Actions and Commitments

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

University of Victoria Faculty of Law

January 31, 2024

UVic Law is one of Canada’s leading law schools, known for the strength of our academic program, approach to experiential learning and our commitment to community engagement and social justice.

Our school has the largest number of clinical placements per student in the country, strengths across a wide range of disciplines, long-term partnerships with Indigenous communities and a deeply-held ethic of social contribution. Located on the stunning Pacific Rim, UVic Law is rich with Indigenous and international perspectives. Our small size, collegial atmosphere, student support programs and incredible faculty attract a community of diverse, engaged and passionate students determined to make an impact.

Faculty of Law Commitment to Truth and Reconciliation

Indigenous Initiatives

“UVIC is situated in the territory of the Coast and Straits Salish people and sits on the site of an old Lekwungen village. Respect for the land’s traditional stewards has inspired us to become leaders in Indigenous legal issues, environmental law, and public policy initiatives. 

We aim to equip our students with the knowledge and skills to adapt to the ever-changing field of Indigenous law and the impact those changes will have on so many facets of Canadian society. We strive to have our students enter the workforce as informed citizens with a strong cultural understanding and appreciation of the many different legal traditions that compromise our systems of justice…

TRC Implementation at the University of Victoria Faculty of Law

Academic Program

  • In June 2022, UVic held the inaugural convocation for the world’s first joint degree program in Canadian Common Law and Indigenous Legal Orders, with 24 students earning both a JD (Juris Doctor) and a JID (Juris Indigenarum Doctor) – this program directly responds to the TRC Calls 28 and 50. Call to Action #50 was based on the work of UVic’s Indigenous Law Research Unit (ILRU) (see full written report). https://www.uvic.ca/news/topics/2022+firstjd-jid-graduating-class+media-release
  • UVic Law currently has eight Indigenous faculty members who teach in the JD/JID and the JD programs.
  • UVic Law has launched the National Centre for Indigenous Laws, virtually with over 2000 participants, in advance of the construction of the physical centre, to be completed in Fall 2024. Construction of the NCIL will begin October 1, 2022. www.uvic.ca/campaign/nationalcentre indigenous-laws.php
  • Shortly after the TRC’s release two faculty members created a national blog to share reflections on implementing the Calls: https://reconciliationsyllabus.wordpress.com. This blog has received national and international attention as a place to find and share materials for teaching law and continues to be updated with ideas that engage with the Calls to Action and more recently, the Calls for Justice of the Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act.

Curriculum and Student Support

  • On the first day of the program all JD and JD/JID students are welcomed to the territory by
  • local Elders.
  • All students complete a compulsory, full-time, two-week introductory Legal Process class that includes a half-day introduction to Indigenous legal traditions and Indigenous law exercises. In the Spring Semester, there is an additional day-long Indigenous law session in Legal Process on the Calls to Action.
  • All first-year students are invited to participate in a student-led Indigenous Perspectives Camp (IPC), that recently celebrated its 25th anniversary. Each year, the IPC partners with a local or regional Indigenous community to host and provide land- and/or water-based learning experiences. Attendance is generally very high with 30-50 students attending.
  • Substantial Indigenous content including Indigenous legal traditions, the history and legacy of residential schools, treaty and Indigenous rights and Indigenous-Crown relations is incorporated into compulsory courses in Constitutional Law, Criminal Law, Law, Legislation & Policy, Legal Research & Writing, Property, Torts, Administrative Law, and Legal Ethics & Professionalism, and into elective courses such as Family Law, Intellectual Property, International Human Rights and Dispute Resolution, and Taxation.
  • UVic Law offers intensive summer courses in Indigenous Legal Methodologies, and a range of other Indigenous courses such as Indigenous Ecological Governance.
  • UVic Law’s Academic and Cultural Support Program (“Amicus Program”) provides direct support for Indigenous students and over each term, organizes seminars and workshops on matters bearing on intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and antiracism.

Research and Community Participation

  • ILRU partners with communities in the recovery and renaissance of Indigenous laws. They partner with and support work by Indigenous peoples and communities to ascertain and articulate their own legal principles and processes in order to effectively respond to today’s complex challenges. www.ilru.ca
  • The Environmental Law Centre works with Indigenous communities researching and advocating for respect and stewardship of traditional lands, including a case for Indigenous Guardian Programs. www.elc.uvic.ca
  • The JD/JID Program partners with Indigenous Nations and organizations to offer field schools to third- and fourth-year students. To date UVic Law has partnered with Cowichan Tribes, Shuswap Nation Tribal Council and North Island communities (Kwakiutl First Nation, Mamalilikulla First Nation and Ma’amtigila Nation) as well as the Aboriginal Coalition to End Homelessness.
  • An additional field school has been offered for several years to Indigenous and non-Indigenous students in partnership with the W̱SÁNEĆ Nations and collaboratively taught with the UBC Faculty of Law.
  • A new research position, the President’s Chair, has been applied for with a focus on Law and

Indigeneity in a Global Context

Indigenous and non-Indigenous Faculty and staff are actively engaged in numerous projects advancing the work of recovering, revitalizing and reinvigorating Indigenous laws and legal practices across the faculty, university, and broader community.

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 for ALL Law students: Yes. 8 First Year and 2 Second Year

The long-standing approach at UVic Law has been to integrate Indigenous and Aboriginal Law and Call to Action #28 subject matter into our mandatory first year JD courses and the two mandatory upper year JD courses.  Upper year elective courses in the JD program incorporate many Indigenous and Aboriginal Law issues and there are a series of specialized courses focused on Indigenous and Aboriginal Law (see list at the end of this document).  

In addition, UVic Law has offered a full-term course in the Re-emergence of W̱SÁNEĆ Law (Fall 2021 and Fall 2023) and will be offering a Professional Specialization Certificate in Intellectual and Cultural Property in Summer 2024, which will include two specialized courses: Indigenous Intellectual Property and Cultural Property.  All of these courses are available to JD students.

The below list provides examples of how Call to Action #28 content has been integrated into first year and upper year mandatory JD courses.

LAW 100 The Constitutional Law Process: Coverage of treaties and aboriginal rights, the rights of Indigenous Peoples in Canada, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the relationship between Indigenous Peoples and the Canadian state/Crown.

LAW 102 The Criminal Law Process: Coverage of Indigenous peoples and criminal law; the role of criminal law in reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people(s).

LAW 104 Law, Legislation and Policy: Coverage of multijuralism & statutory forms of Indigenous laws; Indigenous law, legislation and policy and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

LAW 105 Contracts: Coverage of Indigenous and Aboriginal law in contracts; contracts in practice, including a session on the Witness Blanket Agreement.

LAW 106 The Legal Process: Coverage of learning law on the land, international and transnational law; legal pluralism, Indigenous laws, cultural competency, residential schools and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission; the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, citizenship and civility and dispute resolution.

LAW 107 Property Law: Coverage of aboriginal title and other Indigenous property issues including intangible interests, traditional knowledge and cultural property.

LAW 109 Torts: Coverage of tort law’s relationship to and contrast with Aboriginal law and Indigenous laws of involuntary obligations.

LAW110 Legal Research and Writing: Coverage of researching Indigenous laws; Indigenous legal research methodologies, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Calls to Action, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and sources of Indigenous law.

Mandatory Upper Year Courses

LAW 301 The Administrative Law Process: Coverage of understanding administrative law in its social context, particularly in relation to issues of diversity, equity, social justice, and Indigenous-Crown relations; review of the decisions of Indian Act Band Councils, raising questions about Indigenous self-governance, the scope of judicial oversight, and the evolving role of Indigenous laws.
LAW 360 Legal Ethics and Professionalism: Coverage of the history of racism and discrimination in the legal profession; lawyer competence and reconciliation.

Elective Courses

Almost all UVic elective courses include some elements of the topics listed in Call to Action #28.  In addition, the following elective courses touch directly on Indigenous and Aboriginal Law:

Elective Full Term Field Course

LAW 343E ĆELÁṈENE: A Field Course in the Re-emergence of W̱SÁNEĆ Law

The Faculty of Law is offering ĆELÁṈENEȽ: A Field Course in the Re-emergence of W̱SÁNEĆ Law during the Fall 2023 semester. This course is offered in partnership with the W̱SÁNEĆ Nation, and Allard School of Law at UBC. ĆELÁṈEN means “ancestry or birthright” and ĆELÁṈENEȽ means “of the ancestor’s cultural ways” or “of the birthrights”. This intensive place-based course will be taught in the W̱SÁNEĆ community on the Saanich Peninsula and will include a number of trips to local mountains, rivers, and a 3-night camping trip on the Gulf Islands. This course is focused on W̱SÁNEĆ People’s own laws, and the ways in which those laws are generated and carried forward. Consideration will also be given to the colonial relationship and power structures between the W̱SÁNEĆ and Canadian legal traditions, as well as the opportunities and barriers this creates for the revitalization of W̱SÁNEĆ law. A principal purpose of the course will be to develop a collaborative community-based legal education model. During eight weeks of the course students will work under the supervision of W̱SÁNEĆ community members in learning and applying W̱SÁNEĆ law to community-based projects identified as important by the W̱SÁNEĆ community.

Joint Degree Program in Canadian Common Law and Indigenous Legal Orders (JD/JID) 

The Joint Degree Program in Canadian Common Law and Indigenous Legal Orders (JD/JID) is the first program of its kind in the world. In the JD/JID program, you’ll develop the skills you need to practice with Indigenous legal orders, within Canadian common law and at the interface between them. You’ll graduate this four-year program with two professional degrees: a Juris Doctor (JD) and a Juris Indigenarum Doctor (JID). You’ll be well-positioned to practice law at a local, national and international level.

The JD/JID is a four-year program combining classroom learning with field studies conducted in collaboration with Indigenous communities. You’ll study Canadian law, Indigenous legal traditions, governance, environment and a range of other areas. You’ll also attend field schools where you’ll learn from community experts and work with the community on law-related projects. Through these, you will explore the diversity of Indigenous legal traditions and observe first-hand the ways Indigenous legal processes are being used today.

1The history of Aboriginal peoples, including the history and legacy of residential schools
Yes. See mandatory course list above
2The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
Yes. See mandatory course list above
3Treaties and Aboriginal rights
Yes. See mandatory course list above
4Indigenous law
Yes. See mandatory course list above
5Aboriginal–Crown Relations
Yes. See mandatory course list above
Land Acknowledgements

On Faculty of Law – Home Page and the University of Victoria – Home PageWe acknowledge and respect the lək̓ʷəŋən peoples on whose traditional territory the university stands, and the Songhees, Esquimalt and WSÁNEĆ peoples whose historical relationships with the land continue to this day. We invite you