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 Aboriginal–Crown relations. This will require skills-based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and antiracism.

Indigenous Watchdog Status Updates

Current StatusJan. 10, 2021IN PROGRESS
Previous StatusDec. 5, 2021IN PROGRESS

Why “In Progress”?

On Aug. 7, 2020 the Federation of Law Societies of Canada unanimously approved nine recommendations that chart path towards reconciliation including mandatory Indigenous cultural competency training and ensuring access and availability to educational opportunities and collaborating with Indigenous organizations in the development and delivery of cultural competency training.

Council of Canadian Law Deans and the Canadian Bar Association endorse this C2A as do the Faculties of Law who have initiated numerous actions to address this Call to Action.

Council of Canadian Law Deans

The Council of Canadian Law Deans (CCLD) is an independent and unincorporated not-for-profit association bringing together the heads of the various law schools across Canada. The CCLD’s main purpose is the consultation, amongst its members, on matters of mutual concern, such as:

  • legal education in Canada
  • legal research
  • cooperation among law schools
  • relations with law teachers, accreditation bodies, the legal profession and other learned bodies

Canadian law schools have put in place a variety of initiatives to ensure meaningful and effective engagement with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action. The attached summaries were prepared by Canadian law deans with a view to sharing information about these initiatives. As these summaries indicate, the responses of Canadian law schools are varied, with curricular and co-curricular initiatives. These include new courses, integration of relevant material across the law school curriculum, and increased exposure to Indigenous culture and practices through blanket exercises, interactions with Indigenous elders, and camps and other similar events that give students, faculty and staff opportunities to spend time in, and to learn from, Indigenous communities.

The summaries also indicate that in responding to the TRC Calls to Action, Canadian law schools are building on various initiatives already in place, many longstanding. Canadian law schools have curricular and co-curricular initiatives in place that pre-date the TRC Report and that are intended to address and provide formal and informal education about the issues of racism, assimilation and reconciliation identified in the TRC report. These initiatives include courses on Indigenous law, justice and legal traditions; integration of Indigenous elders into the daily life of law schools; admissions policies and programmes that promote access to law school for Indigenous students and support them once they arrive and after they graduate; hiring Indigenous faculty and staff, and introducing students and the broader law school community to Indigenous ceremonies and traditions.

Canadian Bar Association

Responding to the TRC Calls to Action March 2016

The CBA also endorses the call to action directed at law schools requiring all law students to take a course in Aboriginal people and the law. Given the breadth of the topic, multiple courses may be required. In addition, content relevant to the relationship between Indigenous people and state law might be integrated systematically into the existing curricula of law faculties. context and should be included in cultural competency training. Virtually every aspect of the law – from criminal to estates to taxation to employment law – has the potential to be more complex when Indigenous peoples are involved.

For this reason, it is imperative that all lawyers understand these issues. Further, a good understanding of Canada’s legal system must include the history of our Indigenous peoples and their traditions, and this knowledge is also essential for reconciliation. We believe that cultural competency education and training should address gender inequality from the perspective of Indigenous women, particularly given the disproportionate disappearance of, and violence against Indigenous women and the increasing number of Indigenous women being incarcerated.

Articles of the UNDRIP inform an understanding of Indigenous culture in the modern Canadian context and should be included in cultural competency training. In particular:

  • Article 1 – Indigenous peoples have the right to the full enjoyment, as a collective or as individuals, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms as recognized in the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international human rights law.
  • Article 2 – Indigenous peoples and individuals are free and equal to all other peoples and individuals and have the right to be free from any kind of discrimination, in the exercise of their rights, in particular that based on their Indigenous origin or identity.
  • Article 5 – Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and strengthen their distinct political, legal, economic, social and cultural institutions, while retaining their right to participate fully, if they so choose, in the political, economic, social and cultural life of the State.
  • Article 12 – Indigenous peoples have the right to manifest, practise, develop and teach their spiritual and religious traditions, customs and ceremonies; the right to maintain, protect, and have access in privacy to their religious and cultural sites; the right to the use and control of their ceremonial objects; and the right to the repatriation of their human remains.
  • Article 18 – Indigenous peoples have the right to participate in decision- making in matters which would affect their rights, through representatives chosen by themselves in accordance with their own procedures, as well as to maintain and develop their own indigenous decision making institutions.
  • Article 34 – Indigenous peoples have the right to promote, develop and maintain their institutional structures and their distinctive customs, spirituality, traditions, procedures, practices and, in the cases where they exist, juridical systems or customs, in accordance with international human rights standards.
  • Article 40 – Indigenous peoples have the right to access to and prompt decision through just and fair procedures for the resolution of conflicts and disputes with States or other parties, as well as to effective remedies for all infringements of their individual and collective rights. Such a decision shall give due consideration to the customs, traditions, rules and legal systems of the indigenous peoples concerned and international human rights.
Official Federal Government Response: Sept. 5, 2019

The Government of Canada is not the lead on a response for Call to Action # 28.