Optional Indigenous Application Category
Category rationale and description:
The optional category for Indigenous applicants recognizes that Indigenous peoples face unique barriers to accessing legal education and the legal profession. In particular, the historical and structural effects of colonialism have led to the overrepresentation of Indigenous people in the criminal justice system, the suppression of their legal traditions, and the systematic destruction of their ties to Indigenous communities and culture. As a result, the holistic and intersectional review of applications from Indigenous applicants requires a distinctive approach that is rooted in substantive knowledge of Indigenous communities, legal traditions, and cultures. In particular, the Admissions Committee is interested in understanding the following aspects of an Indigenous applicant’s candidacy: (1) their substantive connections to Indigenous communities and organizations, or if these connections do not yet exist, the kind of meaningful efforts they will undertake to build these connections; (2) to the extent that they are currently engaged in their cultures and legal traditions, their experience, its role in their lives, and how it bears upon their application; (3) to the extent that they have been affected by the historical and structural effects of colonialism, the ways in which that reality bears upon their application; and (4) how they intend to use their legal education to support the flourishing of Indigenous communities, organizations, or legal traditions. Finally, this optional category serves to facilitate the delivery of other services and initiatives that the Faculty offers to ensure the academic success and flourishing of Indigenous students.
To be eligible to apply to this category, an applicant must self-identify as an Indigenous person with ties to Turtle Island, including First Nations (status or non-status), Inuit, and Métis in Canada, as well as Native Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Alaskan Natives in the USA. Indigenous applicants from other regions of the world should apply to other applicant categories that may be appropriate for them based on academic history.
Education and language requirements:
Applicants to the optional Indigenous category must meet the minimum educational requirements for all applicants and must have a minimum of:
- 60 credits of university studies, or
- a diploma of collegial studies (DCS) from a Québec College of General and Professional Education (CEGEP) or a French Baccalaureate from Quebec (Collège international Marie de France, or Collège Stanislas).
McGill's BCL/JD program is offered in a bilingual (French and English) environment. To be eligible, applicants to the BCL/JD program must possess advanced proficiency in at least one language (English or French) and be passively bilingual in the second language (English or French), meaning they have, at a minimum, advanced intermediate abilities in written and spoken comprehension. We acknowledge that our passive bilingualism admission requirement may represent an added challenge for some Indigenous applicants for whom English or French may be a third language, and potentially perceived as a colonizing influence. We do not wish Indigenous candidates to exclude themselves from applying on linguistic grounds – we sincerely encourage candidates to speak with us if they have concerns on this point to discuss the support we offer to prospective Indigenous students.
In particular, financial support is available to admitted Indigenous candidates who wish to attain passive bilingualism in English or French before starting the program and to continue to improve their language abilities in English or French during legal studies here. This program is supported by the McCarthy Tétrault Fund for Language Training. In addition, applicants in the Indigenous category who are admitted with a condition to improve their language proficiency in either English or French may be eligible for a one-year deferral of admission, to allow them to complete the training to attain the requisite level of passive bilingualism, while retaining their spot in a future cohort.
Indigenous applicants retain the option of applying to the other applicant categories instead of applying to the Indigenous applicant category. If they elect to do so, they must follow the instructions and deadlines for applying to these categories.
Deadline for submitting application: November 1 for those who fulfill the requirements in the University or Mature category. March 1 for those who fulfill the requirements in the CEGEP/QFB category.
Deadline for submitting supporting documents: November 8 for those who fulfill the requirements in the University or Mature category. March 7 for those who fulfill the requirements in the CEGEP/QFB category.
The required supporting documents for applicants in this category are the same for those in the University or CEGEP categories, except where expressly stated otherwise. Please visit the Supporting Documents page for more information.
Special Guidance for Indigenous Applicants relating to the Personal Statement: Applicants in all categories must submit an essay referred to as the Personal Statement. The Admissions Committee relies on the Personal Statement to understand what motivates candidates to pursue a legal education, the particular significance that the study of law holds for them, and the reasons for their interest in our program. Applicants in the optional Indigenous category are permitted to submit a Personal Statement of up to 1,200 words. In their Personal Statements, applicants to the Indigenous application category are strongly encouraged to address one or more of the following aspects of their candidacy:
- their substantive connections to Indigenous communities and organizations, or if these connections do not yet exist, the kind of meaningful efforts they will undertake to build these connections
- to the extent that they are currently engaged in their cultures and legal traditions, they may wish to discuss this experience, its role in their lives, and how it bears upon their application;
- to the extent that they have been affected by the historical and structural effects of colonialism, they may wish to indicate the ways in which that reality bears upon their application;
- how they intend to use their legal education to support the flourishing of Indigenous communities, organizations, or legal traditions.
References: Applicants in the optional Indigenous category must submit two letters of reference. At least one letter of reference must be provided by current or recent professors or instructors who are familiar with their work. Applicants in the optional Indigenous category may elect to include, as one of their two required references, a letter from an individual who can speak to an applicant’s connections to Indigenous communities or organizations, or where a connection does not exist, an applicant’s goals for supporting Indigenous communities and concerns and the relationship between these goals and their motivation to study law.
An Indigenous Admissions Advisory Panel appointed by the Dean of the Faculty of Law will review applications submitted to the Indigenous Application Category in accordance with the principles laid out in our admissions policy and the rational set out for the creation of the optional Indigenous Application Category. This panel will be comprised of: Indigenous Faculty members; Faculty members with expertise relevant to Indigenous peoples, cultures, and legal traditions; an Indigenous BCL/JD student in their final year; the Assistant Dean, Inclusion (Indigenous and Black Flourishing); and an Indigenous graduate of the BCL/JD program. The Indigenous Admissions Advisory Panel may recommend that applicants be interviewed if it determines that this would be helpful in assessing an applicant’s candidacy. Final decisions on admission will be made by the Assistant Dean, Admissions and Recruitment, in consultation with the members of the Indigenous Admissions Advisory Panel.
Indigenous Student Financial Assistance
McGill has established a funding program for Indigenous students, made possible in part by Indspire, an Indigenous-led registered charity that invests in the education of Indigenous peoples of Canada.
Indigenous research and experiential opportunities
McGill offers students the opportunity to study and complete research with a wide range of legal scholars in English and French. McGill Law students lead an active and vibrant Indigenous Law Association de Droit Autochtone (ILADA) and the Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism's Indigenous Human Rights Initiatives.
A mandatory course in the first year of the BCL/JD program, Indigenous Legal Traditions introduces students to Indigenous law in Canada. It addresses connections between Indigenous ways of being and knowing and Indigenous law, including how those connections have been damaged in colonial contexts, and efforts to revitalize them. Topics include the worldviews and constitutional contexts of Indigenous legal traditions and the colonial contexts that have shaped the contemporary realities of Indigenous laws and Indigenous legal education.
In 2022, McGill Law partnered with the Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba to offer as a pilot project a month-long Anishinaabe Law Field School. This course explores Anishinaabe law on its terms: with Anishinaabe community, on the land, guided by respected elders, engaging ceremony, and shaped by Anishinaabemowin. Classes are held at the Forks (Winnipeg, MB) and include regional travel. Students form part of a cohort with local Anishinaabeg where they will learn, eat, and travel together. The Field School is focused on community-centred learning using sharing circles.
McGill also gives students the possibility to acquire practical experience working at the Legal Clinic at Kahnawake, to participate in the Faculty's outreach program L.E.X. (Law-Éducation-Connexion) with Kahnawake Survival School, as well as the chance to participate in the national Kawaskimhon Moot or to complete at McGill a Minor in Indigenous Studies.
Students can partake in a term-away at the Indigenous Peoples and Policies Program at the University of Arizona, and the Intensive Program in Indigenous Lands, Resources and Governments at Osgoode Hall Law School.
Indigenous students may be eligible for numerous sources of financial support.
For more information on the various opportunities for Indigenous students at the Faculty and McGill more widely, please visit our Indigenous Initiatives Page.
Indigenous Law Centre Programming
The Indigenous Law Centre at the University of Saskatchewan offers curriculum and programming that aims to facilitate access to legal education for Indigenous peoples, to promote the development of the law and the legal system in Canada in ways which better accommodate the advancement of Indigenous peoples and communities, and to disseminate information concerning Indigenous peoples and the law.
We encourage all incoming students to explore the opportunities available at the Indigenous Law Centre before beginning their legal studies at McGill.
In order to facilitate access to this program and help offset the cost of associated living expenses and course materials, the Faculty of Law is pleased to offer financial support to incoming Indigenous BCL/JD students attending the Indigenous Law Centre. Please contact the Admissions Office for more information.
First People's House
McGill's First Peoples' House provides a sense of community and a voice for Indigenous students who have left their communities to study at McGill. A “home away from home,” First Peoples’ House offers a mentoring program, computer facilities, guest lectures, elder visits, academic counselling, and an ever-expanding resource centre as well as housing.