National Student Conference a "Tremendously Challenging and Enriching Experience"

 Justice Peter Lauwers addresses the 2016 CLF National Student Conference. 

Justice Peter Lauwers addresses the 2016 CLF National Student Conference. 

Sarah Faber is a first-year law student at Queen's and a member of the Queen’s chapter of the Christian Legal Fellowship. Sarah was also a member of the Conference Planning Committee, along with Queen's Students Jacqueline Chan, Jordan Moss, and Jacob Mantle.

From March 10th to 13th, Kingston Ontario was home to an event unlike anything that has happened there in a very long time, when Queen’s University hosted the CLF National Student Conference. Christian legal professionals and students from across the country gathered at the Faculty of Law for an intensive two-day conference under the general theme of Seeking Wisdom.

Christian law students are constantly bombarded with information and argument, and it can be challenging to see the wisdom of God through it all. Over the weekend we took a break from the overload of knowledge, and spent a few days looking for wisdom together as a Christian legal community.

The conference program balanced theoretical and practical sessions, featuring an amazing array of speakers who shared not only their substantive work, but also their personal experiences and insight about what it means to walk like a Christian lawyer. The schedule offered many opportunities for students to ask questions, get to know each other, and discuss the common issues and concerns that we are all working through together. Many of the speakers stayed after their sessions to participate in the ongoing dialogue and fellowship. Their genuine concern and support for the next generation of Christian lawyers was part of what made this conference so special. Some of the wisdom that was shared in the space between sessions challenged and encouraged just as much as the formal presentations themselves. Each day was framed with times of prayer and worship, which not only solidified our sense of fellowship, but made this a unique weekend of heart, soul, and mind growth.

On Friday afternoon, Justice Lauwers of the Ontario Court of Appeal gave a keynote address on “Religious Freedom and the Ambiguities of Liberal Pluralism”, where he discussed the role of religion in a liberal democracy, and the present condition of religious freedom in Canada. Justice Lauwers presented a refreshingly balanced and insightful perspective on how lawyers need to be thinking about their role in Canada. He emphasized that religious freedom is essential for a truly free society, and challenged the audience to pursue an accommodative approach to pluralism not only for the sake of religious minorities, but for our country as a whole. On Saturday, Rev. Majed El Shafie presented his powerful personal testimony and told us about his ongoing work as a religious freedom activist. His story was a gripping reminder of the desperate need for international change, and an inspiring account of what it means to truly live by faith. Hearing about what happens when religious freedom breaks down powerfully reinforced Justice Lauwers’ message that religious freedom in Canada is something that we all have a responsibility to protect. Saturday afternoon was spent discussing current cases and issues that CLF is working on, and how they affect the status of religion in Canada.

Saturday ended with a banquet for students, local CLF members, and speakers. After dinner, the conference was addressed by Justice Kenneth Pedlar of the Superior Court of Justice of Ontario, on the theme “Who Are These Christian Lawyers, and Why Do They Walk This Way?”. Justice Pedlar spoke to us about the great work that Christian lawyers are doing all over the world, and how the essence of Christian lawyering is not issues, opinions, or words, but identity. Michael Kim, a conference attendee from Osgoode Hall, described Justice Pedlar’s message in a recent Facebook post: “The speaker's life journey had been evidently marked by that one question: What does the Lord require of me? His zeal and resilience to look after the most vulnerable went beyond his profession and career. It was not momentary or temporary. That was a way of life. That was his life.”

For a first-year law student like myself, this conference was a tremendously challenging and enriching experience. It was helpful and encouraging to discuss interactions of faith and life in the legal profession, and to hear a different perspective on some of the very issues that I have been encountering in my law school classes. More importantly, I came away from the conference feeling that I was part of a community of students, lawyers, and judges who were committed to doing justly, loving mercy, and walking a different way.

Notes from Conference Attendees

"My time at the National Law Student Conference has helped to redefine my understanding of a legal career as a calling. The idea behind being “called to the bar” takes on a whole new meaning when we reflect on who is calling us and what He’s calling us to do.

In his keynote address, Justice Pedlar asked what people would find if they were looking for proof beyond a reasonable doubt that we are Christians. He reminded us that once we label ourselves as Christians, people are watching. What are the cornerstones of our spiritual lives and are they visible to others? Upon what have we built our foundation? Surely it is not on good grades, interviews invited to, jobs secured, positions appointed to, awards won… but on something far more certain and infinitely more secure. Isaiah 33:5-6, the theme verse for the weekend, tells us that the Lord alone is exalted and dwells on high. He will be the sure foundation of our time – a rich store of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge. This is the foundation I want to stand on! 

To those who prayed for this weekend; to those who came to teach; to those who organized; to those who contributed financially; and to everyone who participated… Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!"

- Kinsey Brockie

"This conference radically shifted my focus. I walk away now with a strong desire to join other believers within the legal profession to not only be a point of light directed at bringing justice, but also at bringing honour and glory to the Lord Jesus Christ. Moreover, I sense an equally strong conviction to submit my future practice to the Father’s will, to treat it not strictly as a career but also as a mission field to reach the lost and edify fellow believers.

This conference introduced me to an entire network of resources, mentors, and insights into problems that require great discernment and wisdom in their treatment and analysis. I have gleaned new critical approaches to the difficult and controversial topics covered in these cases and come away from this conference better equipped to take a God-fearing position in the debates surrounding them.

The discussions demonstrated to me that God is at work in the minds and hearts of these Christian lawyers. Your members radiate Christ’s light: through their love and pursuit of justice, through their animation in debates and discussions, and through their commitment to prayer.

I have been reminded and encouraged to stand firm in my faith, to be courageous in the face of trials and to seek in all things justice, righteousness, wisdom and knowledge, exalting the Lord in my daily walk with Him. I leave this conference emboldened in my faith and inspired to reach out to my colleagues with this newfound commitment to my vocation as a Christian lawyer: to be used for God’s holy purposes where I have been planted.

Thank you for your generous conference bursary as well as your overwhelming encouragement, kindness and prayers."

- Vivian Ellery