Lakehead Opens Doors to Ontario’s First New Faculty of Law in 44 Years
Ontario’s first Faculty of Law in 44 years officially opened its doors recently with a large ribbon cutting ceremony at Lakehead’s Port Arthur Collegiate Institute (PACI), home to the University’s newest Faculty. Attendees of this historic event included the school’s first cohort of students and faculty, as well as dignitaries and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne. The inaugural class will teach 60 students everything they need to know to be lawyers and more, by focusing on aboriginal law and understanding aboriginal issues, the needs of small practitioners and natural resources law. Professor Lee Stuesser, founding Dean of the Faculty of Law, was excited that the grand opening had finally arrived.
“This is a great day for Lakehead University, for Thunder Bay, and indeed for Northern Ontario. A new law school is opening that is different and that is intended to serve the communities in Northern Ontario and in smaller centres throughout Canada,” Dean Stuesser said. “A new law school is born. It is small; it is personal; and it is tailored to prepare students for professional practice. “The Faculty of Law at Lakehead University is a creation of the community. Many said it would never happen – they were wrong. The communities in Northwestern Ontario fought for this school and together they succeeded. We are very proud of this new school and Thunder Bay should be proud,” Stuesser said. Lakehead’s new Faculty of Law will educate lawyers who will play a vital role in Northwestern Ontario for First Nation, Métis and Inuit communities. The Faculty will provide its students with a fundamental legal education, while focussing on aboriginal law, natural resources law, and single or sole practitioner law. “This Faculty of Law is in the North for the people of the North,” said Lakehead President and Vice-Chancellor, Dr. Brian Stevenson. “Our focus is on preparing students who wish to practice law in rural and smaller centres, where there is a need to enhance and increase access to justice.” “On behalf of Lakehead University, I welcome our new law students, staff and faculty, and hope they decide to stay in Northern Ontario to help fill the demand in this region,” Dr. Stevenson added. “We are extremely grateful to the provincial government, First Nation and Métis communities, our local MPP’s, Bill Mauro and Michael Gravelle, the County and District Law Presidents’ Association, municipal organizations across Northwestern Ontario, and the Thunder Bay Law Association for their support in establishing this new and special Faculty of Law.” In July 2011, Ontario’s Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU) committed to support Lakehead University’s Faculty of Law. The MTCU fully funded the Faculty of Law with a $1.5 million investment for capital improvements made to the historic PACI building in Thunder Bay where the Faculty of Law is housed.
Brian Stevenson “ This is a wonderful day to have a Faculty of Law established. This really completes the university in terms of programs we want to have in the foreseeable future. On the one end we have a Faculty of Medicine with the NOSM and on the other we have a Law school. In between we have a wonderful set of professional schools such as engineering, education, sciences, health sciences, humanities and business so we a are a very complete university.” “ Lakehead University can now move to becoming a full doctoral university. All it needs is time, students and growth. In a few decades I think we will be able to see all the elements here.” “ It was a great accomplishment to get the law school but I have learned one of the greatest qualities of the people of Thunder Bay is that we are stubborn, consistent and hardworking to get what we want to get. I have learned those skills. The community and how they worked on this was very inspiring to me and it was a real team effort.”
Dean Lee Stuesser. “ The law school means a great deal as it is the first new law school in Ontario in 44 years- a law school in the North that is not just a typical law school but in the North for the north.” “ The key thing is access to justice. There is a shortage of lawyers in Northern Ontario and we need lawyers. The reality is if people get educated and live in the north they are more likely to stay here. The student body we have are coming form the north. It is exactly what we wanted for this school. We have a great group in our first class. They have a lot of potential. We will be focused on professional skills in our program. ” “ We knew we were going to get to this day with a lot of hard work. There were many naysayers in Southern Ontario and the government had to be convinced as well. The leadership here convinced the government. It is a victory for the North.”