Backgrounder: UVic’s joint JD/JID law degree program


The JD/JID is a four-year joint degree program combining classroom learning with field studies conducted in collaboration with Indigenous communities. Launched in 2018, the innovative joint degree program in Canadian Common Law (JD) and Indigenous Legal Orders (JID) is the first program of its kind in the world. Graduates earn two professional degrees: a Juris Doctor (JD) and a Juris Indigenarum Doctor (JID), positioning them to impact the legal landscape at a local, national and international level.

Program elements 

Important elements of the program, especially core first year subjects, are taught transsystemically or intersocietally—through intensive comparison in courses that deal with the Canadian legal tradition and one or more Indigenous legal traditions. Upper-year courses, elective and compulsory, are drawn from the JD curriculum and specialized courses designed to complement the JD/JID. 

A crucial dimension of the program is its field schools. Students devote one full term in each of their third and fourth years to study in Indigenous contexts. Students learn, under close academic supervision, from community-based experts on a particular Indigenous people’s legal order, observe the ways in which Indigenous legal processes are being employed today, and work with the community on law-related projects. 

Graduates are well-positioned for leadership positions in Indigenous governance, federal and provincial government agencies, law firms that work with Indigenous peoples and Indigenous lands, and business enterprises, and the full spectrum of law that concern Indigenous issues. Indigenous legal practice will also apply to areas such as water law, governance, dispute resolution, child welfare, human rights and gender, lands and resources.

Building on UVic Law’s record of achievement 

The JD/JID degree program builds on UVic’s longstanding commitment to and international reputation in Indigenous law and legal education and will expand its extensive research contributions. 

UVic Law collaborates with law schools across the country to deliver Indigenous law programs. UVic Law faculty have assisted with delivering intensive programs on Indigenous law at McGill University, Osgoode Hall Law School, Dalhousie, and the Universities of Toronto, Alberta, Windsor and Western Ontario.

UVic previously pioneered an innovative law program that was the first of its kind in Canada in partnership with the Akitsiraq Law School Society and Nunavut Arctic College. UVic law professors, law faculty members from other Canadian universities, lawyers and judges traveled to Nunavut to teach in the law program whose graduates were vital to fulfil the agreement on self-government between the federal and Nunavut governments which calls for the territorial government to build self-governance. 

Indigenous law research unit 

The Indigenous Law Research Unit (ILRU) is Canada’s leading research institute on the law of Indigenous peoples. It works to substantively articulate and re-articulate Indigenous law and institutions so that they may be re-established to do the work of law alongside Canadian law.

To date, the scope of work has been focused around lands, waters and resources, governance, justice and citizenship. Examples of projects include marine use management, water laws, resource stewardship, sustainable development, lands, and boundary disputes as well as constitution-building, harms and injuries, dispute resolution, child welfare, and navigating issues of gender, human rights, sexuality and sexual equality. See:

National Centre for Indigenous Laws

The new National Centre for Indigenous Laws at UVic will be a place to engage Indigenous legal traditions in Canada and beyond. It will also be home to the Faculty of Law’s JD/JID Program – the first law program in the world to combine the study of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous laws. Construction is expected to begin adjacent to the Fraser building in late spring 2022.

For more on UVic’s unique Indigenous Law program:

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For more information, see media release

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In this story

Keywords: Indigenous, law, field schools, reconciliation

People: Val Napoleon, Qwul'sih'yah'maht Robina Thomas, Kevin Hall, Amanda Vick, Darcy Lindberg, Marion Buller, John Borrows

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