Ontario Justice Education Network

Ontario Justice Education Network

September 08, 2009 16:33 ET

Media Advisory: Opening of the Ontario Courts Celebrated with the Presentation of the OJEN Chief Justices' Award to Law Teacher

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Sept. 8, 2009) - The 2009 Ontario Justice Education Network's Chief Justices' Award will be presented to Ms. Jo Thornton at a special presentation on September 14th, 2009. This award is presented annually to an Ontarian who has made exceptional contributions to promoting public understanding, education and dialogue in support of a responsive and inclusive justice system.

The Chief Justices' Award was created by Ontario's three Chief Justices. Activities recognized as supporting justice education outreach include:

- reaching under-serviced communities;

- making important inroads in program delivery, research or evaluations;

- establishing effective partnerships or collaborations; and

- developing important innovations.

The value of justice education, both to the participants in justice education programs, and to the public at large, is immense. This type of understanding and dialogue strengthens our justice system as a component of a healthy democracy.

The fifth annual OJEN Chief Justices' Award will be presented to Joanne Thornton at 1:30 p.m. at a special ceremony at the Court of Appeal for Ontario, Osgoode Hall, Toronto, as part of the day's events celebrating the Opening of the Courts of Ontario for 2009. The Chief Justices of each of Ontario's courts will participate in the ceremony, acknowledging Jo's extraordinary contribution to justice education. Jo's students will attend the presentation after meeting with judges and visiting the courts.

Jo Thornton is the Law teacher and department head at Mayfield Secondary School in Brampton, Ontario. Her teaching skills, impact on her students, together with her innovation and commitment to promoting justice education make her a deserving recipient for this award.

Jo's interest in the law is evident in her classroom where students are engaged by her enthusiasm and encouraged to expand their understanding of legal issues. Her concern for her students extends beyond the curriculum. She promotes their personal development beyond the academic environment and fosters their potential to take on roles as active and contributing citizens. As a result of Jo's efforts, the youth she is involved with are often much better informed and prepared for their first court experience than they would otherwise be. These young people are then in a better position to meaningfully participate in the court process and to understand the role of each of the players in the system.

Jo has taken her positive experiences in the classroom and used them as the basis for a book entitled "Speaking with a Purpose: a Practical Guide to Oral Advocacy". This book is designed to help high school students to develop their advocacy skills in any context, including in mock trials and other hearings. The book, currently being used in many classrooms in Ontario and beyond, helps students to overcome their inhibitions and demystifies courtroom procedure.

In addition to school-based leadership, Joanne has worked with OJEN staff and volunteers to promote and improve justice education programs and to connect with other teachers, students and local volunteers.

Public legal education has the broader goal of ensuring that our system is transparent, accessible and accountable to the public. To a greater or lesser extent, we are all participants in the justice system, perhaps as jurors, witnesses, parties to a dispute and even as voters.

To provide residents of our province with an understanding of how and why our justice system works as it does is critical to our democratic system. With knowledge comes the ability to debate, assess and, hopefully, gain a respect and trust for the traditions of our legal institutions.

Chief Justice Winkler invites the media to attend this event.



Location: Court of Appeal for Ontario, Osgoode hall, 130 Queen Street West
Time: 1:30 PM
Present: The Chief Justices of Ontario's three courts.


Contact Information

  • For further information regarding the OJEN Chief Justices'
    Award, and to attend the event, please contact:
    Nadine Demoe
    OJEN Communications Manager
    416-947-5267
    ndemoe@ojen.ca