N.L. announces partnership to send Indigenous students to U of S law school

University of Saskatchewan
As of the fall of 2019, the Saskatchewan law school will reserve two spots for Indigenous students from Newfoundland and Labrador. File / Global News

Newfoundland and Labrador has announced a partnership to send Indigenous students to the University of Saskatchewan‘s law school, as the easternmost province undertakes reconciliation initiatives.

Justice Minister Andrew Parsons announced the law-school initiative in Corner Brook, as the province’s second annual Indigenous leaders roundtable opened Friday.

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As of the fall of 2019, the Saskatchewan law school will reserve two spots for Indigenous students from Newfoundland and Labrador.

The eastern province then guarantees them paid articling positions in the Department of Justice and Public Safety upon graduation.

Indigenous governments will play a leading role in recruiting and submitting students for the program, and are being asked to “identify funding opportunities for educational expenses,” according to a press release.

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The University of Saskatchewan’s dean of law, Martin Phillipson, said the program is a response to two specific calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, asking law schools to teach cultural sensitivity and the history of Indigenous people and Canadian law.

“We are one of the schools that’s taking our obligation very, very seriously,” said Phillipson.

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The guaranteed jobs are a key piece in building Indigenous students an effective pipeline to leadership positions in the justice system, he said.

“The last piece of the puzzle and sort of completing the circle is the fact that there will be significant employment opportunities at the end of these programs where these students can then take their place within the legal profession,” said Phillipson.

The collaboration is the second of its kind between the university and a province or territory. In 2017, it launched a four-year program for 25 law students in Iqaluit, Nunavut.

Newfoundland and Labrador does not have a law school.

The announcement preceded a day of discussion between Premier Dwight Ball, Indigenous leaders, and several provincial ministers in the roundtable.

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Ball said topics of discussion on the day’s agenda include repatriating Beothuk remains to the province, a cultural plan for the province that includes Indigenous culture, and strategies to combat mental health and addictions.