(Former dean Angelique EagleWoman. Photo: Willow Fiddler/APTN)
A First Nation lawyer and former dean of the Bora Laskin Faculty of Law is suing Lakehead University for discrimination.
There was great fanfare when Angelique EagleWoman was appointed as dean of Bora Laskin in Thunder Bay in January 2016.
On Wednesday, a statement sent out by EagleWoman’s lawyer says she “faced opposition and hostility from some within the University not long after she assumed her duties in May 2016.”
EagleWoman announced her departure as dean in April 2018, citing “systemic discrimination and a hostile work environment.”
EagleWoman is suing the university for “constructive dismissal and racial discrimination.”
The suit, filed in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, seeks $2.67-million for a loss of income for the remainder of her term as Dean and compensation for losing a lifetime position as a full professor in the faculty of law.
EagleWoman is also claiming damages under the human rights code for “discrimination as well as moral, aggravated and punitive damages.”
The lawsuit follows what is described as a difficult two years as dean that “was marked by a toxic work environment, lack of resources and understaffing, and demeaning and paternalistic micro-management by the University’s senior administration.”
In an email response, Lakehead University acknowledged it has received a statement of claim from EagleWoman’s lawyer.
Lakehead says it “does not comment on any litigation or personnel matters.”
None of the allegations in the statement of claim have been tested in court.
EagleWoman had moved her family to Thunder Bay to take on the role of dean and professor of law at the school that bills itself as a “unique law school with a focus on Northern Ontario” that was committed to Aboriginal and Indigenous Law.
EagleWoman, who is a member of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Dakota Oyate Tribe, has since found a position at a law school in Minnesota.
Her interim replacement at the law school in Thunder Bay, provincial Justice George Patrick Smith, was also controversial.
Leaders of Nishnawbe Aski Nation and Kitchenumaykoosib Inninuwug called on Lakehead University to rescind the appointment.
In 2008, Justice Smith sentenced KI Chief Donny Morris and five members of council to prison during a lengthy fight over mining activity on their traditional territory.
The jailing of the so-called KI-6 made national headlines at the time.