Dalhousie has made important strides in embracing a broader group of students, faculty and staff in recent years, including launching a strategic initiative on diversity and inclusiveness in 2015.
A new position that aims to further that goal was announced earlier this week during a reception welcoming Schulich School of Law Professor Naiomi Metallic as Dal’s first Chancellor’s Chair in Aboriginal Law and Policy. The Chair was made possible thanks to a generous donation by the Honourable Anne McLellan, Dal’s chancellor.
On Monday, a group of Schulich School of Law faculty, students, alumni and staff, along with former colleagues of Metallic’s, gathered in the Weldon Law Building’s second-floor atrium to learn about her plans for the five-year renewable Chair term.
After Mi’kmaq educator and human rights activist Sister Dorothy Moore gave the opening prayer and blessed Metallic for making a better world for First Nations peoples, Sipekne’katik (Indian Brook) First Nation drummer Keagan Sack sang the Mi’kmaq Honour Song.
“It’s a great day to be here,” said Dal President Richard Florizone. “Saturday was Treaty Day, and events are still taking place on campus and around the city.” He made everyone laugh when, after stating that he was excited for Metallic to begin putting her strategic plan into action as the first Chancellor’s Chair in Aboriginal Law and Policy, he added: “No pressure!”
Florizone said that Dal takes the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action seriously — in particular Action 28, which calls upon law schools in Canada to require all law students to take a course in Aboriginal peoples and the law. “We’re proud of what we’ve done to foster diversity and inclusiveness at Dalhousie,” he said, “but we know there’s more we need to do.”
Building on strong foundations
Schulich School of Law Dean Camille Cameron opened her remarks by recognizing that the reception was being held on traditional Mi’kmaq territory.
“I’m very proud of our Indigenous Blacks & Mi’kmaq Initiative, which was an inspired idea when it was established in 1989,” said Cameron. “It has become a model for access to the legal profession across Canada and the U.S., and it continues to make a vital contribution to that goal. But we have to do more. I’m happy to say that we now have a dedicated group within the faculty taking us forward to respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action, especially Call to Action 28.”
McLellan, a former Canadian deputy prime minister who did her undergrad at Dal, then earned a law degree here in 1974, has been Chancellor since 2015. She pointed to the positive changes that have been made in diversity and inclusiveness generally compared to when she was a student.
“When I was in law school, there was no Treaty Day,” said McLellan. “I’m delighted to see Naiomi as this Chair’s first scholar. She has an amazing personality, she exudes charisma and energy, and she will directly guide the creation of new initiatives to make both the law school and Dal more inclusive.”
Chair to foster greater teaching, research
Metallic hails from the Listuguj Mi’gmaq First Nation, which is located on the Gaspé Coast of Quebec. She was a member of the IB&M Initiative while studying law at Dalhousie, earning her degree in 2005.
Metallic is starting her first year of full-time teaching at the Schulich School of Law after several years of guest lecturing while practicing law at Burchells LLP in Halifax. Students taking Constitutional Law, Indigenous Governance, Aboriginal Peoples and the Kawaskimhon Aboriginal Law Moot will benefit from her experience working as a lawyer for Indigenous communities in the Maritimes and beyond.
At the reception, Metallic praised both the IB&M Initiative and its director, Professor Michelle Williams. “I feel very fortunate to build on the great work of the IB&M Initiative and to push for positive change for Mi’kmaq and other Aboriginal peoples,” she said. “The Chair gives me a wonderful opportunity to move this work along with more authority and legitimacy. Thank you, Anne, for your generosity and leadership in funding this Chair.”
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