Actions and Commitments

Call to Action # 28: Justice (25-42)

Dalhousie University – Schulich School of Law

January 31, 2024

The Schulich School of Law plays an extraordinary role in Canadian legal education. What began as a daring experiment” in two rented rooms in 1883 is now a national law school. We draw talented students from every region of the country and from around the world into our  JD, combined JD/Masters, LLM, and PhD programs. We are committed teachers who care deeply about giving our students an outstanding legal education that prepares them to meet the needs of the communities they will serve in their varied careers. We are research leaders with rich local, national, and international networks and profiles, and we embrace the interdisciplinary opportunities found in our university setting. We are advocates who believe we can shape public policy to improve the lives of people everywhere.

The Schulich School of Law is located in Halifax, Nova Scotia, a city with a youthful spirit, rich history, and scenic waterfront. We are a vibrant, collegial, and close-knit community of faculty and students from around the world. We live the Weldon Tradition of unselfish public service—of giving back and making the world a better place.

Faculty of Law Commitment to Truth and Reconciliation

Truth and Reconciliation: A Call to Action

Schulich Law has made a serious commitment to implementing the TRC’s Calls to Action and the MMIWG’s Calls to Justice. We’ve made great progress in recent years, due in large part to our long-standing Indigenous Blacks and Mi’kmaq Initiative, support from leaders at the law school and Dalhousie, a dedicated Chancellor’s Chair in Aboriginal Law and Policy, and our connections to the local Indigenous community. We look forward to building on these accomplishments in the coming years, and will continue to make the study of Aboriginal and Indigenous law an integral part of the curriculum.

Actions taken
  • Formation of the TRC Implementation Committee in April 2016.
  • Since Fall 2016, supporting our colleagues through a dedicated Research Assistant to include Aboriginal and Indigenous law content in all 1L courses and many of the upper year courses.
  • Since Fall 2016, running a mass blanket exercise (an interactive activity teaching about the history of and current impacts of colonialism on Indigenous peoples) for all incoming first-year students
  • In Fall 2017, launched our Aboriginal and Indigenous Law in Context (AILC) course, mandatory for all first-year students
  • Launch of Certificate in Aboriginal and Indigenous Law for JD students in September 2020.
Abajignmuen website at the Schulich School of Law

Welcome (êpjilài!) to Abajignmuen (a-ba-ji-gên-mu-en) – a website dedicated to highlighting the work students, faculty, and staff of the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University in the areas of Aboriginal and Indigenous Law.

Abajignmuen has been defined in English to mean:

“Sharing” and “giving back” to one’s community, thereby strengthening relations. Mi’gmaq customary practices, ceremonies, and feasts, as well as information sessions and meetings, are ways of giving back. Apajignmuen also implies having gratitude, being aware, and being grateful for what has been given to you (Source: Listuguj Lobster Law at s 6(b)).

This definition reflects the intention behind this website: to allow those privileged to be working and learning about Aboriginal and Indigenous law to give back to the broader community by sharing what they are learning in an accessible way. The values and principles captured by Abajignmuen are similar to what we call the “Weldon Tradition” at the law school. This stands for the idea that law students and lawyers have an obligation to use their knowledge of the law to serve the community for the greater good. 

This website contains a large and growing repository of access to justice (A2J) projects and papers – A2J Projects & Papers – created by Schulich Law students for courses they have taken at the law school. These are intended as helpful resources to assist the public achieve a better understanding of issues related to Aboriginal and Indigenous law. The student authors are not yet lawyers, however, and their projects do not constitute legal advice. Any reliance placed on these projects is at the user’s own risk.

The website also highlights the contributions by faculty and staff in the fields of Aboriginal and Indigenous law and the work of the law school in these area under Our People. Our growing offerings of classes in Aboriginal and Indigenous law, including information about our Certificate in Aboriginal and Indigenous law, can be found under Courses

Finally, this website also houses information about our Lnuwey Dêbludaqan Wiguom (Indigenous law lodge) – a unit dedicated to support local Mìgmaq and other Indigenous groups in the region revitalization and implement their legal orders. We are in the early phases of this long-term initiative and continue to seek input, advice, and partners for our Wiguom.

Call to Action #28

We call upon law schools in Canada to require all law students to take a course in Aboriginal people and the law, which includes the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, Indigenous law, and AboriginalCrown relations. This will require skills-based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and antiracism.

Mandatory Course: Yes: 

LAWS 1019 and 2019: Aboriginal and Indigenous Law in Context (Taken over two terms)

This course provides an introduction to both Aboriginal Law and Indigenous Law, and the historical and contemporary context that is fundamental to understanding these areas of law. Aboriginal law refers to “settler law”, that is, the law made by Canadian legislatures and courts that applies to Aboriginal peoples, and embodies all situations where the Aboriginal status of an individual or group may impact the legal outcome, or the process leading to a legal outcome. 

Indigenous laws and legal traditions (e.g. Mi’kmaq law) comprise the legal orders of specific indigenous communities. Indigenous societies used these laws to govern themselves prior to contact with Europeans and many continue to do so today. Along with the common law and civil law traditions, Indigenous legal orders are, therefore, among Canada’s distinctive founding legal traditions.

Other Courses:

  • Aboriginal Peoples and Law survey course
  • LAWS 2280: Aboriginal Peoples and the Law
  • LAWS 2290: Special Issues in Aboriginal Law
  • LAW 2270: Indigenous Governance
  • LAW 2287: Indigenous Feminist Governance
  • LAWS 2289: Indigenous Law as Practice: Applying Mi’kmaq Legal Traditions
  • LAWS 2227: Dealing with the Past: The Indian Residential Schools Settlement
  • LAWS 2206: Kawaskimhon Aboriginal Rights Moot
  • LAWS 2062: Constitutional Law
  • LAWS 2286: Visitorship in Indigenous Law

Certificate in Aboriginal and Indigenous Law

In Spring 2020, the TRC Committee successfully moved a proposal for the Certificate in Aboriginal and Indigenous Law through Faculty Council. The certificate was approved and was offered to JD students in the fall of 2020. The objective of the certificate is to ensure that future legal professionals are educated on Aboriginal rights and how to support Indigenous communities on the expansion of jurisdiction and the revitalization and implementation of their laws.

Lnuwey Depludaqann Wiguom

We also have been developing an Indigenous Law unit (Lnuwey Depludaqann Wiguom) to support communities in the revitalization of their Indigenous legal orders. The goal of the Wikuom is to make Dalhousie University a hub for supporting Mi’kmaq and other Indigenous communities in the Atlantic region in revitalizing their own laws, while educating members of the legal communities about ongoing developments in the areas of Indigenous laws and governance practices. This Wikuom will provide teaching, learning and potential career opportunities for students, allow for greater access, inclusion, opportunity and support for both faculty and staff and facilitate greater research and innovation.

Our TRC Committee has also supported colleagues in bringing more Indigenous and Aboriginal law content into their courses.

Schulich School of Law Commitment to C2A # 28: 5 out of 5 = 100%

1The history of Aboriginal peoples, including the history and legacy of residential schools
Yes. Two required courses, Laws 1019 & 1029 Aboriginal and Indigenous Law in Context.
2The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
Yes: Truth and Reconciliation: A Call to Action explicitly identifies UNDRIP in LAWS 1029 course materials for winter term
3Treaties and Aboriginal rights
Yes. Two required courses, Laws 1019 & 1029 Aboriginal and Indigenous Law in Context. Second-year students learn about s 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 and leading cases interpreting in our mandatory LAWS 2062 Constitutional Law.
4Indigenous law
Yes: Two required courses, Laws 1019 & 1029 Aboriginal and Indigenous Law in Context.This course includes a focus on Indigenous peoples’ legal orders; our upper-year elective courses also give greater opportunity to engage with Indigenous laws.
5Aboriginal–Crown Relations
Yes: Two required courses, Laws 1019 & 1029 Aboriginal and Indigenous Law in Context.This is also a focus of learning about s 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 and leading cases interpreting in our mandatory LAWS 2062 Constitutional Law.
Land Acknowledgement

Located on Dalhousie University “Indigenous Connection” – Home Page (under Explore Dalhousie)

Dalhousie University is located in Mi’kma’ki, the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq. We are all Treaty people.