Staying True to our Roots
With over 200 First Nations communities in British Columbia, UBC is committed to being a leader in Aboriginal studies and encouraging Aboriginal students to continue their education.
An inspiring example of this dedication comes from the UBC law school where ‘Aboriginal Rights and Treaties in Canada’ is now a mandatory first year course. As one of the first Canadian law schools to make this a requirement for graduation, UBC is taking the stance that Aboriginal studies are critical to having a full understanding of the country.
“It sends a strong message to our students and to the legal community, that we consider this area of law to be a core competency,” says Professor Darlene Johnston, one of four instructors who developed the new course. “There aren’t enough Aboriginal lawyers to service all the needs of this community, so it’s important that non-Aboriginal lawyers be in a position to understand these rights and to serve as advocates.”
Encouraging Aboriginal students to continue their studies to become lawyers or any other profession is at the heart of UBC’s Aboriginal Programming. The Okanagan campus has gone as far as creating an Aboriginal Centre to provide a comfortable place with culturally appropriate services and support to First Nations, Metis and Inuit students. This leadership has grabbed the attention of other universities as well. Representatives from Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia and the University of Ottawa have recently toured UBC Okanagan to learn how to bring similar services to their campuses.
“This is an excellent model,” says Kara Paul, Manager Aboriginal Health Sciences Initiative at Dalhousie. “This is a more integrated model that has prep and university courses. This is the type of program I envision for my university.”
This long-term commitment to Aboriginal people at UBC is making a difference on campus and off. People are proud of the accomplishments thus far and striving to continue to improve. There is definitely a sense of pride in Darlene Johnson’s perspective on UBC law, “I’m really happy as an Aboriginal scholar to be teaching in a school that has made it clear that the rights of Aboriginal people are a central part of the constitutional law in this country.”