Guest Lecture with Ruth Thompson - Providing Access to Legal Education for Aboriginal People in Canada
Guest Lecture with Ruth Thompson - Director of the Program of Legal Studies for Native People at University of Saskatchewan, Canada
Monday September 3rd, 10:15 – 11:30 - Lecture room TEO-H1 1.343
Topic: Providing Access to Legal Education for Aboriginal People in Canada
Aboriginal people represent at least 4% of the Canadian population, but current estimates indicate that less that 2% of lawyers practicing in Canada are Aboriginal.
Forty years ago the situation was much worse – at that time you could count the number of Aboriginal lawyers and law students in Canada on your fingers. The Program of Legal Studies for Native People (PLSNP) was founded in 1973 to deal with the underrepresentation of Aboriginal people in the legal profession. Since then the PLSNP has provided access to law school for over 1000 Aboriginal students. Still, statistics show that there is much work to be done to see Aboriginal people proportionally represented in the growing Canadian legal profession.
The PLSNP is a successful training ground for Aboriginal students who are beginning law school. It teaches the skills needed to succeed in law school in the context of a property law curriculum that is the equivalent of the property course common to the first year program in Canadian law schools. The unique features of the PLSNP are the explicit skills instruction, the extensive integration of Aboriginal issues into the property law curriculum, and the inclusion of a customary law component in the course. PLSNP staff are encouraged to articulate and teach legal analysis skills, exam writing skills, study skills and coping skills, along with the substantive property law.
The PLSNP receives students from across Canada in Saskatoon every summer. After eight weeks of study they go to law schools across the country which recognize the property course offered by the PLSNP for credit, allowing the students to take a reduced course load in first year. This provides extra time to adapt to law school and to transfer their knowledge about the skills to the other subjects they study in first year. PLSNP graduates are generally successful in law school. About 85% of them graduate with a law degree.
Ruth Thompson has been director of the PLSNP since 1993. She has implemented the two major shifts in the PLSNP curriculum – the first to develop a skills emphasis for the PLSNP, and the second to create a curriculum equivalent to a first year property course that emphasized relevant Aboriginal content.