Faculty of Law introduces new Indigenous Student Support Coordinator
This fall, the Faculty of Law welcomed back alumnus Marc Kruse [JD/2015] to fill the role of Indigenous Student Support Coordinator, recently vacated by the retirement of long-time instructor, Wendy Whitecloud. In addition to providing programming and supports for Indigenous students at Robson Hall, he will be responsible for supplying the Faculty with opportunities and initiatives in Indigenizing the curriculum. He is already a vital member of the Faculty’s new Truth and Reconciliation Action Team, bringing his experience with curriculum design, student experience and student outreach to the role.
Originally from Saskatchewan, Kruse was born in Moose Jaw, raised in Regina, and after travelling between Banff and Ottawa as a young adult, settled in Calgary for six years, attending Mount Royal College while working as a residential framer. He completed an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy at the University of Winnipeg before starting law school at the University of Manitoba at the age of 31.
“My first inspiration for law came from watching Matlock with my grandfather” he said. “In high school I was able to take a Law class which furthered my interest. During my undergrad I focused a lot on Political Philosophy and the history of ideas which included many texts on the law. During my time at UW I was the philosophy student group coordinator. Though my role I was introduced to the Legal Help Centre and was one of the first volunteers there. I met with Justice Suche and the Honourable Murray Sinclair who were both inspirations and gave me a strong sense of the need for access to justice.”
Coming from such a philosophical and theoretical background, he made a point of focusing on the practical aspects of law while at Robson Hall. “During the first week of law school it became clear that criminal defence work was what I wanted to focus on as I wanted to engage with the Charter, access to justice, and the Indigenous community,” he recalled. “I was able to work with the ULC [University Law Centre] and was a student supervisor in my third year. The law clinic connected me with Legal Aid lawyers who continue to be my mentors today.”
“The Indigenous professors here at the time were strong mentors for me as well,” said Kruse. “Brenda Gunn taught me Constitutional law, Aimée Craft taught me Gender and Law and a directed reading on Sentencing. Wendy Whitecloud taught me Aboriginal rights and title.”
“Robson Hall was the first time in my education where I was presented with a decolonial history of Canada which impacted me personally and helped solidify my own identity within Canada.”
After articling at Legal Aid Manitoba and being called to the Manitoba Bar, Kruse practiced as an associate at Rees Dyck Rogala law offices where he found his desire to assist Indigenous people involved in the Justice system to be in conflict with the business side of law, especially when his clients were often on Legal Aid certificates. “Legal Aid tariffs have not been raised since 2008 so making a living wage was difficult,” he explained. “I enjoy the court room and drafting complex legal arguments. I have appeared in the Court of Appeal four times and enjoy the back and forth with the Bench. I have also enjoyed making charter applications and those cases which rely on detailed factums.”
His position as Indigenous Student Support Coordinator at the Faculty of Law will allow him to maintain a small practice of Indigenous clients so he may continue to bring Indigenous perspectives and legal practices into the court room as a Saulteaux (Muscowpetung First Nation) Indigenous person, in hopes of furthering Restorative Justice in Canada. With this practical experience, he also hopes to assist with expanding the Faculty’s clinical offerings.
Indigenizing Law’s curriculum
Significantly Indigenizing curricula in Canada has become an area of research expertise for Kruse, since beginning his professional legal career. He has studied and written extensively on the subject, including co-authoring the article Educating in the Seventh Fire: Debwewin, Mino-bimaadiziwin, and Ecological Justicealong with Nicolas Tanchuk, and Robert Hamilton published in 2020 in the University of Illinois journal, Educational Theory. Marc has helped to redesign, implement and teach courses on Indigenous People and the Law for the Department of Political Science at the University of Winnipeg, where he taught an Indigenous course requirement since 2016.
“I focus on the relationship between philosophical ethics, political philosophy, and law,” he said, describing his particular area of research focus. “I am especially interested in ways educational institutions can ameliorate or exacerbate legal problems for Indigenous peoples. I have published work on the moral foundations of professional ethics and work on Indigenous educational ethics. Through the Yellowhead Institute I also took part in a comprehensive study of Canadian Injunction cases in relation to [First Nations].”
“I want to amplify indigenous theory and place it in dialogue with the history of ideas taught in philosophy, education, and law departments around the world.”
Dean of Law Richard Jochelson added, “Marc brings a unique perspective to the school because he has a deep understanding and history of Indigenizing post-secondary curriculum, has significant practice experience, and is also an alum who harbours a deep appreciation for political philosophy.”
Jochelson emphasised that Kruse’s role at the Faculty is critical but also unique. “It is rare to find an individual who is able to support students but also develop educational content. We are fortunate to have hired Marc,” Jochelson said.
Currently, as Indigenous Student Support Coordinator, Kruse’s first area of focus will be in addressing the needs of Indigenous students including helping with funding, tutors, and organizing the Kawaskimhon Moot team. Next will be Indigenizing the Juris Doctor program curriculum by assisting professors with their course content and developing new Indigenous courses. “We have two committees focused on the [Truth and Reconciliation] calls to action which I lead,” he said, describing the Faculty’s newly-struck TRC Action Committee’s two branches of mentorship/pathways, and curriculum change. “This committee is formed of students, faculty, and practicing lawyers who are volunteering to assist with community engagement and curriculum development.”
Kruse will guide the committee in creating pathways both into (recruitment and admissions) and out of law school (articling, employment) for the Faculty’s Indigenous students. Finally, he plans to encourage community engagement.
Coming full circle
Eventually, Kruse will also teach some of the new Indigenous courses in development at the Faculty. When he does, students can expect a teaching style that encourages group discussion and student engagement. “I tend to have shorter lectures with additional guest speakers or video content to support a variety of learning styles,” he said.
As an alumnus of Robson Hall, Kruse is happy to share some words of encouragement for current law students: “I am sure students hear this from a lot of people but they really need to follow their passion. Practicing law can be very difficult for a variety of reasons: long hours, meticulous review of complex legal documents, reviewing criminal disclosure and working though client’s trauma, etc. To persevere through these difficulties, you must have a passion for the work you are doing to stay focused and motivated.”