TRU prof says uneven funding 'discriminates' against South Asian law students | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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TRU prof says uneven funding 'discriminates' against South Asian law students

Thompson Rivers University

A Thompson Rivers University law professor has launched a Human Rights Tribunal case against the provincial government, arguing its funding model unfairly discriminates against law students of a South Asian background.

Thompson Rivers University professor Craig Jones launched the case at the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal on behalf of law students of South Asian descent at Thompson Rivers University.

Jones argues that because Thompson Rivers University law students pay almost twice what law students pay at the province's other two law schools, and because there is a disproportionately high number of South Asian students at the law school, the government's funding model unfairly discriminates against South Asian law students.

"The government is funding the white schools and it's not funding the brown schools and that's discrimination under the (Human Rights) code," Jones told

Jones's argument is laid out in a B.C. Human Rights Tribunal decision, Dec. 2.

The decision says that when the Thompson Rivers University law program was founded in 2009, the provincial government agreed it would not receive any government money and that students would pay the full cost of their tuition.

This leaves Thompson Rivers University law students coughing up roughly $22,000 per year, unlike their counterparts at the University of British Columbia and the University of Victoria that pay $13,000 or $11,000 respectively.

"Because the student body of the TRU law school is heavily comprised of students of South Asian descent, in the B.C. public university system, South Asian law students pay substantially higher tuition to attend law school compared to other students, exacerbating their historical lack of access to the profession," Jones argued in his submissions to the Human Rights Tribunal. "They also receive a comparatively poorly-resourced (law) program."

Jones said Thompson Rivers University law school graduates more South Asian lawyers than both of the provinces two other law schools put together.

Why the Thompson Rivers University law program is so attractive to students of South Asian descent is a hard question to answer, but Jones believes it has something to do with the university's admission procedure.

"(It's) less rigidly numerical (and) we have a holistic admissions process that takes into account many broader factors compared to most of the admissions at other law schools throughout Canada," Jones said. "A lot of the students that come to our school have diverse backgrounds, very different sets of life experiences."

"(They are) frequently second-generation Canadian whose parents were immigrants, there's not often a long history of post-secondary education... (and) those things can make someone attractive in the holistic setting, where they tend to suppress their chances in other settings," he said.

And Jones says the argument that the students of South Asian descent could just go to the province's other two law schools doesn't work.

"My analogy (is) if you had community in which there was one school where most of the Indigenous students went, and yet it wasn't a catchment area school so they didn't have to go there, but nevertheless the government decides the school where most of the Indigenous students go would get no money, that would be a problem regardless of whether they have a choice to go to other schools or not," he said.

Jones's case against the province is in its very early stages but he just had a minor victory with the Human Rights Tribunal ordering Thompson Rivers University to hand over documents related to the funding of the law program dating back to 2008.

The law professor said a hearing on the matter is scheduled for next June. reached out to the Ministry of Advanced Education of Skills Training but did not hear back before deadline.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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