New law modules launch at Queen’s

Law curriculum to educate students on legal issues surrounding violence against women

Representatives of the Law Commission of Ontario (LCO) visited Kingston on Monday to launch a new curriculum module on domestic violence for law schools across the province.

Queen’s currently offers courses that incorporate domestic violence, but the LCO wanted to make sure every graduated law student in Ontario will have experience with these topics.

LCO Executive Director Patricia Hughes spearheaded the kick-off.

She believes the new modules can be applied to all areas of law. Lawyers are going to come across situations and need to be able to identify signs of abuse even where they might not expect it, she noted.

The new curriculum is available for free online to professors of law after being unveiled at Queen’s.

It can be used as a guideline in the classroom, integrated into the course, or spur the creation of a whole new course.

The development of the modules included involvement from members of government, court representatives and representatives from every law school in Ontario.

The new modules break down into five categories; two of them provide background on domestic violence and who experiences them and how these issues play out in different communities. The other three outline criminal, family and ethics and professionalism.

“For now, the teachers can incorporate the modules in their lesson plan in any way they want,” Hughes said.

By 2015, a mandatory ethics course will be introduced to the curriculum for all law students in Ontario. Hughes said she believes that the new modules will be a large focus in this mandatory course. Law professor Kathleen Lahey, who is also co-director of Queen’s Feminist Legal Studies, said she followed the development of the project closely.

“It is an area of curriculum development that we really need at Queen’s,” she said.

Lahey said the new modules will likely be implemented in next year’s courses. “We can’t rule out that there may be some components available in other courses in January,” she said.

She said she’s aware of a great interest among students for the subject matter.

“There are a number of law school courses where this material is probably going to be incorporated,” she said.

“For example, family law, which looks at a number of situations involving disputes between adults.” — With files from Holly Tousignant

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