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Faculty of Law

Our new home

Thanks to the largest ever public investment in a Canadian law school, the UNB Faculty of Law is moving to the Justice Building in downtown Fredericton. This historic announcement was made in late June by UNB President Paul Mazerolle, The Hon. Dominic LeBlanc (MP), Premier Blaine Higgs, and The Hon. Ted Flemming, New Brunswick Minister of Justice and Attorney General.

The $62M project will transform this historic property into a state-of-the-art facility for legal education, legal assistance, public engagement, and policy-oriented and community-based research.

“By relocating downtown, within walking distance of the courts, the Provincial Legislature, government agencies, law firms, public interest organizations and businesses, UNB Law students will see the law in action all around them,” said Dean Michael Marin. “They will be interacting every day with the people they serve and benefiting from the informal learning that provides. The Faculty of Law and the University will serve the City and Province like never before.”

Historic commitments from the Federal and Provincial governments

Addressing a room of distinguished guests, members of the New Brunswick judiciary and bar, government officials, alumni, and law students, Minister LeBlanc announced the historic pledge from the Federal government.

“Infrastructure Investments are key to powering communities. Not only are they important to the well-being of Canadians, they also are important to our economy. They create good jobs. They support communities big and small across the country. And they obviously help in our collective fight against climate change. So, that's why today I am very happy to announce that the Government of Canada is investing $24.9 million to rehabilitate Fredericton's Justice building to become the new downtown home of UNB's Faculty of Law.”

Minister LeBlanc added, “this can and should be a very public, accessible space for the community of Fredericton, for the legal Community, for the Department of Justice officials, for jurists, for judges. This can be a downtown economic and social driver for the City of Fredericton and the Province of New Brunswick, and that's why I'm so excited that the Government of Canada can be a part of this success.”

Premier Blaine Higgs echoed the Minister’s praise for the project, announcing the provincial government’s own significant contribution toward the project.

“We've found a new purpose for one of the province's most historic buildings,” said Higgs, “while giving UNB an incredible space for educating the next generation of New Brunswick leaders. And I think there's such an opportunity for education to take part right downtown. With a downtown location The Faculty of Law will also be able to provide important services to the public, including the UNB Legal Clinic, which offers free legal representation. I'm pleased to announce that our government will be investing along with the federal government and others as it goes forward $20.7 million towards this project.”

Expanding legal education in New Brunswick and beyond

The renovation of this historic building will have a transformative impact on legal education and research, embedding these endeavours in the community they serve. It will also contribute to the economic development and architectural heritage of the City of Fredericton and New Brunswick. For UNB Law students, the project will provide state-of-the-art classroom facilities. Exceptional learning environments enhance learning opportunities by enabling a broader range of courses and teaching methods, and enhance the institution's reputation for excellence.

In its new home, the Faculty of Law will expand by nearly 30,000 sq. ft., providing much-needed space for new graduate programs, expanded student services, and research centres. This means more classrooms, conference/meeting rooms, study spaces, lounges, and dedicated wellness and spiritual rooms.

Relocating downtown will also enable community engaged research, in which legal scholars and practitioners partner with civil society to tackle pressing social and economic issues. In doing so, the project will orient UNB Law’s considerable expertise, resources, and connections to serving the public, reinforcing this commitment in its graduates and the legal profession.

Creating a hub of experiential learning

UNB Law aspires to offer Canada’s most innovative experiential learning opportunities, where students are empowered to actively participate in the administration of justice. A hallmark of the UNB Law Strategic Plan is the creation of a Legal Observatory. Inspired by the medical school operating theatre, this will be a tribunal room with an adjoining classroom separated by a one-way mirror and linked with an audio feed. The Legal Observatory will house real legal proceedings, giving students and researchers a front row seat for the operation of the justice system. The Legal Observatory will serve the community by providing badly needed hearing space for administrative tribunals and other legal proceedings right downtown.

Moving to the Justice Building will also allow the Faculty to create a permanent home for the UNB Legal Clinic. Launched in 2022, the Clinic provides free legal services to people who cannot afford a lawyer and whose needs are not covered by legal aid. As you will read in this issue, since opening its doors, the Clinic has seen an extraordinary demand for its services. A permanent home in the downtown will make the Legal Clinic more accessible to the community it serves.

In addition to these initiatives, the move will also provide space for a host of other existing and proposed clinics, including the Tax Law Clinic, the Sport Law Clinic, and the Business Law Clinic, as well as a Virtual Reality Law Lab that will train law students though simulations enabled by advanced technology.

“I believe that universities exist to change the world—to make life better for people,” said UNB President Paul Mazerolle. “This historic move for our Faculty of Law will bring us closer to the people we serve, enabling community-based research into the justice system, free legal services for marginalized people, and public education to foster engaged citizenship.”

Bringing the Law Library downtown

This move will see the Gérard V. La Forest Law Library—the largest of its kind in the province—become a central resource for the legal profession, the judiciary, and government. This critical aspect of the project will deliver a fully renovated, state-of-the-art library facility with unparalleled views of the Saint John/Wolastoq River, a setting that will inspire students and scholars to reach their full potential. In its new downtown location, the Law Library will also foster public legal education, dialogue, and collaboration within civil society.

Providing financial and social benefits for the city and province

The Justice Building project will also result in substantial economic and social benefits beyond UNB Law. With its projected 350 students, faculty, and staff at the time of completion, UNB Law will become one of the largest occupants in the downtown core. Together with the revitalization of Officers’ Square and the Imagine Fredericton municipal plan underway, this project fits with the priorities our of community. The expanded footprint of the Law School will create spaces for world-class conferences and symposia, bringing visitors from all over to the capital city. As a result, the project is expected to sustain an increase in annual GDP of $9.7 million and 325 new jobs upon completion.

Addressing environmental issues

This project will bring the Justice Building’s systems and spaces up to modern standards, including the electrical system, lighting, technology, and heating and cooling, all with an emphasis on energy efficiency, sustainability, and the preservation of cultural heritage.

A crucial aspect of this renovation is a commitment to climate change adaptation, incorporating measures to fortify the building against current and future flood events. Additionally, new HVAC systems will yield a substantial environmental benefit, reducing the building's annual emissions by an estimated 30 percent.

Prioritizing accessibility

UNB Law’s strategic plan emphasizes that law school must be accessible to all qualified students—and this extends to the design of its physical spaces. Incorporating accessible and inclusive design principles into all aspects of the project is paramount in fostering equity, diversity, and inclusion within legal education. The top-to-bottom renovation will allow the engineers, architects, and designers to work with accessibility at the forefront, ensuring that all students can take full advantage of the opportunities that UNB Law offers.

“This is so much more than a matter of moving ‘off the hill’ and onto flat ground,” said Associate Dean Catherine Cotter. “This is an opportunity to engage with all stakeholders and work with accessibility specialists to create a fully accessible environment where every student, professor, employee, and visitor has the opportunity to thrive.”

Looking forward

The renovation of the Justice Building is a long-term project that will be completed within the next five years. It is expected that the courts will relocate to their new building within the next two years, after which UNB Law will begin construction of its new home. Between now and then, the Faculty is committed to engaging with all stakeholders to ensure that the project meets the needs of students, faculty, staff, and the community and that vital links between the Faculty of Law and the UNB Fredericton campus are preserved.

“The Justice Building project will enable the realization of UNB Law's strategic plan,” said Dean Marin. “This historic project will help us attract and retain the best students and professors. It will make the law school a hub for community engagement. It will give our people access to all that downtown Fredericton has to offer, while boosting the local economy, preserving architectural heritage, and adapting to climate change.”