This past week has been my official "Orientation Week" at UOttawa. In brief it's been a very busy week -I've met a lot of new people, been given a lot of free stuff and free food, and haven't had enough sleep.
Since Monday was Labour Day, the official activities didn't start until Tuesday morning. However, there were bar nights organised on the Sunday and Monday nights before it started. It was good to meet some people that would be in the program in a less formal setting, and to at least recognise some faces on Tuesday morning!
Tuesday activities included a free breakfast, a bag of free stuff (including a slinky!) from different law firms, a few speeches, the Dean's BBQ (free of course), and free nachos at a pub in the evening with the new students. But the highlight was probably Maher Arar and Monia Mazigh's presentation. Maher Arar is the Canadian who was deported by the Americans to and tortured by Syria. Instead of being bitter, he and his wife instead encouraged us to stick to our guns, become good lawyers, and to stand up for justice. Monia Mazigh said something like "law is not justice, but justice needs the law".
The next day was another early, but free, breakfast, followed by speeches about faculty specialties and small group meetings. My small group and prof seem really cool -there are actually quite a few science students in it! The prof is even planning on having us over to her place for a pot-luck once she's got all her furniture moved in. Then we had an 'image consultation', which was mostly about how to shake hands and what is appropriate clothing/colours for a business casual reception in the legal field. The reason for the consultation is that evening we had a Wine & Cheese reception at the Ottawa Court House. There were a number of judges there, a live jazz band, and some really good food. Another chance to meet the almost 300 students in both the English and French Common Law programs (the Civil Law students always seemed to do their own thing). I got to meet a really nice judge who was encouraging, and gave us students a few tips for law school!
Thursday was a bit more relaxed. We had a few short speeches, and 300 large pizzas for lunch (sponsored by a law firm). Needless to say I filled up on free food once again! In the evening the CLSS sponsored us to go on the Crime & Punishment Jail Tour of the old Ottawa jail (now a youth hostel!). Then we had a bit of a pub crawl through ByWard Market in the evening. Yet another late night, but another great oportunity to meet people in my program. I was actually surprised a few times that people in the program know other friends of mine from here and there. Such a small world.
Friday morning we had another free breakfast, quickly followed by an Algonquin Smudge Ceremony led by Elder William Commanda, who is the Supreme Chief of all the North American Territory, carrier of the Sacred Wampum Belt (including the Seven Fires Prophecy belt telling of the arrival of pale-faced people and the destruction of native lands, and the 1793 Jay Treaty Border Crossing Belt), and who has led smudge ceremonies at the UN. It was an interesting ceremony meant to purify/cleanse the profs and students and law building before the start of the school year. I'm glad that I had the opportunity to be part of it. After the ceremony was another free BBQ sponsored by another law firm at a park near the river. Unfortunately it was really hot and humid (30C plus humidity), so most people just sat under the trees and talked. I ended up with a bag of 24 extra hamburger buns though!