University of Victoria launching 'world's first' Indigenous law course
Published Monday, April 9, 2018 12:48PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, April 9, 2018 5:30PM EDT
The University of Victoria is poised to offer what it calls the world’s first degree in Indigenous and common law, in what is being hailed as a move toward reconciliation with Canada’s Indigenous peoples.
Law professors Val Napoleon and John Borrows have spent over a decade developing the four-year program, which will launch in September with up to 25 students enrolled. Graduates of the program will receive degrees in Canadian and Indigenous law, empowering them to work in both areas of law.
“Law is an important part of our collective lives,” Napoleon told CTV’s Your Morning on Monday. “It’s the same for Indigenous people.”
Students in the program will spend their first years studying constitutional, criminal and property law, while students in third and fourth year will be dispatched to Indigenous communities to study a particular legal order and work on law-related projects. Napoleon says the program will be similar to one at McGill University, where law students learn to work within the common law of Canada and Quebec’s civil code.
“They will have a complete, comprehensive legal education that will allow them to engage with the laws of Canada and with the laws of different societies,” she said.
Students will pay the same tuition as they would for the non-Indigenous program, at a cost of approximately $11,000 per year. The program received partial funding from the latest provincial budget.
Calls for the federal government to revamp its justice system have ramped up in recent months, following acquittals in the deaths of Manitoba’s Tina Fontaine and Saskatchewan’s Colten Boushie.