A New Law Program in the Outaouais Region


Until recently, the last time a bachelor’s degree in law was created in Quebec was in the 1970s. This changed as of Fall 2023, with the launch of a new law program at the Université du Québec en Outaouais (UQO).

Ending an “aberration”

In an interview with Éducaloi’s Angle Droit radio show, Julie Bourgault, professor and head of the law department at the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) explains that the department of legal sciences was created at the time. “Exactly 50 years ago,” she notes. “We think it’s symbolic, to have UQO launch this program in the same year UQAM celebrates its 50th anniversary.”

UQAM was created in 1969 by the Quebec government, as part of a reform of the Quebec education system that had begun a few years earlier. The goal was to increase access to university studies. Two years later, Vice-Rector René Hurtubise recruited Professor Robert Bureau to set up the Département des sciences juridiques (law department) and the baccalauréat en sciences juridiques (bachelor’s of law) program.

When the Quebec government announced the creation of a bachelor’s of law degree in June 2022, UQO Rector Murielle Laberge declared that this would put an end to “an aberration.

Until then, the only university that offered a civil law degree in the region was the University of Ottawa, in Ontario. Yet, Quebec is the only province where civil law is practised.

Civil law is a legal tradition where the law is written and codified, whereas common law is more about precedents set by the courts,” says Julie Bourgault. She adds that due to historical reasons, Quebec is the only province where private relationships are governed by civil law. That’s part of its French legacy.  

A new approach

Beyond increasing the number of law programs available in Quebec, the UQO program proposes a new approach to teaching law, says Adeline Audrerie, professor and director of the law module in UQO’s law department, also in an interview for Angle Droit.

“UQO’s law program stands out in a number of ways,” says Adeline Audrerie. It integrates and promotes a program-based approach, a competency-based approach and active learning.

Some overarching principles are covered throughout the program. Examples include protecting the fundamental right to equality and exploring challenges related to access to justice.

“We aim to develop not just theoretical knowledge, but also fundamental skills, interpersonal skills and know-how in our students. These are skills that enable lawyers to acquire a full awareness of their role, and the role of law in society.”

A key component of the program? Being able to explain the law in plain language.

“The program will place emphasis on the ability to communicate clearly and explain legal concepts and rules in plain language,” according to Julie Bourgault. “We hope that our students will be aware of how difficult the law can be to understand.”

A legal clinic

Students will also be able to develop their skills by getting involved in a university legal clinic, which is currently under development and is due to open in Fall 2025.

“In their third year in the program, students will be able to get involved in the clinic on a voluntary basis,” explains Adeline Audrerie. “The aim of the clinic is twofold. The first is pedagogical: to allow these students the opportunity to apply the knowledge they’ve acquired in their training, to meet people who are experiencing legal problems, and to know how to identify their needs.”

“These needs sometimes go beyond the law,” adds the professor. The second aim is more social in nature, since the creation of this legal clinic will promote access to justice and its services will be offered to the community.