Second annual Re-Orientation brings equity and diversity to the forefront

On Friday, January 27 all first-year Juris Doctor (JD) students were given a reprieve from class to attend the second annual Re-Orientation.

Introduced in 2016 by Kaila Mikkelsen, Assistant Dean of Students, the goal of Re-Orientation is to “further engage our students with matters of equality, diversity, and wellness.”

“Now that they’ve had a few months of law school and are more comfortable with their classmates, professors, and materials, we would like to challenge their thinking and reflection on a deeper level,” she explained.

Through a lecture, series of vignettes, and mock First Nations Sentencing Court, students were able to contemplate and address issues such as their own mental health; the ways stereotypes, discrimination, and inequity manifest themselves within law school; and the importance of recognizing Indigenous models of justice.

“The hope is students will come away from the day with a greater understanding, perspective, and empathy for their fellow classmates and for the place and context which they are learning the law,” Mikkelsen said.

Two Cowichan Halkomelem speaking elders, a First Nations Court Judge, First Nations Crown Counsel, and a Native Court Worker all took time out of their busy schedules to come to Allard Hall to present a mock First Nations Sentencing Court for students, which was a new addition to the Re-Orientation programming.

“On a day focusing on equity and diversity, it is essential to incorporate Indigenous programming for all students,” Dana-Lyn Mackenzie, Associate Director of Indigenous Legal Studies, explained.  “It is important that law students understand the impacts of the Indian Residential Schools system on Indigenous communities. Giving law students an opportunity to learn about these issues is integral to the Faculty’s response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC)’s Final Report.”

The Allard School of Law’s Re-Orientation is a first for a Canadian law school and will continue to be held as an annual event.