NAN Deputy Chief Royce Kakegamic
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Nishnawbe Aski Nation is throwing its support behind Lakehead University students protesting a curriculum change for the new law school.
A group of students have been staging a sit-in outside of LU president Brian Stevenson’s office since Monday; they’re protesting the change of a Native Canadian World Views class being reduced from a full course credit to a half credit.
“I don’t think it’s right to minimize the importance of the native people from full credit to half credit,” said NAN deputy chief Goyce Kakegamic.
“I know it’s not a law course, but there’s a lot of issues that you could turn that into a law (course) – to get a world view of our rights,” he said.
A student spokesman told media Monday that a second-year undergraduate Native Canadian World Views class taught in the Indigenous Learning program was approved as part of the law school’s curriculum by the Federation of Law Societies of Canada and the Ministry of Education.
That was the course they believed was intended to be part of the law school curriculum.
However, in a media release issued by the university on Thursday, Lee Stuesser, the dean of the faculty of law, said the undergrad course was never intended to be taught in the law program.
“What is correct is that a course on Native Canadian World Views was to be taught,” he said in the release.
As a half-credit course, it will be paired with the Foundations of Canadian Law course, which presents a western worldview.
“Both subjects would be offered in the fall term and would provide the students an interesting comparison between the traditional common law world view and the Native Canadian world view.”
But Kakegamic feels there are enough issues to constitute a full credit course.
“The dean needs to know this law school is right smack in the middle of our territory. We want our students to know our rights. A lot of them will practice in our territory,” he said.
The deputy chief also wishes they had been consulted on the change. He first heard about the change through the media.
NAN was involved in the final approved proposal for the law school and Kakegamic said Stuesser has a few things to learn about the value of consultation.
“Working in solitude is not successful. You need to reach out to each other,” said Kakegamic.
“(The dean) needs to understand the importance of dialogue with the First Nations people.”
Gull Bay First Nation Chief Wilfred King supports NAN and the protesting students in their wish to see the full credit course be part of the law program.
He took the course in 1993 and says it is an important course.
“The course itself offers enough legal perspectives on how Aboriginal people view the Canadian legal system,” said King, who has a law degree from the University of Ottawa.
“The course itself touches upon many of the legal canons of law that have been applied throughout Canada and throughout the world,” he said.
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