THUNDER BAY – Lakehead University students are protesting changes made to the course programs at the new law school. The students are headed to a sit in at the University President’s office. The students contend that the university has changed the curriculum for the new Law School taking out the emphasis that led to the approval of the school by Ontario.
Lakehead University Law School curriculum changes
Stephanie MacLaurin shares, “We are in opposition to recent Senate changes that see the Indigenous Learning course Native Canadian World Views removed from the approved curriculum at the new law school”.
“We are prepared to do a sit in until the curriculum is returned to its originally approved form, which the University touted as its selling point in order to gain the approval and win out other bids in the province”.
In the original application for the Law School, Lakehead University stated, “Lakehead University was apporached by Nishnawbe-Aski Nation officials, the County and District Law Presidents’ Assocaition and other local citizens to consider the development of a Faculty of Law with a focus on access to justice in northern and rural communities and Aboriginal Law.
“Lakehead University determined that it was both desireable and feasible to establish a Faculty of Law at Lakehead University’s Thunder Bay Campus, with a focus on providing an Ontario law school that has an emphasis on working with Aboriginal peoples in order to address the legal needs of Aboriginal communities in the north”.
In a statement the students say: “Lakehead University’s first application for a Law School was rejected. The Province and the Federation of Law Societies of Canada held that Ontario already had sufficient legal infrastructure and a new law school would contribute little.
“Lakehead submitted a second application. This application centred around indigenous programming. It was argued that this law school would be unique in Canada; it would produce lawyers capable of analysing the law from a Native perspective. This application was approved. The Ministry and the Federation also approved Lakehead’s proposed curriculum. The curriculum included INDI 2805: Native Canadian World Views as a mandatory course in first year.
“On February 15 Lakehead’s Senate removed Native Canadian Worldviews from the core curriculum. Dean Stuesser argued that having a mandatory non-law course would compromise the credibility of the program. As a result the program, which was approved to provide Indigenous programming, no longer requires a single Indigenous Learning credit”.
When the law school was announced in July 2011, the Ontario Government stated, “Ontario is helping Lakehead University establish the first law degree program in Northern Ontario. The new program will begin in September 2013 with a strong focus on Aboriginal Law, legal issues relevant to practice in rural and remote communities and law relating to natural resource management. It will also support economic prosperity and help to attract a wider range of opportunities for Northern Ontarians”.