- By Rick Garrick
Bora Laskin Faculty of Law Dean Angelique EagleWoman recently welcomed her first class of first-year law students during a four-day orientation at Lakehead University.
“I found the incoming group to be very excited,” says EagleWoman, who was appointed as dean last January. “The majority of them are from northwestern Ontario; they understand our mandates of Aboriginal law and natural resources and small town practice. And I think they are going to be a great group.”
The four-day orientation included a welcome from EagleWoman and Lakehead University President and Vice-Chancellor Brian Stevenson, a presentation on Expectations for the Legal Profession by EagleWoman, introductions of faculty members, instructors and staff and presentations by Thunder Bay Law Association President Rene Larson and Fort William Chief Peter Collins on Aug. 29. A reception and tour at the Thunder Bay Courthouse, including a visit by Paul Schabas, treasurer of the Law Society of Upper Canada, was also held on Aug. 1.
“We’ve been introduced to our professors as well as the dean,” says Hannah Fisher, a Long Lake #58 citizen and one of the first-year law students. “And we’ve also had a chance to tour the courtroom today, meet with some lawyers already and get kind of an idea of what law school is going to be like this year.”
The first-year students also participated in mock law classes and sessions with Elders and watched the Walk a Mile film project, a series of five short documentary films designed to educate and encourage conversations about the reality of life and history of Aboriginal peoples in Thunder Bay and across Canada.
“I think we have really showed them how there were these multiple partners that wanted a law school, had the vision for it and that’s why we are here, a community regional law school,” EagleWoman says. “One of the messages that the incoming students received from the judiciary was this idea that we want them to come and practice in the north. The north needs them; we have access to justice issues here (and) we have a group of lawyers that are retirement age.”
Schabas says he was “very impressed” with the Bora Laskin Faculty of Law, which began operations in 2013.
“I think it’s a wonderful addition to the north,” Schabas says. “It’s innovative. The school itself is set up to give practical training, to give training in Indigenous law and we want to do everything we can to support it.”
Schabas says the Bora Laskin Faculty of Law’s Integrated Practice Curriculum is the first in Canada.
“It’s a unique program in Canada,” Schabas says. “It was set up with our encouragement and blessing as a way to provide an innovative legal training that combines both academic training and experiential learning. By all accounts it is doing very well and we are very pleased with it.”
Schabas says the students are able to go straight into the legal profession after graduating.
“They go straight in, they don’t have to go and article or do an extra course for another eight or nine months,” Schabas says. “They are practice ready, as I said earlier today.”
EagleWoman says the Bora Laskin Faculty of Law is looking to hire a tenure-track Aboriginal law scholar this fall.
“We want to continue to grow our Indigenous law curriculum,” EagleWoman says. “I really am deeply committed to this law school and what it stands for. I believe in the rule of law and I believe in the ability of good lawyers to help with reconciliation.”