UVic concludes thought-provoking panel series on Indigenous laws


Painting: Raven in fields. Credit: Val Napoleon
Raven in fields. Credit: Val Napoleon

A vision already more than 10 years in the making, The National Centre for Indigenous Laws (NCIL) is getting closer to becoming a publicly accessible national and international forum for dialogue, gathering, teaching and furthering the resurgence of Indigenous laws.

Though its vision is broad in scope, the centre’s physical home will be at UVic, in an addition to the Fraser law building, set to complete construction in 2023. The building, funded by the BC and federal governments, the Law Foundation of BC and other supporters, will house the Indigenous Law Research Unit, the joint degree program in Canadian Common law and Indigenous legal orders (JD/JID), as well as ceremonial and community spaces.

This physical structure represents a sanctuary where our laws, which enable us to be peoples, will be safe, and where both Indigenous and non-Indigenous students will learn about those laws, creating the foundation to a multijuridical Canada.
Val Napoleon, director of the Indigenous law program and Indigenous Law Research Unit, and Law Foundation Chair of Indigenous Justice and Governance.

How the centre will facilitate and build those conversations and connections has been the focus of a national outreach and engagement process which included an engagement hub, a national survey and a series of open forums.

The events, hosted by UVic between February and April of this year, centred around four key themes with a goal of guiding dialogue on the experiences, needs and aspirations of legal practitioners, educators, Indigenous leaders and communities.

The forums were recorded and can all be viewed on the engagement hub:

More than 700 people participated in these forums. From community leaders to academics to lawyers, the 15 speakers and panelists come from diverse backgrounds and with experiences working with Indigenous laws.

Throughout the four events, hosts, panelists and participants reflected on the historical and contemporary challenges with the practice of Indigenous laws, as well as the opportunities for supporting their revitalization for future generations. Discussions centered around the ways educators across the country can collaborate to enrich Indigenous legal education, what the future of Indigenous law and legal research looks like and the work that lies ahead to achieve that vision.

Forum topics also included how Indigenous communities can use the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) as a tool to advance their inherent rights, and how to realize a future where Indigenous laws, legal traditions and legal practices are thriving within a multi-juridical space.

It’s clear that there is great appetite for more conversations, and work to be done in order to create a national centre that reflects the needs and priorities of Indigenous communities from coast to coast to coast.

Visioning of the NCIL continues with public survey

As we close out the first phase of the national engagement and prepare to move on to the next phase, your input is critical. Take the five-minute survey by May 31.

Find out more on the engagement hub, take the survey or catch up on any of the open forums above and help us envision the future of Indigenous laws in Canada.


In this story

Keywords: Indigenous, community, law

People: John Borrows, Val Napoleon

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