National Centre for Indigenous Laws gets major funding boost

(L-R) UVic President Jamie Cassels, Professor and Director of the Indigenous law program Val Napoleon and Honourable Minister Melanie Mark. Photo: UVic Photo Services

The Province of BC has announced a $13 million contribution on Sept.3 to support the building of a National Centre for Indigenous Laws (NCIL) at the University of Victoria. This funding is in addition to $5 million from the Law Foundation of British Columbia, announced the same day, and $9.1 million from the federal government, committed in in 2019.

The National Centre for Indigenous Laws (NCIL) will serve as a publicly accessible national and international forum for critical engagement, debate, learning, public education and partnership on Indigenous legal traditions, and their practice and renaissance. 

The centre, an addition to the Murray and Anne Fraser (Law) Building, received funding support of $13 million from the BC government and $5 million from the Law Foundation of BC today. This is in addition to the $9.1 million from the federal government, announced in 2019.

“The National Centre for Indigenous Laws will be home to the first Indigenous law program in the world to combine the intensive study of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous law, and will help Canada build a new nation-to-nation relationship based on the recognition—and renaissance—of Indigenous legal traditions,” says Jamie Cassels, president and vice-chancellor of the University of Victoria. “We are grateful to the provincial and federal governments who helped establish this unique Indigenous law program at UVic, and to the Law Foundation of BC for their generous donation today.”

The building is designed to reflect and honour the law school’s location and long-standing relationship with the Songhees, Esquimalt and WSÁNEĆ peoples on whose territory the university resides.  The 2,400-square metre (26,264-square feet) project will use Coast Salish designs, signage, public art and materials such as B.C. wood, cedar weaving and natural light.

Expected to open in 2023, NCIL will house the Indigenous Law program—co-founded by Val Napoleon and John Borrows and launched in 2018—and the Indigenous Law Research Unit. The design will aim for LEED Gold and will meet the highest sustainability standards.

New high-tech digital infrastructure will enable students to connect with their home communities and enable sharing of legal traditions with one another. It will also enable UVic to host conferences, public workshops, research and partnerships for faculty, students and visitors. The new addition will include public lecture theatres, faculty and staff offices, classrooms, meeting space, Elders’ room and spaces for gathering, ceremony and sharing of histories and knowledge.

“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 multi-juridical Canada,” says Val Napoleon, director and co-founder of the Indigenous law program and Law Foundation Chair of Indigenous Justice and Governance.

A media kit containing high-resolution photos is available on Dropbox.

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