As part of an activity carried out during the last edition of the week on student health and well-being, the Faculty had the opportunity to welcome Guy Niquay, proud representative of the Atikamekw community of Manawan.
The meeting allowed for excellent discussions, especially with regard to their position on the lack of jurists from the aboriginal peoples. According to him, young people from different communities are not sufficiently exposed to the law and should be exposed to it since high school. Unknowingly, Mr. Niquay was in a way laying the groundwork for the Mini-Law School project!
Familiarization workshops in the legal area
After a long preparation that began in the summer of 2021, the first legal familiarization workshops took place in recent weeks. The teams of teachers thus had the opportunity to visit Nikanik secondary school, in the Wemotaci (Atikamekw) community 1h30 from La Tuque, Manikanetish secondary school, in the Uashat Mak Mani-utenam (Innu) community near Sept-Îles, and the Kasinu Mamu High School, in the Mashteuiatsh community not far from Roberval.
The main objective of these workshops was to introduce the area of Law to secondary school students, for whom it was, in most cases, a first contact. The workshops also allowed young people from the communities visited to meet inspiring models from the legal world, lawyers or students, explore some of the professional paths opened up by the study of law, address Aboriginal legal issues of interest to young people and introduce non-native UdeS students to the wealth of aboriginal culture.
The UdeS teams were made up of aboriginal and non-aboriginal students, the latter recruited as part of an activity organized in partnership with the organization Étudiant.es pro bono du Canada (PBSC).
Organization of workshops
During the fall and winter semesters, students prepared the presentation material on which the workshops would be based. We had to find a way to spark interest, while popularizing content that was sometimes a little complex or dry. Various dynamic approaches have been added to the masterful presentations. For example, the use of the Kahoot online quiz platform proved to be particularly suited to the context and audience. The format of the debate was also appreciated, as it allowed young people to perceive the magnitude of the challenge represented by defending interests that are not necessarily aligned with their own convictions.
The project then unfolded around several partnerships established over time and several meetings. In each community, the UdeS delegation could rely on the help of a resource person (school principal, high school staff, counselor, teacher, etc.) to develop the project. It was essential to have time to create a bond of trust, present the idea well, not impose anything and show a great deal of mutual listening. The resource person also guided the team on issues the youth wanted to discuss. In particular, they wanted to learn more about the indian lawon ancestral rights, on land management, on recent A law that respects First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and familiesas well as the rules around housing outside the community.
In Uashat, a lawyer from the community, who now works there, came to give a talk about his trajectory and the importance of continuing his studies. A traditional meal of partridge, beaver and salmon was then shared between UdeS representatives, youth and community elders. The latter also participated in the afternoon workshops, which gave rise to beautiful intergenerational exchanges on the link with the territory and Aboriginal legal traditions.
Success and next steps
For the Coordinator of Aboriginal Affairs at the Faculty of Law, Jean-Simon Paradis-Charlebois, the Mini-Law School project is not only a success, but also and above all a great source of pride and inspiration for all participants. “In each of the schools, we had the opportunity to serve between 20 and 30 students. The idea was to plant a seed in the minds of these young people, spark an interest in justice and introduce them to inspiring people. The echoes I receive allow me to believe that the objective has been achieved. In the future, we look forward to continuing the adventure with other communities and continuing to roll out our initiatives in collaboration with First Nations and Inuit. »