After close to a decade of preparation, University of Victoria is preparing a law program that will incorporate the laws, customs and traditions of indigenous cultures from around Canada with a traditional legal education. It's an important step towards reconciliation between Canada's mainstream and the native communities in our country that the government has marginalized and brutalized up until very recent times.
This isn't the University of Victoria's first indigenous law rodeo, either. According to the Globe and Mail, the institution ran a law school in Canada's far north between 2001 and 2005. The school, called Akitsiraq, featured heavily on Inuit law and tradition.
This inclusion of the laws and customs of Canada's indigenous people in a law school's curriculum is a big deal. Canada's white establishment (of which I include myself in) is used to seeing its legal show ran on a framework of laws and traditions that feature heavily on our British colonial legacy. Currently, Canadian lawyers are only trained to interpret and operate within this framework. By throwing the laws and views of Canada's indigenous nations into the mix, a new, truly Canadian legal system could form – one that gives all of the nation's citizens a fair shake. From the Globe and Mail:
Up to 25 students are expected to begin in September, pending approval of the program by B.C.'s Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training. Tuition and fees will be just under $11,000 a year, the same as at the school's common-law program. The first-year curriculum includes courses in constitutional, criminal and property law. In their third and fourth years, students will spend a full term in Indigenous communities, studying a particular legal order and working on law-related projects.
While the university is doing the work to ensure that the next crop of Canadian lawyers will be ready, there's no guarantee that the Canadian government will do anything to further the inclusion of the laws of Canada's First Nations into its legal system. But a first step is definitely better than no steps at all.
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