The Aboriginal Law Program at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law offers Aboriginal students a world class law degree in a supportive environment.

The Faculty of Law has a strong tradition of working to enhance the Aboriginal voice in our community and within the legal profession more broadly. We proactively recruit Aboriginal students for both our JD and Graduate programs, provide specialized support to Aboriginal students, offer innovative courses in Aboriginal law, and host outreach and recruitment events specifically aimed at Aboriginal students. The Faculty has one of the highest graduation rates for students of Aboriginal heritage in the country. Our Aboriginal students have gone on to leading positions at the bar, in the public service, and in the judiciary.

The Aboriginal Law Program at the Faculty of Law offers a wide variety of classroom and experiential learning opportunities to students who are interested in Aboriginal issues. Students can compete in the Kawaskimhon Aboriginal Moot, work on the student-run Indigenous Law Journal, engage with Aboriginal scholars and professionals with activities such as the Gladue Practicum Program and the Aboriginal Peoples and Canadian Law Practicum, and deepen their educational experience with the Certificate in Aboriginal Legal Studies. Additionally, students can gain practical experience by participating in the Clinical Program with Aboriginal Legal Services Toronto.

Fostering a sense of community and cultural belonging are important aspects of the Aboriginal Law Program. The Faculty honours the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of New Credit and welcomes our new students during Orientation Week with a welcome song by an Aboriginal drumming group. A traditional Feast is held each fall, and includes all members of the law school community. Student and alumni mentorships are formed at a welcome dinner at the home of an Aboriginal alumnus, and sense of camaraderie and fellowship are created by joining the Aboriginal Law Students’ Association.

Aboriginal Applicants

Our Aboriginal application category is designed to identify exceptional students who will bring a broad and complex set of life experiences to the study of law. We strive to build a diverse and unique community of students who will forge lifelong friendships as they learn with and from each other. Aboriginal applicants are requested to outline in their personal statements their interest in, identification with, and connection to their communities.

Required documents for Aboriginal applicants can be found in the Application Procedure section.

Program of Legal Studies for Native People

The Faculty of Law strongly supports the Program of Legal Studies for Native People (PLSNP) at the University of Saskatchewan’s Native Law Centre. In appropriate cases, admission may be conditional on successful performance in the PLSNP. Aboriginal applicants who are given a non-conditional offer of admission are also eligible and encouraged to attend the PLSNP.

The PLSNP’s Property law course satisfies the Faculty of Law’s first year Property law requirement; students who have successfully completed the PLSNP will not take Property Law in their first year at the Faculty. Starting in 2014, the Faculty of Law will reimburse all admitted Aboriginal students who complete the PLSNPaccordingly: $2,700.00 PLSNP tuition, and up to $1,000.00 in housing and food costs (original receipts required). Total maximum reimbursement is $3,700.00 per student.

For further information on the PLSNP, see below. 

Program of Legal Studies for Native People
University of Saskatchewan
15 Campus Drive
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan S7N 5A6
Tel: (306) 966-6189
Fax: (306) 966-6207
Email: plsnp@usask.ca
Website: www.usask.ca/plsnp

Aboriginal applicants may also wish to find out more information about the Aboriginal Law Program at the Faculty of Law.

 

Aboriginal Applicants - Frequently Asked Questions

Are there a certain number of spaces reserved for Aboriginal JD students?

No. There are no ‘quotas’ or minimum or maximum number of spots reserved for Aboriginal students.

How many students of Aboriginal descent attend the Faculty of Law each year?

On average, ten Aboriginal students enter the Faculty of Law each year, for a total of approximately 30 across all three years.

Are there minimum GPA and LSAT scores for an applicant to be competitive?

There are no strict cut-offs with regard to GPAs and LSAT scores for any applicant. As mentioned above, Our JD admissions process is designed to identify exceptional students who will bring a broad and complex set of life experiences to the study of law.

We give a full reading to your application with equal emphasis on your LSAT, GPA and personal essays. The review process is context sensitive, which means that we look at all of these factors together.  While academic records and LSAT scores play a role in our assessment, we rely on the essays for information that cannot be conveyed by numbers.

We encourage students with apparently less competitive LSAT scores and undergraduate records to apply, since every year we admit a significant number of students whose files when considered in proper context merit offers of admission.

What sort of financial aid options are available for Aboriginal JD students?

The Faculty offers a generous Financial Aid Program to eligible students. In addition, there are several bursaries and scholarships available to Aboriginal students through the University of Toronto’s First Nations House. There are also several external scholarships available throughout the year to Aboriginal students. These opportunities are advertised by the Aboriginal Law Program Coordinator as applications for each become available. Aboriginal applicants and current JD students can learn more about funding their education by referring to the Aboriginal Student JD Funding Guide

What opportunities are there for JD students to work directly for Indigenous communities?

The Faculty has a fellowship program for Aboriginal students called the June Callwood Program. This fellowship offers community-based paid internships that allow students to gain practical experience in Aboriginal community organizations. Students who are interested in the international aspects of Aboriginal law are encouraged to propose internship projects working with international Indigenous communities through the Faculty’s International Human Rights Program. The Faculty offers a clinical opportunity with Aboriginal Legal Services Toronto (ALST), where JD students can earn credit while gaining practical experience working with ALST's lawyers on either Gladue matters or victim advocacy files.

Also, students enrolled in the JD Program at the University of Toronto are eligible to apply to the Osgoode Intensive Program in Aboriginal Lands, Resources, and Governments.  Finally, the Aboriginal Law Program works with the Career Development Office to ensure that job opportunities with Aboriginal communities and firms are kept up-to-date.

What sort of personal supports are available to Aboriginal JD students?

The Aboriginal Law Program Coordinator develops and implements a range of innovative and responsive initiatives designed to foster the success of prospective and current Aboriginal students at the Faculty of Law. The Coordinator provides specialized support to Aboriginal students, hosts outreach and recruitment events, connects the students with Aboriginal alumni for mentorship and career connections, and cultivates strong strategic relationships with external and internal organizations.

The Dean offers an Academic Success Program to all 1L students who are experiencing academic difficulties or who wish to gain confidence in exam or paper writing. Upper-year Student Advisors are hired to provide one-on-one academic mentoring sessions (both in person and via email) and deliver group study skills workshops. These advisors have demonstrated academic excellence in the first year curriculum. The ASP is a free and confidential service. Students may access the program as individuals or in small study groups. They also may be referred to the program by a small group professor on the basis of student performance on writing assignments.

First Nations House (FNH), located at the St. George Campus at the University of Toronto, is a dynamic place where Aboriginal students from many Nations across Canada can seek culturally appropriate services. The Office of Aboriginal Student Services and Programs at FNH support incoming and returning Aboriginal students in all U of T programs, and provides students the opportunity to create a space where Aboriginal people from across Canada and the United States can work and grow in a community environment.

Are there any job opportunities specifically for Aboriginal students?

Yes. Aboriginal students are able to apply for the June Callwood Program, which offers community-based paid internships that allow students to gain practical experience in Aboriginal community organizations. In addition, the Aboriginal Law Program Coordinator receives summer job and articling postings specifically for Aboriginal students from various firms and organizations, which are forwarded to the students and the Career Development Office.

As an Aboriginal student, do I have to commit to practicing Aboriginal law?

No. Our Aboriginal alumni have gone on to practice in every different area of law. Others have gone on to do policy work or have become members of the judiciary.

What sorts of mentorship opportunities are available at the Faculty?

The Faculty has an alumni mentoring program that is open to all JD students, and is a tremendous opportunity for students to connect with the law school’s Aboriginal and other alumni, learn more about the legal profession and explore the various opportunities that a legal education can provide. The program coordinator endeavors to match mentees and mentors on as many criteria as possible, including areas of practice, interests and other personal characteristics.  Aboriginal students are have the option to request a mentor of Aboriginal descent.

The Peer Mentorship Program pairs first year students with upper year mentors. Mentors act as a source of guidance for matters of both academic and non-academic nature. The Peer Mentorship Program strongly believes that the establishment of a relationship between first year students and upper year students is essential to fostering an inclusive community within the law school. First-year students are given the option of requesting an Aboriginal peer mentor.

Additionally, the Aboriginal Law Program hosts events where Aboriginal students can connect with Aboriginal lawyers, including a welcome dinner at a distinguished alumni’s home, an opportunity to attend the annual Indigenous Bar Association Conference and various speaking engagements hosted by lawyers and academics. Upper-year students in the Aboriginal Law Students Association tend to serve as informal mentors for the first year Aboriginal students.

What makes U of T a great choice for Aboriginal applicants?

The Aboriginal Law Program at the Faculty of Law offers a wide variety of classroom and experiential learning opportunities to students who are interested in Aboriginal issues. Competing in the Kawaskimhon Aboriginal moot, editing the student-run Indigenous Law Journal, engaging with leading Aboriginal legal scholars, and putting student’s legal knowledge to work on behalf of Aboriginal communities are just a few examples of the unique ways the Faculty of Law engages Aboriginal students in the issues that matter to them.