As a law school, we are committed to having an ongoing response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action. We believe that we have a responsibility to enhance the participation of indigenous law students and lawyers, and to teach all our students about the distinctive place of indigenous peoples and cultures within the Canadian legal system. Virtually all practice areas engage with these issues, and today’s lawyers need to be aware of both the historical context and contemporary challenges in order to be ethical, socially-conscious and effective practitioners.
Dean W Iain Scott
First year: as part of the first-year course, Orientation to Law and the Legal System, Western Law students study the unique position of Canada’s indigenous peoples within the legal system. Topics include: the history of indigenous people under Canadian law; sources of Aboriginal rights; the process and outcome of treaty-making; and the status of indigenous law in Canada. In Constitutional Law, students learn about the rights guaranteed to Canada’s Aboriginal peoples under the Constitution Act, 1982.
Upper year: many upper-year courses address topics involving indigenous communities and peoples, including Environmental Law, Family Law, Administrative Law, Human Rights, and Public Health Law. In addition, a range of elective courses are available for students who wish to focus on indigenous issues in more depth:
Beyond their academic courses, Western Law students can engage with indigenous issues through co-curricular activities like the Extractive and Indigenous Affairs Moot, Indigenous Awareness Week, or as summer interns through the Ministry of the Attorney General’s Debwewin internship program. Read more about Western Law students’ experiences in this internship program.
Western has a long tradition of leading indigenous graduates. Norman Lickers, the only First Nations person to be called to the Ontario bar between 1865 and 1966, graduated from Western. In more recent times, Western Law alumna Roberta Jamieson was the first woman from a First Nation to graduate from law school (1976). Among her numerous achievements, Jamieson served as the first female Ombudsman of Ontario (1989-99) and the first woman elected Chief of the Six Nations of the Grand River Territory (2001-04). She was appointed President and CEO of INDspire in 2004 (formerly the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation). She is also a Member of the Order of Canada. Today, our indigenous graduates work in a variety of fields, from private practice, to advising Indian bands, to working at high levels in government and as members of the judiciary.
In 2016-17, Western Law will be hosting Brenda Young, Community Justice Director for the Chippewas of the Thames First Nation, as part of the Law Foundation of Ontario’s Community Leadership in Justice Fellowship program. Young will focus her studies on indigenous economic justice, and will lead workshops for faculty and students. Read more
Reflecting our commitment to ensuring equitable access to legal education, Western Law offers a special admissions category for Aboriginal applicants. Learn more
Western Law offers a range of financial assistance to students in financial need. Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC)'s Post-Secondary Student Support Program (PSSSP) provides financial assistance to First Nations and eligible Inuit students who are enrolled in eligible post-secondary programs. Additional federal assistance is also available to indigenous students from several other sources. For more information, visit the Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada's Post-Secondary Student Support Program website.
To ease the transition to legal studies, indigenous students at Western Law can take advantage of a free tutoring program. Under the supervision of a professor, upper-year students assist individuals who request it in their course work. In addition, the Assistant Dean (Student Services) is available for academic counselling.
Cultural Life: In addition to the wide variety of social and cultural activities organized by students at Western Law, the Indigenous Services Office on Western's main campus will keep you abreast of the thriving indigenous life at Western, in London, and in the eight First Nation communities located within 60 miles of London.