Scholarship created for Indigenous law students

Queen’s Law Student Society comes to consensus on surplus

$25,000 surplus may be matched by $25,000 faculty input.

On March 24, the Queen’s Law Students Society (LSS) announced the creation of a new Aboriginal Entrance Scholarship for aspiring Indigenous lawyers.

 The annual scholarship is intended to address the underrepresentation of Indigenous students in Canadian law schools in response to the Calls to Action contained in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report. The scholarship will provide between $2,000 and $3,000 and will be awarded to one incoming Indigenous Queen’s Law student who demonstrates financial need and academic achievement.

 

Funds for the scholarship were made available by a $25,000 LSS budget surplus, which will be transferred to a joint endowed fund created in partnership with the Queen’s Faculty of Law. Dean of Law Bill Flanagan has offered to match the LSS’s commitment with $25,000 of the faculty’s funds, although the faculty’s contribution is still waiting for the approval of the Provost.

The endowed fund will be invested with an expected annual return of approximately 4 per cent to ensure that funds for the scholarship are available for years to come.

When the surplus was discovered, a number of proposals were brought to the table by members of the LSS. An established committee first narrowed the list of proposals down before the chosen proposals were brought before Queen’s law students in the form of an online survey. Students voted in the survey from March 23 to 24.

The Aboriginal Entrance Scholarship won 60 per cent of the vote. 65 per cent of the total law student population voted.

The scholarship will “support students financially and encourage law students who want to stay true to their Indigenous culture,” according to LSS Student Senator Ian Moore, JD’16. Moore was the formal mover of the scholarship proposal.

 

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission — which is funded by the federal government —looks into the history of the residential school system and how it continues to impact Aboriginal communities in Canada. Moore said the commission’s December 2015 report asked Canadian colleges and universities to rethink their approach to Indigenous issues and the ways  they can address the legacy of Canada’s residential schools.

“Indigenous people are underrepresented in the legal profession [and] underrepresented at law schools,” Moore said.

“The law has historically been used as one of the most powerful tools of oppression of Indigenous peoples, and so what these calls to action have explicitly asked law schools to do is rethink the curriculum.”

Less than one per cent of students enrolled in Queen’s Law self-identify as Aboriginal, according to Moore, and Queen’s has never offered a scholarship specifically for Aboriginal law students in the past.

He added that the scholarship recognizes that law students are part of the system that has historically oppressed Aboriginal peoples.

“It’s important to us to own up to the responsibility that we have,” he said.

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