THE ADVOCATE V O L . 7 5 P A R T 6 N O V E M B E R 2 0 1 7 877 becoming a member of the first class in UVic’s newly established law graduate program. Her dissertation was on Gitksan law, drawing on the testimony that had been given in the Delgamuukw litigation, supplemented by knowledge shared by members of the Gitksan communities. She defended her dissertation in Gitanyow. It earned her both her Ph.D. (in 2009) and UVic’s coveted Governor General’s Gold Medal for the best dissertation in her year. Napoleon has gone on to work on Aboriginal legal theory and legal reasoning processes, customary law, Indigenous feminism, critical restorative justice, cultural property, and self-determination and governance, first as a member of the Faculties of Law and Native Studies at the University of Alberta (2005–11), then as Law Foundation Chair at UVic from January 2012 onwards. About the time of her move to UVic, Napoleon developed, with her close collaborator Hadley Friedland (also a graduate of UVic Law, now on faculty at the University of Alberta), a powerful method for working with Indigenous legal orders to draw out their richness, their structure, their processes and their potential applications to communities’ needs today. The value of that research became very evident in the “Accessing Justice and Reconciliation Project” funded by the Law Foundation of Ontario and conducted in partnership with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (“TRC”) and the Indigenous Bar Association. The project involved a team of researchers, trained and supervised by Napoleon and Friedland, working with communities across six legal traditions across Canada, from Eskasoni in Cape Breton to the Snuneymuxw First Nation on Vancouver Island. Its methodology and findings had a significant impact on the recommendations of the TRC. It also led to the creation of the ILRU to carry on the work with other communities. Thus far, the ILRU has worked with more than 40 communities. Its methodology forms the basis of West Coast Environmental Law’s ReLaw program on land, air and water issues. Law schools across the country have drawn extensively on its method and its findings. Its website is well worth a visit: <www.uvic.ca/ilru>. The ILRU’s work also informed Call to Action #50 of the TRC, which called for “the establishment of Indigenous law institutes for the development, use, and understanding of Indigenous laws and access to justice in accordance with the unique cultures of Aboriginal peoples in Canada”. Napoleon is now leading, alongside Professor John Borrows, a major effort to fulfill that Call to Action by creating an Indigenous Legal Lodge and joint degree in the common law and Indigenous legal orders at UVic.
Nov Advocate 2017
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