Indigenous academic services at the Faculty of Law: equitable opportunity in action.

AuthorFayant, Wendy
PositionAboriginal Law

This year, the University of Alberta marks its 100th anniversary and there are many reasons to celebrate. One reason is the success of the Indigenous Academic Services Program (formerly known as the Indigenous Law Program) offered at the Faculty of Law. The program is funded by the Alberta Law Foundation and is administered by the law school. Since its inception in 1990, over 80 Aboriginal students have graduated with a Bachelor of Laws degree.

As the number of Aboriginal students attending post-secondary institutions throughout Alberta continues to grow, so too does the Faculty of Law's support of qualified Aboriginal candidates in their admission to and success in law school. The law school recently changed the name of the program to Indigenous Academic Services (IAS) to address misconceptions that Aboriginal law students receive a separate and different legal education from the rest of the student body. Once an Aboriginal candidate is admitted to law school, he or she must meet the same academic requirements required by all students in the L.L.B. program.

For over 20 years, law schools across Canada have been implementing measures recognizing the rationale for increasing the number of Aboriginal persons in the legal profession. Typically, law school admission criteria for Aboriginal applicants considers not only post-secondary grades and the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) mark but also evidence of past achievements and indicators of ability to succeed in law school. Aboriginal applicants are required to submit a resume, personal statement, two letters of reference and proof of Aboriginal ancestry. This holistic approach to law school admission criteria is being applied more readily in assessing all law school applicants. Last year, Osgoode Hall Law School at York University adopted a new admissions policy stating that "admission decisions will be based on a holistic set of criteria including undergraduate grade point average and the LSAT as well as other relevant factors".

As a part of a team approach with the Faculty of Law and Student Services, Indigenous Academic Services offers academic/personal counselling and referral services to Aboriginal students enrolled in the L.L.B program. The overall objective of the program is to recruit qualified Aboriginal students and provide academic support services that promote a positive and successful law school experience. The Faculty of Law offers Aboriginal law courses and spearheads...

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