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‘I didn’t have the heart to tell her’: Lakehead alumnus says EagleWoman’s fight with school isn’t new

‘I didn’t have the heart to tell her’: Lakehead alumnus says EagleWoman’s fight with school isn’t new

‘I didn’t have the heart to tell her’: Lakehead alumni says EagleWoman’s fight with school isn’t new

Willow Fiddler
APTN Information
The primary time Peter Rasevych met Angelique EagleWoman was on a aircraft flying to Thunder Bay in March 2016.

EagleWoman was actually heading to the metropolis the place she was to grow to be the new dean of the Bora Laskin Regulation School at Lakehead College.

“I didn’t have the heart, I didn’t want to tell her, because she told me what she was doing,” Rasevych advised APTN Information. “I didn’t want to tell her, oh this was my experience with that place.”

“Now I’m thinking back on it, wow, imagine I did? What if I would’ve said something to her on the plane that day when she was setting up her job and her home here?”

EagleWoman is suing Lakehead College for $2.67 million for constructive dismissal after she resigned final spring, claiming she was the sufferer of systemic discrimination.

Rasevych says he’s talking out now as a result of what occurred to EagleWoman wasn’t a one-off at Lakehead College.

His uncle Fred Nowgesic skilled one thing comparable.

“I could’ve told her everything that happened to Fred and then maybe she would’ve been informed and alert to it but I didn’t,” Rasevych says about his encounter with EagleWoman, whom he described as excited to be establishing her new house in Thunder Bay.

(Fred Nowgesic in an undated photograph: Courtesy Peter Rasevych)

In her 24-page assertion of declare filed in an Ottawa courtroom on Nov. 20, EagleWoman says tensions with school members and employees and micromanaging from senior administration began inside the first few months of her appointment.

“The Plaintiff encountered open hostility and resentment from a small segment of the faculty, staff, and students,” the courtroom paperwork state.

Rasevych says senior administration officers have been pushing again towards Indigenous leaders in schooling for many years, in a single case, actually.

The band member from Ginoogaming First Nation about 300 km northeast of Thunder Bay, earned his first diploma at McGill College in Montreal in the early 1990s.

Rasevych then ended up at Lakehead the place he earned two extra levels.

He stated he was amazed to see such a robust Indigenous presence at Lakehead when he first arrived in 1997.

“To see hundreds and hundreds of native students. I was told you would fit in a lot better than you would in an urban-based campus in Montreal because there’s way more of you,” he says.

His Uncle Fred had been the first Indigenous individual to sit on the college’s board of governors, senate and government council in the late 1980’s.

An Ojibway from Gull Bay First Nation, Nowgesic’s obituary says he was the first in his household to attend excessive school, paving the method for others. He handed away in a automotive accident in 2008.

Rasevych says he was Nowgesic’s closest confidante and describes him as a standard, religious Anishinaabe Elder who stood up for the Indigenous group in Thunder Bay.

“He was an Elder doing what he was supposed to doing – what they asked for him to do – advocate on behalf of the Aboriginal peoples in TBay,” Rasevych says.

“Fred would tell me over and over, countless times, that was the reason why they got him for the Lakehead University board of governors – because he was so outspoken and because he knew his way around statutes, legislation, legal frameworks.”

All of it got here to an finish when he filed a police report after an alleged assault.

Nowgesic wrote a letter of resignation to the college blasting them for failing the wants of Indigenous college students, employees and school.

“When I look at universities today, I see the residential schools,” the letter to the school’s chancellor dated July 25, 1996 says. “The concept is the same: pluck Natives out of their element and immerse them in European culture, religion, language and philosophy.”

“We are under-represented in the leadership of the university. As a result, our need for solid, long-term commitments to Native education is lacking,” he stated.

Though no fees have been laid for the alleged assault, Nowgesic did rent a lawyer and would typically point out his “case” to Rasevych.

There was an alleged battle over copies of a letter relating to Professor Dennis McPherson, the chair of the college’s division of Indigenous studying that had been distributed to board members at assembly prior to Nowgesic’s resignation.

McPherson garnered consideration the yr earlier than when he arrange a protest camp and accused Lakehead of misspending funds meant for Aboriginal schooling.

He later walked from the college to Ottawa to meet with former prime minister Jean Chretien.

McPherson advised APTN in an interview final spring that Lakehead’s response to his protest camp, which included a tent and hearth, was to name the hearth division that confirmed up and put it out.


(Professor Dennis McPherson Lakehead College. Photograph: Willow Fiddler/APTN)

Regardless of a “chilling atmosphere in speaking out” Nowgesic remained longing for Lakehead and its obligation to precisely tackle the wants of Indigenous college students and communities.

However he additionally famous that whereas the college might be pleased with their division of Indigenous studying, Native entry packages for nursing and engineering, and a grasp’s program in Native and Canadian Philosophy, there have been issues.

“As good as the programs may be, there is no commitment to them. They are seen as funding sources to subsidize other programs,” Nowgesic wrote.

“My concern is that Lakehead is ignoring the aboriginal community and there is an atmosphere of mistrust and racism.”

Rasevych returned to Lakehead in 2009 to do his PhD.

“I was told it had changed…but the climate is still the same as it ever was.”

He says there’s aesthetic enhancements like the syllabics on the campus signage however the establishment and construction stays the similar.

He left once more a number of years later and hasn’t been again since.

Rasevych says he’s sharing his uncle’s expertise in hopes it provides some power to EagleWoman.

Like Nowgesic earlier than her, Canada’s first Indigenous dean of regulation has an extended listing of points with the college.

She claims in the lawsuit that Lakehead College paid her an annual wage virtually $10,000 lower than the earlier dean, a non-Indigenous male.

EagleWoman says former employees members Amanda Trevisanutto and Annet Maurer alleged she discriminated towards them as a result of they have been white ladies.

EagleWoman says she fired Trevisanutto for being unprofessional and disrespectful.

“On one occasion, Ms. Trevisanutto declared that she felt she did not have to listen to the Plaintiff, as she did not consider the Plaintiff to be her boss,” Eaglewoman’s declare says.

Trevisanutto informed APTN final spring that she denies all claims by EagleWoman.

Comparable allegations additionally got here from Annet Maurer, who left the school in December 2016 and took civil motion towards the college two months later, in accordance to EagleWoman.

“She asserted that discrimination could be inferred based on certain factors, including the fact that the Plaintiff had published academic articles describing oppression she had experienced and that the Plaintiff had expressed her support for an Indigenous-focussed law school,” in accordance to EagleWoman’s assertion of declare.

Each instances have since been settled – however that’s not the place the rigidity with school and employees ended.

EagleWoman says issues got here to a head after affiliate professor Daniel Dylan, who’s listed as educating Indigenous Information Governance on the school web site, apparently yelled at EagleWoman earlier than storming out of a school assembly on Jan. 25, 2018.

“The Acting Provost was shocked by the conduct of Mr. Daniel and agreed his conduct was inappropriate,” the declare says.


(Former Bora Laskin regulation school dean Angelique EagleWoman)

It was then, EagleWoman says she realized she couldn’t proceed. As well as to being dean, her workload included educating Indigenous course content material due to a scarcity of Indigenous students in the school.

“The Plaintiff advised the Acting Provost that the work environment was having a significant impact on her health and well-being.”

EagleWoman took a sick day the following day and three months later she introduced her resignation in a letter to the school’s Aboriginal Advisory Committee in March 2018.

“It has reached a point that I am under such mental and emotional stress that it is untenable for me to stay,” the letter says.

Whereas EagleWoman claims she suffered ethical and aggravated damages due to a hostile work setting and an unsupportive administration, the key concern on this case outlines a much bigger concern that Indigenous leaders and communities say can not proceed.

“The Defendant benefitted from the publicity surrounding the Plaintiff’s appointment through national exposure, heightened credibility with Aboriginal communities, and increased Aboriginal student enrolment,” the declare says.

In 2009, Lakehead College was considered one of two establishments to categorical curiosity to the Federation of Regulation Societies of Canada (FLSC).

Its curiosity in creating a new regulation school for northern Ontario was based mostly on 4 rationales together with working with Aboriginal peoples to meet the authorized wants of Indigenous communities, improve sole and small agency regulation follow, and a concentrate on authorized points relating to the resource-based financial system of northern Ontario.

Lakehead submitted its proposal to the LFSC on June 28, 2010.

Lakehead says their distinctive curricula would meet the requirements recognized by First Nations and permit improvement of packages and supplies to assist shield and protect Indigenous tradition, language and historical past.

“Lakehead University has the advantage of being geographically close to these northwestern Ontario communities, and having established working partnerships with First Nations and Métis communities throughout Northern Ontario,” the software says.

“As such, Lakehead University is in a unique position to establish a law school that would not only be a leader in providing a current and expert curriculum on Aboriginal and treaty rights in Canada, but it is also able to work with First Nation and Métis partners to develop a school that is responsive to the needs of Aboriginal peoples.”

The college can be certainly one of the first regulation faculties in Canada to supply obligatory Indigenous course content material.

“It was argued that this law school would be unique in Canada and would produce lawyers capable of analyzing the law from an Aboriginal perspective,” EagleWoman declare says.

The FLSC authorised Lakehead’s software for a three-year juris doctoral program in Jan. 2012 and the Bora Laskin School of Regulation opened its doorways to its constitution class in September 2013.

Common enrolment at the regulation school is roughly 60 college students annually. Final yr there have been 188 college students enrolled and 26 of them recognized as Indigenous, in accordance to Lakehead.

The FLSC’s nationwide necessities state that “the law school is adequately resourced to enable it to meet its objectives, and in particular, has appropriate numbers of properly qualified academic staff to meet the needs of the academic program.”

In accordance to EagleWoman, the regulation school was understaffed and missing the assets and help to rent a full complement of college.

She says this was an ongoing difficulty of rivalry with the FLSC.

In its software, Lakehead dedicated to retaining a full-time educating school complement of 10 school members, together with the dean, inside the first three years of the program.

“Every attempt will be made to recruit Aboriginal faculty,” the proposal says.

EagleWoman asserts Lakehead has failed to reside up to its commitments to meet the necessities of the regulation school.

Final spring, then appearing college president Moira McPherson stated they acknowledge systemic racism exists all through society, together with at Lakehead.

“It’s the practices, the policies, the patterns that are involved in structures and the structures are as old as the communities or the organizations themselves or the universities,” stated McPherson, who was lately appointed the college’s seventh president.

Lakehead College and the Federation of Regulation Societies of Canada have declined a request for an interview as it’s earlier than the courts.

EagleWoman has requested her case be heard in an Ottawa courtroom and never Thunder Bay due to the ties between the authorized group and the school of regulation.

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