Public consultation has yet to begin on the feasibility of a faculty of law at the province’s all-encompassing university, but the issue is already finding its way into the media. There are compelling reasons to proceed in this direction.
Having an in-house, in-province law school would broaden awareness of careers in law throughout the province. In all communities, careers in this field would enter the mainstream consciousness as an attainable option for those college-bound. This essential field of study would become equitable, affordable, within reach.
Having faculty members in law at Memorial University would offer us, over time, a base of expertise for case law, especially in the energy sector and territorial rights. No one can deny our ongoing need to develop a wealth of information in these areas. And we would not be alone in choosing this time in our history to set up a law school. Within the past two years, Lakehead University of Ontario and Thompson Rivers University in the interior of British Columbia have headed down the same path.
Having the study of law among the total academic portfolio would be a further ace in the arsenal of university recruiters as they travel to market our university to other provinces and countries. A law school, like the already existing schools of engineering, marine studies, music and medicine would have international appeal. Thus, like Dalhousie or l’université de Moncton, we would not be restricted to Newfoundland and Labrador students to determine whether there would be adequate internal need to embark on this proposed initiative.
Law would be a natural option to tip the scales in favour of bilingual courses at Memorial. Along with business, education and medicine, law is an area where professionals need to receive a bilingual education in Canada’s two official languages at the start of their career formation, not as an expensive, near impossible goal, years later.
Just last Friday, the Commissioner of Official Languages and his counterparts in the provinces of Ontario and New Brunswick issued a recommendation to increase the bilingual capacity of Canada’s judicial system.
Thus, law has the promise of adding to the critical pool of dedicated students who could study a number of prerequisite courses in French in disciplines such as political science, history, administration and the like, before adding courses in public health law
or administrative law, delivered in French.
It behooves us to muster the optimism and investment sources required to set this new school in motion; it is indeed the time to go big or go home.