2020 Essay Contest

Which government-mandated lockdown measures are justifiable, which are not, and why?

This year's question:

Since March of 2020, government lockdown measures to combat COVID-19 have restricted citizens’ Charter freedoms to move, travel, associate, assemble and worship. Some have supported these measures as necessary and beneficial for saving lives. Others have argued that the cure is worse than the disease, citing increases in unemployment, poverty, anxiety, depression, alcoholism, drug overdoses, suicides and family violence, as well as cancelled surgeries and other examples of an underutilized medical system, and a weakened economy.

Which government-mandated lockdown measures are justifiable, which are not, and why?

We suggest reviewing our COVID legal actions on our website before writing your essay.

Deadline: Monday, November 2nd, 2020 at 12am Pacific.

Early bird: Submit by August 31, 2020 and be entered to win a Justice Centre T-shirt and prize pack.

1st Place - $2,000    |    2nd Place - $1,000     |     3rd Place winner - $500

2020 Judges


This contest is open to all students enrolled at a Canadian post-secondary institution.

Length, format, and evaluation criteria

The essay should not exceed 2,500 words. Please submit your essay in PDF or Word format using the form below, or email it to essaycontest@jccf.ca. Quality of writing and persuasiveness of argument will be the central criteria considered by the judges.

 We suggest reviewing our COVID legal actions on our website before writing your essay.

Click here to submit your 2020 essay.

2019 winners

“Institutional Vigilantism in the Academy: The Policing of Private Activities by Universities”
Osgoode Hall Law School of York University, Faculty of Law

Read the essay here


Judge’s Comments:

“This essay passionately and eloquently makes the case that the expansion of university policy enforcement to off-campus situations is a further creep of cancel culture — and therefore must be fought.” – Andrew Lawton

“When I first read this essay, I knew I was reading the winner. The writing and the argument had a natural flow.”  – Sam Goldstein

“An incisive attack on cancel culture that draws a clear and appropriate line between criminal wrongdoing and nonconformism.” – John Robson


“Should Universities Police Student Behaviour at Private Events? An Unregulated, Unconstitutional and Ineffective Approach”
McMaster University, Faculty of Medicine

Read the essay here

Judge’s Comments:

“A thoughtful, balanced and well-written analysis of universities’ behaviour enforcement policies that explores the legal and cultural ramifications of the trend.” – Andrew Lawton

“Well-researched with a lot of examples to bring home the points.” – Sam Goldstein

“A strong analysis of contemporary misapplication of the legitimate principle that universities have reputations to protect.” – John Robson


“If we’re being honest, universities need to police culture off-campus”
University of Alberta, Faculty of Law

Read the essay here

Judge’s Comments:

“The author of this essay invoked a unique approach to illustrate the problems facing the academy. It ultimately drew attention to off-campus policy enforcement being a symptom of a broader problem, and the logical end of post-secondary institutions’ current directions.” – Andrew Lawton

“This essay had a novel approach to the topic.” – Sam Goldstein 

“A pointed call for modern universities either to live up to their misguided modern self-image as activist organizations or get back to their roots as places of free inquiry.” – John Robson