Lakehead University Faculty of Law Protest

Lakehead University Law Faculty
Protest at Lakehead University continues - President Brian Stevenson receives a letter from student leaders
Lakehead University Faculty of Law
Protest at Lakehead University continues – President Brian Stevenson receives a letter from student leaders

THUNDER BAY – The Lakehead University Faculty of Law protest continues.  Students are gathered in peaceful activity outside of President Brian Stevenson’s office at Lakehead University. The peaceful gathering of students continues this week to defend the quality of Indigenous content in Lakehead’s new Faculty of Law.

Students are calling on the university to reinstate a course from the Indigenous Learning Program that was included in the institution’s original proposal for a law program.

Lakehead University Faculty of Law

Nishnawbe-Aski Nation Lakehead University Faculty of Law“The law program at Lakehead was accredited specifically because of its unique Indigenous-focused content,” said Emma Brightwell, President of the Lakehead University Students’ Union.

“The university must live up to its commitments to include this valuable and important Indigenous content.”

At a meeting on February 15, the Lakehead University Senate replaced a full-credit Indigenous Learning course with a half-credit course to be taught by members of the Faculty of Law. The new course will look at the place of Indigenous peoples within Canadian law, instead of exploring the place of the law within Indigenous world views.

“A credible Indigenous-focused law curriculum has to be one that centres the perspectives of Indigenous world views, as the original Indigenous Learning course does,” said Sebastien Murdoch-Gibson, one of the participants in the sit in. “We have every intention to stay here to defend the integrity of Indigenous content in the law program.”

The Dean of the Law School states, “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”.

Dean Strasser adds, “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”.

Students are supported by Nishnawbe Aski Nation

“NAN strongly supports the position of protesting students at Lakehead University and are frustrated with the unilateral decision made by the Law School Dean,” said NAN Deputy Grand Chief Goyce Kakegamic.

“After close analysis of the situation, NAN demands the University follow the original course curriculum that was approved by the Senate, the Law Society of Upper Canada and the Ontario Ministry of Education. Lakehead University would be a trailblazer and fore runner in Indigenous learning and legal education not only nationally but internationally by offering the original course that focuses on Indigenous worldviews”.

Students raised concerns about the change and have been participating in a sit-in in front of the office of President Brian Stevenson since February 25. During the course of the sit-in, students have held support rallies, traditional ceremonies and another support rally is scheduled for March 7.

“With a growing Indigenous population in Northern Ontario and across the province, there is a critical need for more Indigenous-focused programming in our universities and colleges,” said Sarah Jayne King, Chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario. “Institutions have a responsibility to ensure that these programs truly centre Indigenous perspectives.”

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