The Osgoode Hall Law School Team - Miya Zakharchuk, Portia Biswas, Baiqing Luo, Daniel Mount, and Matt Wilson - were the winners yesterday of the 2021 Donald G. H. Bowman National Tax Moot. This is a remarkable, notable success for them and for the Osgoode community which they so ably represented.
This Tax Moot celebrates the exemplary contributions made to Canadian taxation by former Chief Justice of the Tax Court Donald Bowman, the namesake of the Moot. There was this year, as in the past, enthusiastic and strong participation by Canada's law schools and their students from across the country.
This year, the Bowman Moot Court of Tax Appeals heard the appeal of the Supreme Court of Canada's decision in MacDonald v. Canada, which dealt with how gains and losses arising from a financial derivative contract ought to be treated under the Income Tax Act (Canada). Even experienced tax practitioners in this area have wrestled with this difficult question, which takes us to the roots of tax law with very little direct guidance. It has taken a long time in Canadian tax history, in fact and only relatively recently, for the Act to respond legislatively to some situations in which financial derivatives test the tax law's meaning and mettle. The issues are hard, sometimes kaleidoscopic influenced as they are by complicated permutations of financial analysis. Our students, we are so proud to say, prepared for and argued this case with the thoroughness, acumen, and skilled advocacy of seasoned professionals.
Two of our Team's oralists, Miya Zakharchuk and Daniel Mount argued persuasively for the Crown's position in the Final before The Honourable Justices Woods and Webb of the Federal Court of Appeal and Associate Chief Justice Lamarre of the Tax Court of Canada. The Team's other oralists, Portia Biswas and Matt Wilson were outstanding in advancing the taxpayer's position in their moots - forceful and penetrating in their advocacy and deft in parrying the questions they faced from their judges. All of the Team's oralists, as well as the coaches, depended on the Baiqing Luo, the Team's researcher, in helping to develop arguments, prepare facta, keep organized in all respects throughout this months-long experience, and in the heat of the moot provide invaluable insight into the essence of questions faced by our oralists as they prepared to continue in the competition. The Team was indeed a team, which co-coaches Thang Trieu and Trish Lahoud, of KPMG Law, and I observed in our weekly and more sessions together studying the law, testing and learning from each other (including the coaches!), and preparing for this weekend's culmination when the passionate interest in the law and the self-less mutual support our five Team members was in full view as they shared each other's successes.
This post is a bit unusual. It is very much Osgoode - centric. We (and I declare my already evident conflict as the Blog's principal editor and a co-coach) are very proud of our students. As coaches, we were limited in being able to watch and listen to other Moot participants. But still, we did observe a high level of aptitude for, commitment to, and maybe most important genuine interest in the law among all that we did hear and see. This is all the more remarkable for this year's Moot because, as it had to be, it was "virtual". Leaving aside the challenges of remote virtual meetings generally, mooting like its real-life counterpart is an intensely personal and dialectical experience - it is not only about substantive legal prowess though that is important and was in full view, but also about the "feel" and "sound" of, the emotion of the proceedings, of the "court room" which also inform and propel skilled advocacy. It is no doubt difficult to do that, to replicate the passion of the proceedings, "alone" in front of a screen in one's usual living surroundings no matter how many other participants may be visible as panel images on the screen. It is a credit to all the students so interested in tax who participated in the Moot that they were able to rise to this challenge so effectively with skill and grace.
But, to conclude, back to Miya, Portia, Baiqing, Daniel, and Matt. Well done! Thank you! We are proud of you! It was a privilege for the coaches to help and learn from you. Osgoode is indeed a rich environment to allow us together to succeed this way. It is of course terrific to "win" a competition. But it is even more rewarding to learn together, to challenge ourselves, to improve simply for the sake of the law. That, I think, is the overarching success of this Moot experience for Osgoode and in fact for all the students from across Canada who shared their interest in tax together and with each other, which our mooters' success in the moment reflects.