Indigenous Initiatives at Western Law
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 Erika Chamberlain
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:
- Aboriginal Law (Professor Michael Coyle)
- Indigenous Legal Traditions (Adjunct Professor Ron George)
- Kawaskimhon Talking Circle (External Moot)
- Law and the Indigenous World in Canada (Intensive course taught by Brenda Young, Chippewas of the Thames First Nation and Professor Valerie Oosterveld)
Introductory Law School Admission Test (LSAT) Course for Indigenous Students
The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is a required admissions component for most law schools. The Introductory LSAT Course for Indigenous students, spanning four weeks, provides a concentrated introduction to the LSAT that will familiarize participants with all aspects of the test. The course also includes three full length practice tests administered under realistic testing conditions.
This free course is open to all Indigenous students and is offered in partnership with Western’s Indigenous Services, Western’s Faculty of Law, and with the support of the Princeton Review and the Law Foundation of Ontario. The course is offered in the month of May each year. It is a great opportunity to develop your LSAT skills, explore a detailed approach for your law school application process, and build community in your pursuit of a career as a lawyer.
Other Student Opportunities
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.
Indigenous Law Camp
In March 2017, Western Law faculty and students participated in our first Anishinaabe Law Camp, hosted by Chippewas of the Thames First Nation and facilitated by Professors John Borrows and Heidi Stark from the University of Victoria. Our second Camp, held in March 2019, was hosted by Walpole Island First Nation and was supported by the Law Foundation of Ontario. The Camp will be a regular fixture of our programming going forward. Read more
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.
LFO Community Leadership in Justice Fellowship
In 2016-17, Western Law hosted 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 focused 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.
The Clarke-Osborne Family Entrance Scholarship is awarded to a student entering first year Law based on academic achievement and demonstrated leadership ability valued at $1,750. Preference is given to an Indigenous student. This scholarship is made possible by a generous gift from Cindy Clarke (BA ’93, LLB ’97) National Group Head, Specialized Litigation at Borden Ladner Gervais LLP and Chris Osborne (BSc ’93, MSc ’94), in loving memory of Cindy’s father, The Honourable Justice Richard N. Clarke (BA ’62, LLB ’67).
The Interdisciplinary Initiative (IDI) in Applied Indigenous Scholarship invites applications for scholarships from Indigenous students currently enrolled at Western University and its affiliated Colleges. In keeping with the goals of the IDI in Applied Indigenous Scholarship, these awards are intended to support Indigenous student who are pursuing academic studies with the future goal of utilizing their degree within an applied Indigenous community context. Up to eight scholarships will be awarded. Each scholarship provides a one-time award of $2,500 for part-time students or $5,000 for full-time students. For further information on how to apply, please visit the Indigenous Scholarship Student Opportunities page.
The Robert Ninham Entrance Scholarship is awarded annually to a full-time undergraduate student entering Year 1 in the Faculty of Law, based on academic promise. Preference will be given to an Indigenous student (First Nations, Metis, Inuit, Status, Non-Status and Self Identifying) who has demonstrated ties to his/her indigenous community. The Scholarship/Awards Committee in the Faculty of Law will select the recipient. Robert Ninham was wolf clan of the Oneida Nation. He was always expanding his horizons. He obtained his private and commercial pilot licences in 1996. He graduated in 1999 with an Honors Business Commerce degree. Robert worked for the Oneida Nation of the Thames band office and decided that he could make a greater impact for his community by pursuing a law degree. Robert attended Western Law and graduated in 2010. He saw that the only way for First Nations’ people to address their issues was to take responsibility and make changes within the community. He enjoyed working with children as an agent of the Office of the Children’s Lawyer. He also represented First Nations’ people in family court and in child protection proceedings. Robert passed away in 2017 at the age of 47. Value: 1 at $1,500
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.