Navy Vezina and Abbie LeBlanc became the first-ever Canadian team to win the Nelson Mandela World Human Rights Moot Court Competition hosted at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.

The STU duo edged the University of Buenos Aires in the final round to finish first out of 38 teams.

“There were gasps and there were tears. It was a very shaky, slow-motion type moment, but it was definitely one of the best of my life,” Vezina said of the win.

Vezina and LeBlanc faced solid competition throughout the event, and because the two final teams can’t be from the same United Nations region they had to finish number one overall to qualify. That meant finishing ahead of the University of Oxford and Yale University.

“The creativity of our arguments helped a lot. It made us more engaging for the judges,” Vezina said. “At these types of competitions you kind of try to stand out because everyone’s arguments sound the same. It’s riskier and it’s harder that way, but it tends to pay off.”

Despite being an undergraduate university at an event open to law and masters of law students, Vezina and LeBlanc never felt like underdogs. Their biggest challenge throughout the competition was impressing the judges.

“The judges were the biggest part because they were so well informed and were all experts in their field,” LeBlanc said. “It’s intimidating because you’re always trying to impress them—that’s basically the nature of the game.”

The six-person STU International Law Society team of Vezina, LeBlanc, Emily Williams, Emma Walsh, Camille Xavier, and Brianna Matchett qualified for the World Moot Court Championships in June by submitting a brief that finished in the top five in their United Nations region.

Vezina and LeBlanc were the two members chosen from the group to attend the competition in Switzerland and each had a different goal—Vezina hoped to finish in the top five and LeBlanc hoped to finish in the top two. With their history-making win, both goals were surpassed.

“I’m really proud of all six of us. It’s a great win,” LeBlanc said. “I hope it encourages people to keep doing things like this at STU. Keep trying things; find something you love to do and do it.”

“What’s really great about STU is that six of us could make a club and it was really easy to get the club going. It’s not like that at other universities,” Vezina added. “Not every university offers that kind of freedom to its students.”

Both Vezina and LeBlanc gave credit to Dr. Amanda DiPaolo, Director of Human Rights at STU, for supporting the group’s decision to pursue this competition independently as the members of the STU International Law Society.

Moot Court at STU
The students’ experience competing as members of the Moot Court team, offered as part of the Human Rights major, provided a strong foundation during their preparation and competition in Geneva. The STU team competes in the American Moot Court Association and has had much success in the last two years, qualifying for the National Championships in California and Florida.

For more information about Moot Court at STU, click here.