerned with the maintenance of our individual rights and freedoms, we also recognize that they are not absolute, since we live in society with others. In Canada, as in any democracy, our society is governed by the rule of law. This "balance(s) individual rights with our obligations as members of society" by giving us "rules of conduct that protect everyone’s rights" (Canada. Department of Justice. What is the Law? ).
Some are called to play a special role in maintaining our laws. If you are one such person, you may have considered becoming a lawyer, someone that, according to the Canadian Law Dictionary, has "been trained in the law and that has been certified to give legal advice or to represent others in litigation. to This person is also known as a 'barrister & solicitor' or an 'attorney'. Since ancient Greece, there have been those who might be described as "lawyers", but it was not until the Middle Ages that being a lawyer became a "lifelong profession in itself." If you had a chance to see the recent exhibit, Magna Carta Canada, at the new Fort York Visitor Centre, perhaps this inspired you to become a trial lawyer, a lawyer who represents their clients in court.
The court system involves many players, including judges and lawyers, as well as jurors. One of the key principles arising from the Magna Carta (in its various incarnations from 1215 to 1300) is the right to trial by a jury of one's peers. The Canadian Law Dictionary defines a jury as a "group of citizens randomly selected from the general population who decide on the merits of a legal case", or, in other words, who decide on the facts of the case. As an adult Canadian citizen, you may be summoned at some point to serve in this capacity (as a potential juror), if you haven't been already. If you'd like to know more about our country's court system, you might like to read Canada's Court System by the Department of Justice Canada.
The Magna Carta was concerned with establishing a set of rules to settle disputes between barons and the Crown. However, as Queen's University law student Pascal Lévesque argues in his award-winning essay, The Relevance of Magna Carta in Canada in 2015: Upholding the Heritage of Freedom, it grew "to have a life of its own, going beyond its initial scope, becoming a political argument, and generating other initiatives fostering protection of human rights, especially where there are advocates to keep the fire alive".
One such initiative relevant to us in Canada is the Canadian Bill of Rights (1960) which concerns "the Recognition and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms", regardless of an individual's "race, national origin, colour, religion or sex". This includes "the right of the individual to life, liberty, security of the person and enjoyment of property, and the right not to be deprived thereof except by due process of law" (article 1.a), as well as "the right of the individual to equality before the law and the protection of the law" (article 1.b). Of even more significance currently is the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (part of The Constitution Act of 1982).
A more recent initiative relevant to us in Ontario is the Human Rights Code (1962) which builds on this by recognizing that "the inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world and is in accord with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as proclaimed by the United Nations."
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