Four students from the University of Alberta Faculty of Law have pulled off a historic feat by winning the 2020 Gale Cup Moot.
The win is the third consecutive victory for UAlberta Law at the moot, the longest-running and most competitive in the country. The triumph also makes UAlberta Law the only law school to have won the Gale Cup three times in a row.
The winning team members are Aidan Paul,‘21 JD, and Alec McIlwraith-Black, ’20 JD, who represented the Crown as the appellant team, and Bonita Arbeau, ‘21 JD and Zach Wilson, ‘21 JD, who were the respondent team.
The appellant team also won second prize for Best Factum Overall. And for one of the few times in the competition’s 47-year history, both Dickson Medals for Exceptional Oralist Performance in the Preliminary Rounds went to members of the same school: Bonita Arbeau and Aidan Paul, respectively.
For all three winning years, the UAlberta Gale Cup Team has been coached by Professor Peter Sankoff and Mandy MacLeod, ’14 JD, a Crown prosecutor and a Dickson Medallist and Gale Cup finalist in 2013. Paul was also assisted by Professor Steven Penney, who helped him develop a difficult argument involving sec 11 (d) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The team is sponsored by Beresh Law.
“The prospect of a ‘three-peat’ was ever-present, but it was never really a source of additional stress,” said the students in a joint statement.
“If anything, it gave us extra motivation to put in the amount of work required to win. Especially with this being the last year for Mandy and Professor Sankoff (as coaches), the team really wanted to make it happen and it drove us to do whatever we could to give ourselves the best possible chances of winning.”
Moot competitions are simulated court proceedings at the appeal court level, in which law students argue about errors made in the court below. In the final round, UAlberta Law’s respondent team argued before Justice Sheilah Martin of the Supreme Court of Canada, Justice Patrick Healy of the Quebec Court of Appeal and Justice Patrice Abrioux of the British Columbia Court of Appeal.
Their final opponents were the appellant team from the University of Toronto.
A TRICKY APPEAL
At the Gale Cup, the case appealed always involves a Criminal Law issue. This year’s focus concerned the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in R v Morrison.
“From the outset, we knew this would be the most challenging Gale Cup, ever,” said Sankoff. “The case involves a number of constitutional issues surrounding the provision of child luring, perhaps the most incomprehensible Supreme Court decision of my lifetime.”
Complicating matters, he said, there is no clear way to appeal the case because all the parties were given the option to appeal or not appeal, on as many as seven different grounds, and respondents had the option to cross-appeal on several more grounds.
“For students looking for a bit of certainty, it is hard to suddenly stand in front of a Supreme Court of Canada judge in the finals, without knowing what the other parties are even arguing,” he said.
Under Gale Cup rules, only one pair per school can advance to the finals — the pair with the highest score. After an announcing error that mimicked the Oscars’ La La Land / Moonlight debacle, UAlberta’s respondent team went to the finals.
However, both teams had actually placed first in their preliminary rounds, with the respondents collecting a slightly higher overall score.
“In effect, the only team that could beat them was the team they had been practising against, and helping succeed, for months,” said Sankoff.
The Gale Cup is held in Toronto at Osgoode Hall, where the Ontario Court of Appeal sits. Eighteen of Canada’s law schools competed this year, including several civil law schools from Quebec.