Indigenous Leaders State Discrimination and Racism at Lakehead University Must Stop

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Dean Angelique Eaglewoman speaks with media following press conference at Fort William First Nation
Angelique Eaglewoman speaks with media following press conference at Fort William First Nation

FORT WILLIAM FIRST NATION – Fort William First Nation, Metis Nation of Ontario, Grand Council Treaty #3, and other Indigenous leaders are calling for serious change at Lakehead University. This follows the resignation of Dean Angelique Eaglewoman from the Lakehead University Bora Laskin School of Law.

Dean Eaglewoman resigned her position as the first Indigenous Dean of the Law School citing issues with ongoing systemic racism.

She says that she believes she was discriminated against as both a woman and as an Indigenous person.

Fort William First Nation in a statement issued to media says, “The allegations of discrimination and racism raised by Dean Eaglewoman from the Bora Laskin Faculty of Law is of great concern and frustration to First Nation leadership.  The announcement conveys the news of a wasted opportunity for the University to repair strained relationships with local Indigenous Nations and entities. Lakehead University had made numerous displays and statements related to its commitment to reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.  Yet the highly qualified and capable Indigenous woman chosen to lead the Bora Laskin Faculty of Law felt she had no other recourse but to leave her position due to barriers the University threw at her.”

The choice to ignore the Dean’s recommendations that would have addressed the discriminatory atmosphere within the academy, and is, ironically, directly related to Dean EagleWoman’s resignation and confirms the existence of systemic discrimination within the University.  “The issue if the Dean’s treatment, and its outcome, cannot be tolerated in an already racially charged community.  The University needs to make

“The issue if the Dean’s treatment, and its outcome, cannot be tolerated in an already racially charged community.  The University needs to make immediate change and look to implement the recommendations presented by the Aboriginal Advisory Committee,” states Chief Peter Collins, Fort William First Nation.

Fort William First Nation, Metis Nation of Ontario, Nishnawbe Aski Nation, and Grand Council Treaty #3 have a list of recommendations they will submit to the Board of Governors at Lakehead University.

Recommendations, but not limited to include:

  • Commitment to the appointment of an Indigenous Dean at the Faculty of Law at Lakehead University;
  • Fort William First Nation will have a designated seat within the Ogimaawin Aboriginal Governance Council;
  • The executive will establish a joint working group with Ogiomaawin Aboriginal Governance Council to develop and implement an Indigenous Reconciliation Strategy specifically addressing the deeply rooted institutional framework of discrimination, racism, and unconscious privilege within the University.Full independent review and response to all issues and allegations put forth by  Dean EagleWoman with findings and evidence that the appropriate response to accountability addressed.  A documented review will be provided to Ogimaawin Aboriginal Governance Council;
  • Lakehead University will lead the way in the developing compulsory programming for the all serving Board, Council and committee members as well as Bora Laskin Faculty of Law staff and students that includes the history and legacy of residential schools, treaties, indigenous rights and laws and Indigenous-crown relations, etc.
  • Only Indigenous law scholars should teach the mandatory Indigenous courses.
  • Commit to meet regularly with the Ogimaawin Aboriginal Governance Council on a quarterly basis to ensure that expected deliverables of the working group encouraging further relations development.
  • Hold future and current staff hires, including for the positions of interim and acting provosts, vice-presidents, and president, until there is an opportunity for input from Fort William FN and other Indigenous partners.
  • Faculty and staff hires should be subject to a separate interview conducted, or at the very least a meet and greet with Indigenous partners.

Lakehead University says, “Today, we are listening to, and reflecting on, what has been shared by our region’s Indigenous leadership. We are committed to creating the conditions whereby everyone at Lakehead University can flourish, and we look forward to ongoing dialogue and action”.

The University promised to respond to requests for comment on Wednesday.

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