Allard School of Law Launches Specialization in Aboriginal Law

The Indigenous Legal Studies Program (ILSP) was pleased to announce the launch of the Specialization in Aboriginal Law. The Specialization is open to all JD students and is the natural evolution of the broad range of courses covering Aboriginal law and Indigenous legal issues currently offered.

"This is a tremendously exciting change," said Dana-Lyn Mackenzie, Associate Director of the Indigenous Legal Studies Program. "It's wonderful that students will get recognition for their interest and achievements in this demanding field of law, and they have the potential to go on to make significant contributions to the legal landscape of BC and Canada as a whole."

Allard School of Law has been a long-time leader in Aboriginal legal education and recruitment of Indigenous JD students. It offered the first course in Aboriginal law offered in a law school in Canada in 1972, taught by Professor Michael Jackson. The First Nations Legal Studies Program began in the 1980s as a means to promote further research and teaching in this area and to support Aboriginal law students in their pursuit of legal education. At the time, few people were discussing Indigenous issues in the law. Since then hundreds of Indigenous students have graduated, many of whom are now leaders who have helped to redefine Aboriginal legal issues in Canada.

The law school continues to be a leader in Indigenous legal education in North America. An estimated 10% of the student population is Indigenous - a term that is inclusive of First Nations, Métis and Inuit. It is believed to be the largest Indigenous student body of any law school In Canada.

Aaron Samuel, a student and a member of the Indigenous Legal Studies Committee, is also happy to see the new specialization: "As a student, the Specialization in Aboriginal Law affirms to me the [law school's] commitment to Aboriginal Law. As an Indigenous student, choosing a law school that showed an initiative in Aboriginal law issues was important to me in making my decision,"

Any student in the JD program may earn a Specialization in Aboriginal Law by undertaking a course of study that thoroughly prepares them for a demanding practice in Aboriginal law. The education that students receive will stand them in good stead as they embark on their legal careers in a variety of fields. In BC, in part because so many land claims are unsettled, Aboriginal legal issues affect the practice of law in fields as diverse as taxation, property, wills and estates, among others. As student Jessie Ramsey notes: "[this] specialization is extremely relevant in Canada's legal environment. It ultimately will allow and encourage students to engage with Aboriginal issues and will be a benefit to [the law school]."