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Law school consults Queen's community about building's name

Dean’s advisory committee open for feedback about Sir John A. Macdonald Hall.

Photograph of Sir John A. Macdonald Hall
After the consultation process, the Dean of Law will make a recommendation to the Principal on the question of the building name.

Last month, the Faculty of Law announced its commitment to formally review the name of its building, Sir John A. Macdonald Hall, given concerns about the complicated legacy of Canada’s first Prime Minister, particularly as it pertains to Indigenous peoples. An advisory committee has now been struck and for the next eight weeks it will lead wide consultations to understand whether the law school building should continue to be named after Macdonald at a time when the country seeks to advance Truth and Reconciliation.

Sir John A. Macdonald Hall has been home to the faculty since the building opened in 1960.

“Macdonald’s legacy is complex. He is known as our first Prime Minister and for being instrumental in the formation of Canada, but the public has become increasingly aware of—and concerned with—how his policies negatively impacted Indigenous peoples,” says Mark Walters, Dean of the Faculty of Law. “It is now time to ask hard questions about the relationship between the building name and the identity, values, and aspirations of the community that learns and works within the building.”

The advisory committee—comprised of students, faculty, staff, and alumni —will welcome and consider all views presented by members of the community and use them to inform the development of recommendations that may include a variety of options for the Board of Trustees to consider when making its ultimate decision.

Interested groups or individuals are welcome to make written submissions via an online survey or directly to law.consultation@queensu.ca until September 18, 2020.  Opportunities for community members to make oral submissions will be announced soon.

“Our consultation aims to hear from members of our law school, university, alumni, and wider community to gain a full and diverse range of perspectives on Macdonald’s legacy,” says Jeff Fung (Law’08), advisory committee co-chair and Associate General Counsel at Nissan Canada Inc. “We look forward to reviewing feedback and fairly considering all views as we work toward recommendations.”

Students, faculty, and staff of the Faculty of Law will also have an opportunity to express their views on this issue, either directly or through their representatives, in a special meeting of the school’s Faculty Board.

After considering the opinions and recommendations expressed during the consultation process, the Dean of Law will make a recommendation to the Principal on the question of the building name. The Principal will then consider this recommendation in his proposal to the Board of Trustees.  Responsibility for naming of buildings lies with the Board. The Board will consider the Principal’s proposal before making the final decision regarding the name. Should the Board choose to remove Macdonald’s name from the building, a separate process would need to be initiated before it could be renamed.

Since 2016, the law school has been engaged with implementing the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, including hiring an Indigenous Recruitment and Support Officer and the creation of two bursaries to support Indigenous students at the law school. Academically, it has integrated a number of Aboriginal and Indigenous law courses in its curriculum, and recently announced the creation of the Chief Don Maracle Reconciliation/Indigenous Knowledge Initiative. The school has welcomed a wide range of Indigenous lecturers and visitors to the faculty, with 11 scholars and leaders visiting the school in the 2019-20 school year alone. In 2018, it saw the creation and installation of a major piece of public art in its atrium themed on the Indigenous legal tradition of wampum belts, words that are lasting, by Mohawk artist Hannah Claus. 

The Queen’s Faculty of Law has been a leader in Canadian legal education since its foundation in 1957, and over 8,000 alumni have graduated its programs.

Learn more on the law school's consultation website.