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Faculty of Law to offer new mandatory Indigenous course

December 13, 2021 — 

One of the most important accomplishments of the Law Faculty Council for the fall term of 2021 was to vote unanimously to approve the Faculty’s new Indigenous Course Requirement. The course has been named “Indigenous Methodologies and Perspectives” and will be offered in the second year of the Juris Doctor program. The course meets the requirements of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) Call to Action 28:

  1. 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 Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, Indigenous law, and Aboriginal-Crown relations. This will require skills-based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and anti-racism.

The course will continue examination of Indigenous material already being taught in mandatory first-year classes. The course material and discussions will be informed by the language and policy developed for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which was passed by Senate and became law in Canada this past summer. The course will be taught with the assistance of Elders, Indigenous practitioners, and community members. Land-based learning opportunities will be an integral part of the course, wherein students will have the opportunity to visit healing lodges and land which is or was part of a contested land claim.

I, as Indigenous Student Support Coordinator at the Faculty – and an alumnus of the JD program myself, am honoured to be a part of Robson Hall’s reconciliation efforts and this class is a big step in that direction. Ensuring that our students have an understanding of Indigenous worldviews and legal systems is necessary for Reconciliation. All Canadians must come to understand Indigenous perspectives when discussing issues of Reconciliation. Our students, many of whom will go on to careers where Common Law is interpreted and enforced from a colonial context and history, will especially need to understand Indigenous worldviews and ways of living the good life (mino-bimaadiziwin) from within these worldviews to assist in de-colonizing Canadian Law. Robson Hall is making real change to our curriculum and pedagogy to decolonize our courses and methods of teaching.

Through education we hope to move our academic and legal community – and by extension, our broader society – closer to a place where Indigenous folk and other Canadians can discuss political, legal, and moral ideas with respect and understanding; a place where our Common Law and Indigenous Legal Orders can stand on equal footing, allowing conversations to start from a Nation-to-Nation perspective. Our mandatory course is a keystone course along with our other Indigenous offerings which will ensure all Manitoba law students will learn about Indigenous Legal Orders and Treaties from an Indigenous perspective. Teaching our students to understand Indigenous perspectives will better prepare them to lead in the discourse and practice of Reconciliation.

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