Actions and Commitments

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

University of Toronto Faculty of Law

January 31, 2024

The Faculty of Law at the University of Toronto is an exceptional community to study law in. A student body with diverse ethnic, cultural, political and socio-economic backgrounds, experiences and interests complements the academic strength and intellectual ambition of our faculty.

Each year we produce a class of Juris Doctor (JD) graduates with outstanding employment prospects by exposing our talented students to a deep curriculum taught by professors with international reputations for scholarly excellence, all in close proximity to Canadas leading legal and financial markets.

Faculty of Law Commitment to Truth and Reconciliation

To address the TRC Report, the Faculty of Law has struck a new, permanent committee: The TRC Implementation Committee. The Committee’s work builds on initiatives developed at the law school over the past seven years (under the leadership of the Indigenous Initiatives Office (IIO)) that have focused on two main goals:

  1. Outreach and access to legal education for Indigenous students (e.g. the Indigenous Youth Summer Program, and the Law School Access Program); and
  2. Creation of learning opportunities for all students that explore Indigenous laws, issues, topics and perspectives (e.g. summer internship programs, the Aboriginal Legal Studies Certificate, the Gladue Practicum course, the Indigenous Law Journal, funding for the Native Law Centre Summer Program, mentoring programs, etc.).

To facilitate these goals, in 2011, the law school hired a full-time Aboriginal Law Program Coordinator (now Manager, Indigenous Initiatives).  The three staff who have occupied the role since 2011 have all been Indigenous-identified lawyers. 

The Committee’s first report to Faculty Council set out the framework for a comprehensive response to the TRC Report and its Calls to Action.  That framework consists in facilitating the inclusion of Indigenous and Aboriginal law in courses taught by full time and adjunct professors, entering into formal relations with the Mississauga’s of New Credit River, making mandatory the KAIROS Blanket Exercise, and the inclusion of Canadian history in the Legal Methods intensive course that is mandatory for all incoming first year law students.  

Our approach takes account of the fact that many incoming law students lack the historical context necessary to understand contemporary Indigenous claims to right.  Through the Blanket Exercise and Professor Sanderson’s lectures during Legal Methods, we are bridging a gap in knowledge of Canadian and Indigenous history and relations.

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

Indigenous Peoples and the Canadian Legal System

Term 1 – 1 credit

This course aims to provide an introduction to basic competency on the history and present situation of Indigenous peoples in Canada.

2nd Term – 3 credits

This course aims to address the range of considerations arising out of past and present interactions between Indigenous peoples and the Canadian legal system. Topics to be covered may include the following: the history of Crown-Indigenous relations, Indigenous legal orders, the nature of Indigenous sovereignty, Aboriginal Rights and law, Treaties, UNDRIP, the history and legacy of residential schools, and other contemporary topics.

Constitutional Law: 6 credits

This course provides an introduction to the law of the Canadian constitution. It examines the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, federalism, and Aboriginal rights. The course considers the structure of the Canadian constitution, the role of judicial review, and general principles of interpretation with regard to the distribution of legislative authority, constitutional rights and freedoms, and Aboriginal rights. Selected federal and provincial powers, Aboriginal rights, and rights guaranteed by the Charter will be examined.

First-year students are also required to participate in a Reconciliation Reading Circle to deepen their engagement with Canadian Indigenous history and experience. During the summer all 1L students are required to read a book or report from a carefully curated reconciliation reading list (below).  Students will discuss their selection in a sharing circle with a small group of their classmates, facilitated by the Elder in Residence and IIO manager. 

  • William Daschuk: Clearing the Plains: Disease, Politics of Starvation, and the Loss of Aboriginal Life
  • Hadley Friedland: Weitiko Legal Principles
  • Thomas King: The Inconvenient Indian/ The Truth About Stories (also Massey Lecture of the same name)
  • Andrew Stobo Sniderman and Douglas Sanderson: Valley of the Birdtail: An Indian Reserve, a White Town, and the Road to Reconciliation*
  • Robin Wall Kimmerer: Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants
  • Sheila Watt-Cloutier: The Right to be Cold: One Woman’s Story of Protecting Her Culture, the Arctic, and the Whole Planet
  • John Borrows: Canada’s Indigenous Constitution
1The history of Aboriginal peoples, including the history and legacy of residential schools
Yes. Indigenous Peoples and the Canadian Legal System
2The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
Yes.  Indigenous Peoples and the Canadian Legal System as well as by Constitutional Law
3Treaties and Aboriginal rights
Yes. Addressed by Indigenous Peoples and the Canadian Legal System
4Indigenous law
Yes. Addressed by Indigenous Peoples and the Canadian Legal System
5Aboriginal–Crown Relations
Yes. Addressed by Indigenous Peoples and the Canadian Legal System
Land Acknowledgement

Located in “About” section on Faculty of Law – Home Page

We wish to acknowledge this land on which the University of Toronto Faculty of Law operates.

For thousands of years it has been the traditional land of the Huron-Wendat, the Seneca, and the Mississaugas of the Credit River.

Today, this meeting place is still the home to many Indigenous people from across Turtle Island and we are grateful to have the opportunity to work on this land.