THUNDER BAY – Commentary – Recently, Lakehead University’s Academic Senate approved the first year law degree program of study for its new Faculty of Law. Among the approved courses was Law 1530: Native Canadian World Views and Law. Concerns have been raised that this course represents a “watering down” of the Aboriginal component in the law program. It does not.
Lakehead University – Response to Concerns about Aboriginal Course Changes
No other law school in Canada has a mandatory stand-alone course in its program’s first year devoted to Aboriginal issues. No other law school in Canada has a mandatory stand-alone course in its program’s second year devoted to Aboriginal law. Lakehead University’s law degree program has both. Furthermore, Lakehead’s Faculty of Law commits itself to addressing Aboriginal issues in all of its subjects.
It is important to the credibility of the course and the law program that Native Canadian World Views be taught as a law course, subject to the standards, evaluation and regulation of the Faculty of Law.
Characterizing it as a law course is the approach that best respects the Indigenous perspective and means that Indigenous legal traditions receive the same respect and are placed on an equal footing with the common law.
Furthermore, it is important that core courses in the law program be taught by full time members of the Faculty of Law. We want to establish a strong expertise in Aboriginal law and that means hiring quality staff to teach in those areas, which we have done.
The suggestion that a second year undergraduate course, Native Canadian World Views, offered through Indigenous Learning was intended to be taught in the law program is not correct. What is correct is that a course on Native Canadian World Views was to be taught.
It is important to maintain the credibility of the law degree program. No other law school in Canada would require a mandatory non-law course as part of its first year program.
The new law course is a half credit as opposed to the full credit proposal. In finalizing the first year offerings, it was determined that a half credit would provide a quality course to run parallel with the Foundations of Canadian Law course, which presents a western world view. Foundations of Canadian Law is also a half credit course. Both subjects would be offered in the fall term and would provide the students an interesting comparison between the traditional, common law world view and the Native Canadian world view.
The Faculty of Law’s commitment to Aboriginal content in its program remains and the intent of making Native Canadian World Views and Law a “law” course is to enhance that commitment.