The LSS Aboriginal Student Representative: The Position, its Importance, and What it Means for Queen’s Law
Catherine Cliff (CC): Why is it important to have an Aboriginal Student Representative in the Queen’s LSS?
Jason Mercredi (JM): To borrow the well-crafted articulation of our new Prime Minister, “Because it’s 2015!”
In my teachings, the foundational history of this country is dependent upon relationships with First Nation people. Aboriginal people are distinct peoples with specific rights and protections within the constitution of Canada. Yet, how many of us can explain or communicate those rights and the reasons they hold constitutional protection?
The reasons are historical, political, and legal. In my own small way, I wanted to offer insight, understanding, and knowledge to those practitioners of this “supreme law” along with an opportunity to build bridges and reconcile.
Consider one First Nation tobacco field and which areas of law might be affected: constitutional, environmental, contract, employment, international trade, even criminal—the list is not exhaustive. From the First Nation perspective though, we’re just practicing what has been in practice by our communities for thousands of years. A practice that is protected by treaty, long before a constitution existed. This is just one example. I believe having an understanding of Aboriginal perspective and history will certainly help anyone in the practice of law.
Aboriginal law is the fastest growing area of law in the country. I expect this area of law will grow exponentially now in light of the newly announced indigenous Minister of Justice. It would be exceptionally rewarding to create awareness of how Aboriginal communities are not only impacted, but intrinsically impact each and every area of law.
CC: What will the newly elected Aboriginal Student Representative’s duties and objectives be?
JM: The Aboriginal Student Representative was created to offer a presence for other First Nation, Métis, or Inuit students; to build bridges between our distinct communities, to establish a presence for others to relate to, and feel as a part of Queen’s overall community. This is also the core function of the new LSS position.
The position will also communicate and work collaboratively (when required) with other Aboriginal Law Student Society positions across the country. The seat will also aid in recruitment as much as retention, even by optic alone. There will be something here for Aboriginal people unique to Queen’s Law itself.
The objectives include:
(1) Reflecting the law and culture of this country in a more fulsome form,
(2) Assisting in recruitment and retention of Aboriginal students,
(3) Liaising and coordinating—where necessary—with existing Aboriginal students associations across Canada,
(4) Offering the LSS and its members a broader picture of the country we call Canada, and
(5) communicating the interests of both existing and incoming Aboriginal students.
CC: What are the qualifications for the role and what is the election process?
JM: Any self-identified First Nation, Metis or Inuit person currently enrolled in Queen’s JD program is eligible for the Aboriginal Student Representative position. The campaign period is November 13th till November 18th at 6:00PM. [Editor’s note: Voting will take place Thursday and Friday.]
CC: What is the Aboriginal Law Students’ Alliance? What do they do and how can people get involved if interested?
JM: The ALSA was created to build relationships. Emphasis should be placed on the word ‘alliance’. Through these relationships we increase understanding and [the] ability to identify the issues and concerns of First Nation, Metis, and Inuit communities. As we venture forth in our individual law careers we will be better equipped to discuss impacts and solutions to those issues.
The ALSA will be inviting Aboriginal subject matter experts to offer training, talks, and panel discussions to all Queen’s Law students in order to increase a general awareness of Aboriginal treaty and inherent rights. We will also invite Elders and traditional people to offer teachings on customs and ways of life, including traditional medicines and healing ceremonies. Guests will also offer their views on government policies and activities, including the Truth and Reconciliation Report. We hope to do this through in-class presentations and luncheons over the year.
ALSA will also be networking with existing Aboriginal Law Students Association across the country to share resources, information and plan activities. The ALSA will also help to plan and organize the 2016 Kawaskimhon Moot hosted at Queen’s law.
[Full Disclosure: Jason Mercredi is a candidate for the LSS Aboriginal Student Representative position.]
Catherine Cliff is a Staff Writer for Juris Diction. She is in 1L.