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rigorously, creatively and critically with their peoples’ legal traditions, creating
institutions that build on their values and structures of responsibility.
This program seeks to impart those skills.
That training, that creative engagement with Indigenous legal traditions,
will be necessary if we are to move towards the kind of framework
announced by Prime Minister Trudeau on February 14, 2018, which envisions
a future in which Indigenous self-determination and self-government
become foundational elements in Canada’s relationship with Indigenous
peoples. As in any nation, the infrastructure of Indigenous peoples’ governance—
the attribution of responsibility, the mechanisms of accountability—
is constituted by webs of legal obligation that are anchored in those
peoples’ laws and institutions.
Engagement with Indigenous legal traditions will also be a strong element
in the structures of cooperation between Indigenous peoples and their non-
Indigenous neighbours. It is difficult to conceive of a lasting commercial relationship
with a First Nation, for example, that does not understand and
respect the preconditions of legitimate decision making of that people, or the
distribution of responsibility for lands controlled by that people.
A deeper engagement with Indigenous law is, then, an essential dimension
of reconciliation. Indeed, the J.D./J.I.D. responds directly to call to
action number 50 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (“TRC”):
In keeping with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous
Peoples, we call upon the federal government, in collaboration with
Aboriginal organizations, to fund 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.
Those institutes—our institute—will need to prepare students to work
actively with Indigenous law. This endeavour is not simply a matter of
reverting to an idealized past. Indigenous legal orders have, in many cases,
been damaged by their long encounter with colonialism, although they certainly
retain significant resonance and vitality within Indigenous communities.
It is necessary to engage in a substantial process of rebuilding. As
with all efforts at legal reform and reconstruction, whether in Indigenous
or non-Indigenous contexts, that rebuilding will require creative and critical
engagement. Indigenous legal principles need to be adjusted to the challenges
that communities now face. It is in this creative and critical spirit
that the J.D./J.I.D. is framed.
There is now widespread recognition of the importance of this work.
Indigenous organizations strongly support the J.D./J.I.D. At its 38th annual
general assembly in July 2017, the Assembly of First Nations (“AFN”) passed