Actions and Commitments

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

University of Alberta Faculty of Law

January 31, 2024

The University of Alberta Faculty of Law is Western Canada’s most prestigious law school and one of Canada’s leading institutions of legal education and research. For more than 100 years, the faculty has been at the forefront of legal scholarship in Canada, fostering generations of thought leaders.

UAlberta Law curriculum is a long-recognized strength of the Faculty, is core to our learning experience and is greatly enriched by our engagement with the Alberta bar and judiciary. We preserve the teaching of the core foundations of the law, while encouraging new and innovative approaches to legal education. Looking to the future, we will retain the flexibility required to anticipate, capture and reflect changes in the legal landscape while responding to student needs, as we create sophisticated, well-rounded graduates who are prepared to serve in a variety of settings, within Canada and abroad.

Faculty of Law Commitment to Truth and Reconciliation

Indigenous Initiatives and Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

The Faculty of Law’s EDI Committee is a standing committee of Law Faculty Council. Composed of faculty, staff and students, the EDI committee is mandated with promoting and supporting an open and inclusive environment in which all individuals are treated fairly with respect and dignity.

The committee’s role includes encouraging an equity-sensitive teaching, learning and scholarly environment; acting as a resource; liaising with the university, bar and general public; sharing information and maintaining awareness of EDI issues.

Indigenous Initiatives

As recognized by the Truth and Reconciliation Report’s Call to Action #28, Canadian law schools are in a unique position to address and enact reconciliation in partnership with Indigenous Peoples. Our work and collaboration towards the principles of reconciliation includes:

  • more fully integrating Indigenous law and legal traditions into our curriculum; 
  • academic and cultural support offered by our full-time Indigenous Support Officer; 
  • an Indigenous Speaker Series; and 
  • the Wahkohtowin law and Governance Lodge, which provides on-the-land and in-class education based on the Cree concept of “wahkohtowin” or interdependence.

The Wahkohtowin Law and Governance Lodge is a dedicated research unit based out of the University of Alberta. The Wahkohtowin Lodge’s objectives are to uphold Indigenous laws and governance by:

  • Supporting Indigenous communities’ goals to identify, articulate, and implement their own laws,
  • Developing, gathering, amplifying, and transferring wise practices, promising methods and research tools,
  • Producing useful and accessible public legal education resources.

The Wahkohtowin Lodge responds to the expressed needs of Indigenous communities and organizations and specifically answers the TRC Call to Action #50, which calls for the creation of Indigenous Law Institutes for the “development, use and understanding of Indigenous laws.”

indigenous Support Officer

In 2022, the Faculty’s part-time Indigenous Support Officer (providing support and assistance to Indigenous Law Students) was expanded to a full-time position and the Faculty created several new scholarships and awards to recruit and support Indigenous law students.

Other Initiatives

The Faculty’s ongoing Indigenous initiatives include:

  • A standing Indigenous and Aboriginal Law Committee to advise on the continued development of curricular offerings in Indigenous and Aboriginal Law and to support the continued integration of Indigenous Law into the existing curriculum.
  • The Indigenous Law Students Association Speaker Series is an annual public event featuring a series of five lectures by lawyers, legal scholars and other subject matter experts, and includes the presentation of the Aboriginal Justice Award. Speakers and themes are chosen by the Indigenous Law Students’ Association.
  • Our students participate annually in the Kawaskimhon National Aboriginal Moot. 
  • Our Indigenous Support Officer runs a variety of group and one-on-one mentoring programs for Indigenous students. These includes a spring short course for incoming Indigenous students (the Launchpad to Law program), a variety of academic and social sessions for current students, and a special convocation event for Indigenous graduates.

Call to Action # 28

Mandatory Course: Yes.

LAW 401: Foundations of Law:

A mandatory course for all first-year students includes a concentrated unit on Indigenous legal traditions. Since 2021, this Relationship Building component of the course has been taught on the land of the Enoch Cree Nation.

An introduction to the foundations, institutions and processes of the Canadian legal system, and its underlying values and systems of thought, including principles of common law and equity, the process of statutory interpretation and analysis, the administration of justice, and the role of law and the legal profession in society. This will include learning about forms of discrimination recognized in Canadian human rights legislation with attention to racism, sexism and bias in the Canadian justice system, addressed through topics such as legal history, legal theory, cultural difference, individual and systemic biases and contemporary cases and legal issues.

LAW 435: Constitutional Law

An introduction to the legal framework governing the exercise of power by the legislative, executive and judicial branches of the Canadian state, covering who has the power to make new laws, the power to implement laws, and the power to adjudicate disputes. The limitations imposed on these powers by the rules of federalism and by the provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms are also considered. An introduction to the constitutional provisions concerning Indigenous peoples in Canada is also included.

Upper-year students* must complete one course in Indigenous People and the Law selected from a roster of courses approved by the Indigenous and Aboriginal Law Committee

Upper-level courses include: 

LAW 486: Indigenous Laws–Foundations & Methods: an interactive intensive seminar exploring current challenges in accessing, understanding and applying Indigenous legal traditions today; 

LAW 590: Indigenous Peoples and the Law: a course to introduce students to the legal issues faced by Indigenous peoples pertaining to Indigenous lands, rights, and governance; 

LAW 591: The TRC, Law, Justice & Reconciliation: a course that focuses on the residential school experience and its legacies; 

LAW 599: Method of Indigenous Legal Engagement: Focus on immediate legal concerns of Indigenous peoples, including recognition and reconciliation of their own legal traditions with the Canadian legal system

LAW 599: Métis Law and the Canadian State: This course is intended to explain the legal relationship between Metis people(s) and the Canadian state.

2023-2024 APPROVED COURSES (Optional)

  • 486 A1    Indigenous Law: Foundations & Methods (Friedland/Lightning-Earle)
  • 590 A1    Indigenous Peoples & Canadian Law (Pearl)
  • 590 A2    Indigenous Peoples & Canadian Law (Pentland)
  • 591 A1    The TRC, Law, Justice & Reconciliation (Lightning-Earle)
  • 590 B1    Indigenous Peoples & Canadian Law (Macias Gimenez)
  • 599 B05  Methods of Indigenous Legal Engagement (Pearl)
  • 599 B08  Métis Law & the Canadian State (Chartrand)

Call to Action # 28: Compliance with mandatory Indigenous course content

1The history of Aboriginal peoples, including the history and legacy of residential schools
No. Covered by optional course LAW 591: The TRC, Law, Justice and Reconciliation
2The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
Yes. Addressed by LAW 435 Constitutional Law
3Treaties and Aboriginal rights
Limited.  Addressed by LAW 435 Constitutional Law
4Indigenous law
Yes. Addressed primarily through Foundations to Law that includes a concentrated unit on Indigenous Legal traditions.Miyowîcêhtowin Principles and Practice is an on the land course in Cree Law taught by faculty and community members. (Optional)
5Aboriginal–Crown Relations
Limited. Assumed through Indigenous unit in LAW 401 Foundations to Law  that addresses Indigenous legal traditions.

Land Acknowledgement

Located on University Alberta Faculty of Law – Home Page and multiple other Home Pages including University of Alberta – Home Page 

The University of Alberta, its buildings, labs, and research stations are primarily located on the traditional territory of Cree, Blackfoot, Métis, Nakota Sioux, Iroquois, Dene, and Ojibway/Saulteaux/Anishinaabe nations; lands that are now known as part of Treaties 6, 7, and 8 and homeland of the Métis. The University of Alberta respects the sovereignty, lands, histories, languages, knowledge systems, and cultures of First Nations, Métis and Inuit nation