Actions and Commitments

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

University of New Brunswick Faculty of Law

January 31, 2024

Established in 1892, UNB Law has developed a reputation as an outstanding Canadian law school. This reputation is rooted in our determination to treat our students as individuals and to offer a broad legal education through our core curriculum. 

Our Vision

Within the next decade, we will re-establish ourselves as one of the top five law schools in Canada.

Our Values

We are committed to small class sizes, low student-faculty ratios, a professionally relevant curriculum, scholarship and service that makes a difference, caring for our students, and a collegial learning and working environment.

Faculty of Law Commitment to Truth and Reconciliation

UNB Law Strategic Plan

The Faculty of Law strategic plan is currently being implemented. In pursuing each goal of this vision for our future, UNB Law will emphasize reconciliation, equity, diversity, and inclusion. The implementation is guided by a committee of Faculty Council chaired by the Dean. The committee includes representation from Indigenous students and it consults with the Faculty’s Wihkwatacamit and an Advisory Circle composed of local Indigenous leaders. The Faculty is still working toward the Advisory Circle’s recommendations, including the appointment of full-time, permanent Indigenous faculty and the establishment of a course in Indigenous legal traditions.

One of the 11 Strategic Priorities of the plan is “meaningfully responding to the TRC Calls to Action through curriculum reform including a new course in Indigenous Legal Traditions” as follows: 

Honouring Our Commitment to Reconciliation

Over the next decades, Canada will be engaged in a process of reconciliation with its Indigenous Peoples. This critical work will involve unraveling the harmful legacy of colonialism by fostering the revival of Indigenous legal traditions and making space for them to be practiced. Reconciliation also means reforms to Canadian laws to ensure that they respect the rights of Indigenous Peoples, promote self-determination, and reverse historical oppression.

We are committed to playing an active role in this vital project by making the content of Call to Action #28 part of our mandatory curriculum, by adding a course on Indigenous Legal Traditions, by hiring faculty and instructors who identify as Indigenous, by recruiting more Indigenous students and supporting their success, and by providing all of our students with training in anti-racism and intercultural competency.

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 

The subject matter of Call to Action #28 is embedded in UNB Law’s compulsory curriculum in various ways.

Mandatory equity, diversity and inclusion training

New mandatory equity, diversity and inclusion training included is part of the first-year orientation program. This takes two forms. First, a full day is dedicated to Indigenous Pipe Ceremonies, which welcome students to the Wolastoqey territory and educate them about the impact of colonialism and residential schools on the local Indigenous population. Second, another full day is dedicated to anti-racism training, which covers topics such as the imperative of promoting diversity and inclusion in the legal profession, the principles of unconscious bias, subtle racism, the importance of mental health and self-care, and the value of mentorship.

Content related to Call to Action #28 is also incorporated into many of UNB Law’s required first-year courses, including: 

LAW 1200 PROPERTY (6 ch) 

Introduction to the concepts and analytical skills necessary to recognize and resolve disputes over interests in personal and real property. Examines meaning of property, concepts of ownership and possession, aboriginal property claims, and rights in land 

LAW 1303 Foundations of Law

Introduction to the Canadian legal system, its structure and administration, Introduction to the principles of common law and equity and statutory interpretation. Development of skills, including legal analysis, case analysis and problem-solving. Graydon Nicholas will help provide the Indigenous historical and social context underlying Canada’s colonial legal system. 

LAW 1500 CRIMINAL LAW (6 ch) 

Introduction to criminal law and the criminal justice system, including the general principles of criminal liability, defenses, sentencing, certain elements of trial and pre-trial procedure and relevant provisions of the Canadian Charter of Right and Freedoms


Examination of Canada’s constitutional framework, including the judicial system, the division of powers, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and treatment and rights of aboriginal peoples. 

Wolastoqey Elder Graydon Nicholas joins UNB Law as Wihkwatacamit

Graydon serves as a mentor and resource for students and faculty as they engage with subjects related to the Indigenous experience in Canada. In particular, he is involved in many aspects of the required first-year program, by helping to provide the historical and social context underlying Canada’s colonial legal system. In addition, he is available to advise faculty members wishing to incorporate Indigenous perspectives and legal traditions into their courses. Graydon is also a guest lecturer in courses on topics related to his areas of expertise, which include criminal law, aboriginal law, property law, and constitutional law.

With the assistance of Graydon Nicholas, who guest lectures on these topics, students are given an introduction to Indigenous and non-Indigenous relations, including the legacy of residential schools, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and Indigenous legal traditions. This introduction provides the historical and social context that students will need when then they learn about legal issues affecting Indigenous Peoples, including section 35 of the Constitution Act 1982, the duty to consult, treaties, Aboriginal rights, Aboriginal title, and sentencing principles pertaining to Indigenous offenders.

Elective Courses on Aboriginal Law:

The Faculty also has several elective courses on Aboriginal law. These courses are offered consistently and count toward the Compulsory Areas of Study, which are categories of upper-year elective courses that students must have exposure to. Specifically, we offer a course called Indigenous non-Indigenous Relations: looks at the various ways that Indigenous Peoples have asserted their rights, e.g. direct political action, constitutional negotiation, and litigation. 

Land Claims and Self-Government Agreements: covers the presentation, negotiation, and adjudication of specific and comprehensive land claims agreements, including the recognition of Aboriginal self-government. This course is co-taught by two Indigenous lawyers.

LAW 4193 Indigenous-non-Indigenous Relations is an optional course that covers all the topics mandated by Call to Action # 28

Analyze legal concepts applicable to Indigenous peoples with special emphasis on the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declarations on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal Rights, Indigenous law, and Indigenous-non-Indigenous relations. The course examines the various ways Indigenous peoples have asserted their rights through direct political action, constitutional negotiation, and litigation including the scope and nature of Treaty Rights, Aboriginal Title, and the Duty to Consult.

1The history of Aboriginal peoples, including the history and legacy of residential schools
Limited.  Included as part of one day Orientation program. An optional course, LAW 4193 Indigenous-non-Indigenous Relations covers this more directly
2The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
Limited.  Addressed through guest lectures. An optional course, LAW 4193 Indigenous-non-Indigenous Relations covers this more directly
3Treaties and Aboriginal rights
Limited. Partially by LAW 1303 Foundations of Law. Covered as well to some degree by LAW 1600 Constitutional Law.  An optional course, LAW 4193 Indigenous-non-Indigenous Relations covers this more directly
4Indigenous law
Limited.  Addressed through Graydon Nichols guest lectures as well as a mentor and resource for faculty and students.  An optional course, LAW 4193 Indigenous-non-Indigenous Relations covers this more directly
5Aboriginal–Crown Relations
Limited. Addressed through Graydon Nichols guest lectures as well as a mentor and resource for faculty and students. An optional course, LAW 4193 Indigenous-non-Indigenous Relations covers this more directly
Land Acknowledgment:

Located on Campus Sustainability – Home Page; not on the University of New Brunswick – Home Page nor the Faculty of Law – Home Page.

We respectfully acknowledge that UNB stands on the unsurrendered and unceded traditional Wolastoqey (WOOL-US-TOOK-WAY) land.

The lands of Wabanaki (WAH-BAH-NAH-KEE) people are recognized in a series of Peace and Friendship Treaties to establish an ongoing relationship of peace, friendship and mutual respect between equal nations.The river that runs by our university is known as Wolastoq (WOOL-LUSS-TOOK), along which live Wolastoqiyik (WOOL-US-TOO-GWEEG) – the people of the beautiful and bountiful river. Wolastoq (WOOL-LUSS-TOOK) is also called the St. John R

All content has been submitted to the respective faculty for validation to ensure accuracy and currency as of the time of posting. University of New Brunswick Faculty of Law did respond.

Managing Editor: Douglas Sinclair: Publisher, Indigenous Watchdog
Lead Researcher, Timothy Maton: Ph.D