Proposed solution to Lakehead law school curriculum fails to end sit in
Lakehead University students conducting a sit in protest outside the university president’s office have rejected a proposed solution developed by the school administration and Aboriginal leaders.
Lee Stuesser, dean of Lakehead’s new law school, had hoped a proposed new course developed in coordination with NAN Deputy Grand Chief Goyce Kakegamic and Metis Nation of Ontario’s president and CEO Gary Lipinski would satisfy the student protestors.
The students are calling on the faculty to re-implement a full-credit indigenous course in the new law school’s course of study after it was changed to a half-credit course, despite Stuesser’s assurance that a law half-credit course would complement the indigenous one.
The proposed new law course, called Aboriginal Perspectives, would be a mandatory, half-credit component of the curriculum that introduces students to Aboriginal culture, traditions and perspectives through speakers, dialogue and experience-based learning.
However, the protestors rejected the proposal presented to them on March 6.
“Administration proposed to satisfy us by creating two half-credit courses; an equal to one full credit, which they suggested addresses our concerns regarding dismantling the Native Canadian World Views course,” the students, who call themselves Students For Native Canadian Studies, said in an open letter. “It does not.”
The students said they feel “betrayed” by Lakehead and “abandoned by our First Nation leaders and representatives.”
“By prior statements our First Nations leaders put forth, we honestly believed that they were fully supportive of our endeavors,” the letter states.
The students said the sit in will only end after a motion is presented in the Senate of Lakehead University to restore the original curriculum.
“This is our only request,” the letter concluded.
Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Patrick Wedaseh Madahbee had conveyed his support for the proposed enhancement in a letter to 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,” said Madahbee, who was not involved in the development of the course.
“This will ensure a healthier environment for productive discussions and decision making when faced with First Nation issues.”
In a Lakehead press release, 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.
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