University

The University of Manitoba is strengthening francophone legal education west of Ontario

The Senate of the University of Manitoba approved the creation of this program in January. First offered at Robson Hall Law School this fall. The offer of ten courses in French was formalized by the senate, allowing students to earn almost forty credits of law in French.

Students who want to earn a concentration in French must take almost a third of their courses in that language, or 26 credits out of 92. A document from the University of Manitoba’s senate says the institution expects to have 12 to 16 new students a year in the concentration.

A better offer of legal services in French starts in college

Éric Gagnon, a 2nd year law student, did not hesitate to sign up for this concentration in French. The former student of the Division scolaire franco-manitobaine, who grew up in Sainte-Agathe, saw it as a way resurrect [son] education in French.

It’s a great program because if the plan is to develop French practice in Manitoba, we will necessarily be working in two languageshe said, adding that a better offer of legal services in French it starts here in Robson Hall.

Second-year law student Éric Gagnon grew up in Sainte-Agathe.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Gavin Boutroy

University of Manitoba law professor and co-director of the French Access to Justice Concentration Gerald Heckman says he has been working with Lorna Turnbull, who is also a professor and co-director of the program, for 11 years to create the concentration.

This year we somewhat achieved our goal of having the University of Manitoba Senate recognize the formal program.he is happy and adds that the goal is primarily to offer practical teaching.

A crying need French speaking lawyers

We want to try to equip students to be ready to serve the francophone community. So we’re talking about communicating with their clients in French, we’re talking about representing their clients in court.continues Gerald Heckman.

Lorna Turnbull notes that there is crying need bilingual lawyers in the province. There are firms that work in French and in English, there is a significant demand for the services of lawyers in French, but it almost never happens that we can work exclusively in French.she said.

This need has become much more urgent because amendments to the Divorce Act that entered into force in March 2021, including the right to conduct divorce proceedings in the official language of one’s choicesays Loran Turnbull.

Lorna Turnbull in the Family Law Library.

Law professor Lorna Turnbull points out that there is a great need for French-speaking family lawyers.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Gavin Boutroy

The ability to communicate with a lawyer or speak in court in your native language can calm down a bit difficult situations caused by divorce, adds the professor.

Kennedy Pinette, a third-year law student, noticed this need for French-speaking lawyers when she was interviewing for an internship. Coming from an immersion school, she decided to take French courses at the law school.

When I interviewed for internships, French was a question in every interview, it’s really something that people look for and will be useful for the rest of my careerexplains.

Without these courses, I would not be able to practice law in French because there is a lot of legal terminologyadds Kennedy Pinette.

The challenge of language uncertainty

According to Gerald Heckman, students immersed in French courses are the largest group. They have generally obtained their first university degree in English and need to update their French skills.

That was the case for Bradley Légaré, who is starting his second year at law school. I believe [qu’il s’est écoulé] 10 years between high school graduation and [le moment où] I started in law school. In this period, I [n’ai] he had no chance to speak French.

From an English-speaking mother and a French-speaking father, he strives for it reconnect with French culture, [son] same last name

I have seen what happens if a person is not given the opportunity to speak French or practice French. My father doesn’t know French now. He understands, but has lost all language skills. It was important to me not to lose itexplains Bradley Légaré.

    Bradley Légaré on a green background.

Bradley Légaré, who has an English-speaking mother and a French-speaking father, is entering his second year of law school.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Gavin Boutroy

The other two main groups of students are Franco-Manitobans and students from French-speaking families who want to reconnect with the French language, he adds. Due to the minority context, many suffer from language insecurity.

Feedback from both the profession and judges identified that students may have lacked confidence in speakingsays Lorna Turnbull.

Courses like the legal method require students to speak. As it is a graded course success Where failure, relieves pressurecontinues Lorna Turnbull. The student thus gains time to renew his language skills and to deploy and use them in a legal context.

The appeal of coaching in French

The only two common law programs in French in Canada are offered at the University of Ottawa and the University of Moncton. Bilingual programs are also offered by the University of Ottawa and McGill University.

True Dash, a second-year law student from Ontario, was looking for a common law program in French, a language she had learned over the past few years while living in Montreal.

True Dash with a smile.

True Dash, a second-year law student, has been learning French for the past three years while living in Montreal.

Photo: TrueDash

In her eyes, the University of Manitoba program was more attractive than the French-only program. I guess I’m expected to be bilingual. There is no support for students to learn, but in Manitoba there is a tutoring service, there is an understanding of the fact that we are learning Frenchwarns.

Despite the urgent need for lawyers and the appeal of French-language supervision, demand for courses in French at an English-speaking university remains relatively low, as Lorna Turnbull explains.

It’s not always profitable to offer courses for 8 or 12 people, but it’s a way to do it when you’re in a minority situation.he says, pointing out that funding from the federal government was necessary to create the program.

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