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Video - The Annual Roger Watts Debates

March 12, 2021 by Marvin Geekie

FH&P Lawyers is a proud supporter of the Roger Watts Debates. The Debate is a partnership of the Department of Economics, Philosophy and Political Science and a community advisory committee at UBC Okanagan. The debate provides a public forum to debate important issues of the day.

The top UBC Okanagan undergraduate student debaters will argue their case before a panel of community judges who will decide the winners. Prizes of $1,000 for the first-place finishers and $500 for the runners-up will be awarded. Two of those judges and mentors are from FH&P Lawyers; Associate Counsel Marvin Geekie and Partner Gillian Dougans.

Marvin discusses the debates and the main differences this year with Ryan Watters.


Ryan Watters: An annual event that is coming up at the end of the month, that is still going forward, albeit there will be differences is the Roger Watts Debates. FH&P Lawyers are proud supporters of the event, specifically Marvin Geekie, an Associate Counsel here and FH&P. For those of us that don't really know what the Roger Watts Debates are what is it?

Marvin Geekie: Firstly let me just say that Gillian Dougans from our office is also a very large part of the Roger Watts Debates as well. The debate is an event sponsored with UBC Okanagan where four of the best debaters from UBC, have a competition against each other and they compete for a large monetary reward.

Ryan Watters: Pride is also on the line.

Marvin Geekie: Absolutely it is, pride and place. There is a website that chronicles the progress of the Roger Watts Debates hosted by UBCO so you sort of get to be part of that for perpetuity if you will as well so there's a bragging rights for that.

Ryan Watters: Correct my if I’m wrong, but it’s the grand finale in the debate society up at UBC Okanagan so kids have been debating and then it's down to the final four and they get to have a final debate.

Marvin Geekie: That’s right, they basically start training for the competition back in September so a lot of hours are put into learning the debate skills that you need in order to be in this competition. Two weeks prior to the Roger Watts final there is a runoff competition where it gets judged and they get to go through basically a scaled down format of exactly what the format is and then cream rises to the top.

Ryan Watters: Now what is your role in the whole debate series?

Marvin Geekie: Both Jill and I have the same role, we are part of the organizing committee that brings the Roger Watts Debate to the public but we also help mentor the kids along in learning the skills that they need in learning how to debate, especially in the format that the Roger Watts Advocacy Debate is.

Ryan Watters: Is there certain topic that they are going to debate, do they get to choose?

Marvin Geekie: We choose that for them and it's still secret that's not made public until after the runoffs so nobody has an unfair advantage of it. That is when we let the kids know what their debate topic is going to be.

Ryan Watters: With COVID happening, you obviously can’t have a live event with people in the audience and debaters so how does it change, is it going to be online?

Marvin Geekie: It is going to be online and that’s going to be an adventure because we have never put anything like this together either in the past so it is a bit of a learning experience for all of us. I watched some kids practicing last week and I can tell you it is a very different and interesting experience to watch the kids debate because it's not just a talking head like a lot of these things (zoom). All of the nuances that go into the way in which we communicate also have to come across in this kind of format as well so I think it is very interesting.

Ryan Watters: Is it a disadvantage to being online? It’s an even playing field for all the debaters but is it a disadvantage now that you have to do it online?

Marvin Geekie: I think it is a disadvantage for the participants because we don’t get to see the full body nuance that they are going to have. How they stand behind the podium for example or even how they use their hands or turn their head, all those things are supposed to be by design but when it's on TV it's a lot different. Even in the way in which we are going to be evaluating the debaters is going to change as well and it's going to be interesting this year because we are having it live so we are hoping for the opportunity for the audience to pick their choice as to who is an individual best debater.

Ryan Watters: So you are talking about a viewer’s choice or a people's choice?

Marvin Geekie: Yes, that’s right a people’s choice, exactly.

Ryan Watters: For the kids, there is a money prize, that’s the main focus I would imagine, but for yourself and Jill as judges or mentors what is your hope?

Marvin Geekie: My hope is that it is an entertaining show and that is, for me at least, all the gratification we need, when the kids do well, which they have done for the past seven years. All of the debates that have gone on before have been just outstanding to watch, the kids really work hard by preparing and it is absolutely fantastic.

Ryan Watters: Well good luck to you good luck to the kids coming up March 31st at the Roger Watts Debate.