TRU School of Law opens

Brendan Kergin, News Editor  Ω

Over a dozen pairs of scissors were needed Sept. 6 when politicians, lawyers and other local dignitaries came together in the Irving K. Barber British Columbia Centre for speeches and a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the opening of TRU’s new law school.

“This is both a happy and historic day for Thompson Rivers University, the city of Kamloops, and the province of British Columbia,” said the Honourable Chief Justice Lance Finch, Chief Justice of British Columbia.  He was one of the many legal heavyweights who attended the opening.

The day started with a procession led by a bagpiper, a prayer from TRU Aboriginal Elder Jimmy Jack and greetings from the founding dean of law, Chris Axworthy.

This is the first new law school in Canada in over 30 years and only the third in B.C.
With the other schools located in Victoria and Vancouver, it is hoped graduates of the TRU program will stay in the Interior to serve the needs of smaller communities.

“People are at the centre of all we do,” said Axworthy.
Like other highly educated professions there is worry there will be a lack of new lawyers outside metropolitan areas.

As young lawyers graduate, some will move into more rural areas to become important parts of those communities.

Many of the speakers touched on the need Canadians have for lawyers in less populated areas. While these positions don’t carry the glamour of working at a big firm, they are integral to the well-being of a town.

“The increased supply of legally trained professionals comes at a time when access to justice in B.C. has become a serious problem,” said Finch.

The school came about with a great deal of effort from communities in the area which were concerned about their access to legal services and politicians like MLA Kevin Krueger, who spoke as well.

Officially announced in 2009, the school has been running on a small staff, with a great deal of the work being done by Axworthy and founding administrator Anne Pappas.
Some positions weren’t filled until this summer.

The school is focused toward issues facing the area as well, especially concerning First Nations and environmental/natural resource issues.

It will also be looking at sports law, an area not well covered by other Canadian law schools.

It is a significant moment for TRU as it enters an arena filled with established schools that hold historic importance.

With only 16 other law schools in Canada, there will be an impact on the nation’s legal community when this year’s incoming class graduates in 2014.

The school plans to take advantage of its newness, looking to stay on the cutting edge of the legal world and running a more technologically advanced program.

TRU’s law school has partnered with the University of Calgary and is using the established school as a base for its first-year courses.

“We have a special relationship with Calgary,” said Axworthy.

Law students from the University of Calgary even travelled out to help with orientation.

Other visitors to the opening included representatives from UVic and UBC.
The opening reached as far as the University of Zimbabwe, where Emmanuel Magade, dean of law at UZ, visited from.

MP Cathy McLeod brought messages from Ottawa as well as her own praise of the school and community.

“You look at the students in their blue shirts having orientation, you look at this phenomenal building which we just opened for the first time a couple months ago, and now the law school, this is just becoming such an important part of the fabric of Kamloops and an incredible institution,” said McLeod.

Other speakers included former Attorney General of B.C. and TRU Chancellor Wally Oppal, MLA Terry Lake and Chief Shane Gottfriedson of the Tk’emlups Indian Band.
Senator Nancy Greene was also in attendance. She was chancellor of TRU when the idea of the law school was first coming about.

Congratulations were also tweeted by Premier Christy Clark.

The opening took place in the Brown Family House of Learning, the newest building on campus, which is also where the program is based.