Spotlight on Truth and Reconciliation

Law Schools

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University of Ottawa to Offer Certificate in Indigenous Law Program

To help revitalize Indigenous legal systems and provide a respectful welcome to Indigenous learners on an academic path in law, the University of Ottawa’s Civil Law Section has launched a new certificate program in Indigenous law. It is the first French-language Indigenous law program in Canada. This initiative is designed to increase knowledge, awareness and understanding of Indigenous laws and legal traditions and to encourage an enlightened dialogue about them within the justice system and legal practice. One of the goals of the one-year program is to increase access to legal education and professions for a greater number of Indigenous students, increasing access to justice for Indigenous peoples in the process.

It will offer Indigenous learners an introduction to the legal systems of different Indigenous peoples in Canada, and encourage a comparison with Quebec and Canadian state-derived systems in certain key areas of law. Those in the program will get to know the sources, foundations, principles and rules of Indigenous and state-derived law, including Quebec’s civil law regime.

In response to TRC Call to Action 50, Justice Canada is providing $596,565 over three years to the University of Ottawa for this initiative. (August 2022)

University of Toronto Establishes Chair in Indigenous Law

The University of Toronto has announced the establishment of a new chair in Indigenous law, the result of a $2 nillion endowed gift from alumni Norman and Gay Loveland. This donation will be added to $1 million in faculty support to endow the new chair. “The Loveland’s commitment to Indigenous law students and Indigenous scholarship is inspiring,” said U of T Dean Jutta Brunnée. “The couple previously donated $1 million to endow financial aid bursaries for Indigenous law students. Their lifetime giving of $3 million amounts to one of the largest gifts designated to Indigenous law in Canada.” Dean Brunnée noted that the gift will accelerate the law faculty’s teaching and scholarship in Indigenous law. (March 2022)

University of Ottawa Establishes First French-language Indigenous Law Program

The University of Ottawa is launching Canada’s first French-language Indigenous law program which, the university says is an effort to “help revitalize Indigenous legal systems and provide a more respectful welcome to Indigenous learners on an academic path in law.” The program will be offered through the school’s Civil Law Section and will be available exclusively to Indigenous students. The one-year program comprises 30 academic units that focus on the sources, foundations, principles and rules of Indigenous and of state-derived law, including Quebec’s civil law regime. The program will begin in August 2022. (January 2022)


Windsor Law Names Senior Advisor on Indigenous Relations and Outreach

The University of Windsor has named Beverly Jacobs as senior advisor to the president on Indigenous relations and outreach for a two-year term. Prior to assuming this new position, she served as Windsor Law’s associate dean. She will pursue priorities to improve relationships with Indigenous people and guide the development of the new Indigenous space on campus. Her mandate also includes collaboration on the development of decision-making and consultation processes related to Indigenous matters and helping the university chart its path as it begins to take more comprehensive action towards Indigenization and decolonization.

Jacobs is a former president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada and was inducted as a member of the Order of Canada in 2018. (January 2022)

New National Centre for Indigenous Laws at UVic

The University of Victoria (UVic) has announced plans for the expansion of its law school to house Canada’s new National Centre for Indigenous Laws. The federal and BC governments and the Law Foundation of BC are contributing $27.1 million to fund the expansion. The national centre will be home to the first Indigenous law program in the world to combine the intensive study of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous law.

University president Jamie Cassels said the Indigenous law school will be essential in reworking the legal fabric of Canada. “The research and teaching that will occur at the centre will have a transformational impact on individuals and communities across Canada, and indeed, around the world,” he said at a news conference on Thursday. “It will play a vital role in helping to grow a more just and inclusive Canada.” (September 2020)

Windsor Law to Launch Indigenous Legal Orders Institute

Windsor Law has launched a new institute aimed at promoting and assisting Indigenous peoples with the revitalization and dissemination of their respective Indigenous legal orders through relationship-building, collaboration, and re-development using Indigenous and other creative research methods. The institute was launched during a special ceremony November 1, 2019. Additional details are here. (November 2019)

UVic Plans New Centre for Indigenous Law

The University of Victoria (UVic) is planning construction of a national centre for Indigenous law and reconciliation. The Government of Canada has announced a contribution of $9.1 million to the project, which will create a national centre of excellence for the study and understanding of Indigenous laws. The centre will house the world’s first joint degree in Indigenous legal orders and Canadian common law (JD/JID), launched at UVic last September. Once complete, the centre will also house an Indigenous Law Research Unit (ILRU) that studies Indigenous law and its application. Additional details are here. (April 2019)

UAlberta Faculties Collaborate to Support Indigenous Law

The Faculty of Law and the Faculty of Native Studies at the University of Alberta have announced the launch of a new initiative to support Indigenous law and governance through research led by the Indigenous community. The university says the research will be led by the Wahkohtowin Law and Governance Lodge, with funding provided by a two-year grant from the Alberta Law Foundation. The lodge was created to honour Call to Action 50 from the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, which asks Canada to establish Indigenous law institutes in collaboration with Indigenous communities. (February 2019)

McGill Offers Indigenous Language and Literacy Program

While the usual number of graduates from McGill’s Indigenous Language and Literacy Education program is 20 to 30 students, the 2018 cohort is 40. Educators say it’s a sign there’s a significant interest in Indigenous languages. The 30-credit program is offered in Cree communities over three years through a partnership between the Cree School Board and McGill University department of education. The certificate is one of several programs offered in Cree, Inuktitut, Mi’kmaq, Naskapi and Mohawk through the office of First Nations and Inuit education at McGill. It is offered to people who want to improve their language skills for a variety of reasons. There are two other programs offered in Cree through McGill, including a 60-credit certificate of education for First Nations and Inuit, which is specifically geared to help train teachers in the Cree School Board. (November 2018)

University of Victoria Launches Indigenous Law Program

In September 2018, the University of Victoria launched a new law degree program that combines the study of Western legal customs with Indigenous laws and practices. Indigenous law is expected to deal with issues ranging from fisheries management to water laws, resource development, child welfare, dispute resolution and governance. Graduates of the four-year program will hold degrees in Canadian Common Law and Indigenous Legal Orders. Details are here. Pictured are the 26 students accepted into the first year of the new program. (September 2018)

Thompson Rivers Announces the Coyote Project

Like other universities across Canada, Thompson Rivers University (TRU) has been developing ways to indigenize the campus for years. TRU’s Dean of Education and Social Work saw The Coyote Project as a way to unite the university in speeding up indigenization, drawing together all nine faculties and schools and three departments. Under the two-year project, each faculty gets $15,000 a year from the Provost’s Office to support the work that’s needed, whether it’s acquiring materials, hiring Indigenous staff, reviewing curricula or enhancing what’s already being done.    
Why Coyote? In Secwépemc legends, Coyote is a trickster and transformer who teaches humans lessons through his own behavior. The Coyote Project aims to transform TRU and share Indigenous knowledge with all. (September 2018)

Manitoba Law Students Study Rights of Indigenous Children and Youth

Manitoba’s Orange Shirt Day Act, which came into force in June of 2017, designates September 30 as a day of remembrance for residential school survivors. It provides a way for Manitobans to publicly commemorate the history and legacy of residential schools, and the resilience of residential school survivors, as a key aspect of the reconciliation process. The slogan for Orange Shirt Day is “Every Child Matters”. Students in the University of Manitoba’s Children, Youth and the Law course, taught by Professor Lorna Turnbull are studying the rights of children and youth with a particular focus on the laws affecting them.  Details of the initiative are here. (September 2018)

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