August 30, 2016 Print

Magna Carta was signed in Runnymede meadow on June 15, 1215.

For more than 800 years, Magna Carta has served as the foundational document codifying the rule of law as a check on the arbitrary discretion of rulers. This year, Atlas Network partner the Canadian Constitution Foundation (CCF), initiated a new student membership organization, the Runnymede Society, its name commemorating the meadow where this key document of liberty was signed.

“The Runnymede Society was borne from the realization that in order to truly enhance the climate of liberty for Canadians, the intellectual climate in our country had to change so that freedom-oriented legal arguments were viewed as strongly supported alternatives rather than suspicious outliers,” said Joanna Baron, Runnymede Society director.

The Runnymede Society hosted a student leadership conference in late August that brought together law students from throughout Canada “for a thought-provoking and enjoyable weekend of training, debating, reading, hiking, and socializing.” The program included discussions of religious liberty, Canadian legal doctrine, constitutional constraints, and the ideas of Nobel laureate economist Friedrich A. Hayek on the importance of the rule of law for free societies.

“The Canadian Constitution Foundation’s core mandate is to protect Canadian constitutional liberties and educate them about their rights under the Constitution,” Baron said. “The CCF strives to teach Canadians about the freedoms to which they’re entitled.” CCF fulfills this mission by litigating to protect the constitutional rights of Canadians, educating the public and holding government officials accountable. The Runnymede Society enables CCF to instill these principles in a new generation of legal minds.

“The Runnymede Society was founded to provide a hub for networking, training, and intellectual engagement amongst freedom-oriented law students, lawyers, and academics,” Baron said. “We aim to foster an intellectual atmosphere that sets the groundwork for viewing individual liberty and the rule of law as cornerstones of Canadian jurisprudence and legal practice.”

Baron said that the Runnymede Society will launch chapters at 13 law schools from Vancouver to Halifax this fall. Her vision is that this program will allow for rigorous intellectual debates between current and future law students, foster strong relationships, and will create mentorships and collaborations that develop the tools necessary to advance liberty. In addition to its recent student leadership conference, the Runnymede Society has been active with a variety of other events this year.

“Since the founding in early 2016, Runnymede’s events have included debates on freedom of conscience under the Canadian Charter for Rights and Freedoms, judicial activism and the constitutional right to strike, and state vs. market regulation,” Baron said.