Aboriginal Justice Fund Key to Addressing Tough Reconciliation Issues

B.C. Aboriginal, legal and community leaders have thrown their support behind a campaign to fund an Educational Endowment for Aboriginal Justice at UVic’s law faculty. Chaired by former Supreme Court Chief Justice Bryan Williams, the campaign is seeking to raise $1 million for a program aimed at increasing educational opportunities for Aboriginal students and reconciling differences between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities.

Former B.C. Supreme Court Justice Thomas Berger, Nisga’a Chief Joseph Gosnell, Man in Motion Rick Hansen, former Regional Chief of the Assembly of First Nations Wendy John and businessman Milton Wong are among the patrons of the fundraising committee. A $500,000 commitment last year to the endowment from the Law Foundation of British Columbia provided for the appointment of Dr. John Borrows to Canada’s first Professorship in Aboriginal Justice and Governance. Matching funds raised through the upcoming campaign will provide additional resources to carry out the endowment’s initiatives.

“Legal reform involves more than researching the law,” says Borrows, one of Canada’s leading Aboriginal law scholars and a member of the Chippewa of the Nawash First Nations. “We need to engage institutions such as universities, legislatures and the courts and expose them to different perspectives. And we need to help Aboriginal communities to build capacity and become stronger socially and economically.”

The endowment, through Borrows, will generate increased educational opportunities for Aboriginal students and communities and contribute legal research and knowledge to the legal profession and the judiciary. Besides teaching, he will also collaborate with the Continuing Legal Education Society, the Law Society, the judiciary and others to enhance professional understanding of Aboriginal issues.

“Education is the best tool for overcoming social injustice and advancing positive and enduring change for Aboriginal people,” adds Borrows.
“Over the past 20 years, issues of Aboriginal rights and title have become increasingly important to the future of our province and our country. Yet not nearly enough has been done in Canadian law schools to provide the range of courses needed by Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students who wish to study in this area,” says Williams. “I have always been an enthusiastic supporter of UVic’s law faculty, and the creation of a chair in Aboriginal justice is an important development.”

The Educational Endowment for Aboriginal Justice is part of UVic law’s long tradition of bridging the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal legal worlds. The faculty, consistently ranked by its graduates as one of the best in Canada, also offers students the opportunity to earn a concurrent law degree with a master’s degree in indigenous governance. Last year, the faculty launched a pioneering partnership with the Akitsiraq Law School Society in Nunavut giving qualified Inuit students the chance to earn a UVic law degree without leaving the north.

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