Thunder Bay

Indigenous advisers meet with Lakehead University president over law school concerns

Members of the Aboriginal Advisory Committee to the Lakehead University law school in Thunder Bay, Ont., held a lengthy meeting with the university's interim president on Wednesday.

'I think we were heard,' said one member of the Lakehead law school's Aboriginal Advisory Committee

Members of the Aboriginal Advisory Committee to the Lakehead University law school told the university's interim president Wednesday that Indigenous law courses must be taught by Indigenous scholars, according to committee member Celina Reitberger.

Members of the Aboriginal Advisory Committee to the Lakehead University law school in Thunder Bay, Ont., held a lengthy meeting with Lakehead's interim president on Wednesday.

The meeting follows complaints of systemic racism at the university stemming from the departure of the law school's second dean, Angelique EagleWoman.

It also follows Lakehead's appointment of interim dean George Patrick Smith, who, in his role as a Superior Court judge, is known for having jailed six leaders from Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation for protesting mining company activity on their traditional territories.

"The committee expressed disappointment that they were not consulted on the choice of the interim dean," said Celina Reitberger, a community representative with the Aboriginal Advisory Committee.

"The committee will meet with the interim dean before he takes his new position."
Celina Reitberger told CBC News the Aboriginal Advisory Committee expressed its disappointment that it was not consulted about the appointment of Lakehead's new interim law dean. (Nicole Ireland/CBC)

The discussion of Smith's appointment was "very in-depth," Reitberger said, but things then settled down and "it was a good meeting."

"I think we were heard, and I think we want to move forward in the best interests of the law school, but we're going to be very diligent in making sure we are on-message all the time," she added.

The committee also discussed the importance of involving elders in hiring at the law school, and it insisted that Indigenous law courses be taught by Indigenous faculty, Reitberger said.

Asked how Lakehead's leadership responded, she added, "They agree in principle with what we're saying, but whether or not it's just lip service remains to be seen."