Aboriginal youth explore law in innovative summer program

headshot Lorne Sossin

Thirty-five Aboriginal high school students will step into the shoes of a lawyer this week and immerse themselves in the law as part of a unique Aboriginal Youth Summer Program offered for the first time by the University of Toronto Faculty of Law and York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School.

The students, who are currently enrolled in Grades 10, 11 and 12, will live on-campus at U of T, learning about various aspects of the study of law and how they intertwine with issues affecting Aboriginal peoples, until July 14. The program will be fully subsidized by U of T and Osgoode, as well as by grants from the Law Foundation of Ontario and the Law School Admission Council.

Taught by law students, professors, judges and lawyers, topics will include criminal justice, such as sentencing and bail under Gladue court principles; property and Aboriginal title; constitutional law and the rights of Indigenous peoples; international Aboriginal law; and headshot of Lorne Sossinintersections between Wampum and the common law. Students will observe these principles in action with field trips to places such as Toronto’s Old City Hall Courthouse, Gladue Court and Aboriginal law firms.

Lorne Sossin

In addition to the enriching academic content, students will get a taste of university life, with classes held in law classrooms at the U of T Faculty of Law (led by law students from both U of T and Osgoode), accommodation in a U of T dormitory, and participation in cultural events in the city.

Both U of T Faculty of Law Dean Mayo Moran and Osgoode Dean Lorne Sossin say the Aboriginal Youth Summer Program is not only a great learning opportunity for the Aboriginal high school students, but also reflects both law schools’ commitment to Indigenous legal studies.

“Aboriginal youth are hungry for opportunities to learn about the law and their postsecondary options,” Moran said. “We witnessed this first-hand when we received double the number of applicants for available spaces in this pilot year of the Aboriginal Youth Summer Program. The University of Toronto Faculty of Law is delighted to be partnering with Osgoode Hall Law School to provide an innovative program that responds to the needs, interests and aspirations of Aboriginal youth.”

“Osgoode’s motto is ‘Through Law to Justice’ and this is a message we hope students will take from the Aboriginal Youth Summer Program,” Sossin said. “In partnering with U of T in this innovative program we are introducing Aboriginal high school students at an early stage both to the world of the law and the search for justice. Hopefully, those high school students will see law and lawyers in a new light and some of these same students may pursue further legal studies and career options.”