Law society paves way for Ontario’s first new law school in 43 years [in Thunder Bay] – Tracey Tyler (Toronto Star – May 11, 2011)

Tracey Tyler is the legal affairs reporter for the Toronto Star, which has the largest circulation in Canada. The paper has an enormous impact on Canada’s federal and provincial politics as well as shaping public opinion. This article was originally published May 11, 2011.

In many ways, the future of the legal profession isn’t on Bay St., he [Beardy] contends, but closer to major mining exploration projects in the James Bay lowlands known as the “ring of fire.” Northern Ontario is rich in diamonds, gold, platinum and a recently discovered deposit of chromite, a mineral used in stainless steel production and expected to be in high demand in countries with rapidly developing economies, including China and India, Beardy said.

Grand Chief Stan Beardy of Nishnawbe Aski Nation likes to joke about seeing a sasquatch in the forest behind his home in Muskrat Dam in Northern Ontario.

But when he looks some 600 kilometres south and into the future, Beardy sees a law school, one that will boost the ranks of First Nations lawyers and support economic development in the north.

That vision is inching closer to reality now that the Law Society of Upper Canada has approved a proposal from Lakehead University to open a law school in Thunder Bay. The university says the school would give preference to northerners and First Nations applicants.

Lakehead’s senate votes on the proposal Friday.

If the Ontario government approves the project, Lakehead will become home to the first new law school in Ontario in more than 40 years, the last being University of Windsor’s faculty of law, which opened in 1969.

“We are set to go and we think this is really high value for the money,” Lakehead president Brian Stevenson said Tuesday.

The law school is expected to cost about $2.5 million a year to operate and Lakehead is looking to the province to pick up a third of the expense.

“This is an opportune time for institutions to be coming forward with proposals like this,” John Milloy, Ontario’s minister of training, colleges and universities, told the Star.

The province is about to sit down with all post-secondary institutions to discuss their future and it will be looking at how Lakehead’s proposal will benefit First Nations communities and the economy, Milloy said.

But while the deans of other Ontario law schools have expressed doubts about whether newly minted lawyers will find jobs in the vast and sparsely populated north, Beardy has no such concerns.

In many ways, the future of the legal profession isn’t on Bay St., he contends, but closer to major mining exploration projects in the James Bay lowlands known as the “ring of fire.”

Northern Ontario is rich in diamonds, gold, platinum and a recently discovered deposit of chromite, a mineral used in stainless steel production and expected to be in high demand in countries with rapidly developing economies, including China and India, Beardy said.

“I think there’s great potential to tap into that wealth.

“If we’re to benefit our local economy we will need a lot of our own people who are properly trained in the legal framework of Canada,” said Beardy, who represents 49 chiefs in Northwestern Ontario.

A decade ago, says Beardy, First Nations leaders had a role in developing the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, a joint venture between Lakehead and Laurentian University in Sudbury, including input into its curriculum.

Lakehead medical students are required to spend time living in remote northern communities to gain a better appreciation of the culture and medical issues.

For the rest of this article, please go to the Toronto Star website: http://www.thestar.com/news/article/989129–law-society-paves-way-for-ontario-s-first-new-law-school-in-43-years?bn=1

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