Lakehead University seeks solution to Law Faculty Protest

Lakehead University
Lakehead University President receives letter from students who vow to keep up protest
Lakehead University
Lakehead University President receives letter from students who vow to keep up protest

THUNDER BAY – Lakehead University is hoping to end the protest ongoing outside President Stevenson’s office. Lakehead’s Dean of the Faculty of Law, Lee Stuesser, has proposed a new course that will be an enhancement to the new law program’s first year curriculum. It is Dean Stuesser’s hope that this proposal will address the fundamental demand of the students staging a sit-in outside the University President’s Office. 

A proposed new law course, Law 1535: Aboriginal Perspectives, would be positioned as a mandatory, half-credit component of the curriculum to complement Law 1530: Native Canadian World Views & Law, which has already been approved by Lakehead University Senate. The course will assume an experiential format, and introduce students to Aboriginal culture, traditions and perspectives through speakers, dialogue and experience-based learning. 

Lakehead University Faculty of Law

As with all University course proposals and changes, Dean Stuesser’s proposed enhancement to the curriculum will be sent to Lakehead’s Senate for approval. 

This would create a full-year of courses dedicated to Aboriginal content in the first year of the Law School. Many of the other required first year courses will also have additional Aboriginal related content included where relevant. 

In addition to the experiential Aboriginal law course, Dean Stuesser is committed to establishing an Aboriginal Advisory Committee to both advise on curricular content, and guide the evolution of the Faculty of Law. 

Dean Stuesser’s proposed enhancement to the Law curriculum was developed in consultation with the Nishnawbe Aski Nation’s (NAN) Deputy Grand Chief, Goyce Kakegamic, Métis Nation of Ontario’s President and CEO, Gary Lipinski, and Lakehead University’s Provost and Vice-President (Academic), Dr. Rod Hanley. 

Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief, Patrick Wedaseh Madahbee, conveyed his support for the proposed enhancement in a letter to Dean Stuesser. “It is our position that treaty and inherent rights in Canada require more focus for not just First Nation students, but for Canadian students as well. This will ensure a healthier environment for productive discussions and decision making when faced with First Nation issues.” 

In a letter to Dean Stuesser, Nishnawbe Aski Nation Deputy Grand Chief Kakegamic wished “to acknowledge the role of the student protesters, whose commitment to ensure that culture, world views, and experiences with the justice system become meaningful components of the Faculty of Law program.”

Métis Nation of Ontario’s President and CEO, Gary Lipinski, also expressed support for the proposed course enhancement. In a letter to Dr. Hanley, Lipinski stated, “Our enthusiastic support of the Law School was and remains based on the fact that Aboriginal and specifically Métis law would be an important component of the teaching.” 

Lakehead University President steps up

Lakehead’s President and Vice-Chancellor, Dr. Brian Stevenson, thanked the students for their dedication to Aboriginal issues and raising the level of attention of this matter. “Following the response by NAN, I will call for a retreat of Aboriginal leaders to discuss the evolution of the Faculty of Law. It is my hope that the solution proposed by our Provost and the Dean of our Faculty of Law will be embraced.” 

Dean Stuesser has expressed his commitment to developing a law school that emphasizes working with Aboriginal peoples in order to effectively address the legal needs of Aboriginal communities. He added that “No other law school in Canada has mandatory, stand-alone courses in its program’s first year devoted to Aboriginal issues and no other law school in Canada has a mandatory stand-alone course in its program’s second year devoted to Aboriginal law. Lakehead’s law degree program has both”.

“Furthermore, Lakehead’s Faculty of Law commits itself to addressing Aboriginal issues in all of its subjects”.

The students are planning more action, but it is unknown right now what the announcement will mean for the students.

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