The University of Victoria (UVic) launched the world’s first Indigenous law program four years ago and now, the inaugural class is grabbing their grad caps to mark a big milestone.
This Saturday, April 9th, the class of 23 will celebrate during a special recognition event at Victoria’s Songhees Wellness Centre before formally receiving their professional degrees in June.
The joint program in Canadian common law (JD) and Indigenous legal orders (JID) is historic and equips students with the knowledge to draw from, engage with, and work across multiple legal systems, according to UVic.
“When I first realized the unique way that I was going to learn the law, I felt both excited for the journey and humbled by the responsibility gifted to me,” said graduate Amanda Vick from the Gitxsan Nation.
Topics learned throughout the program include constitutionalism and Indigenous governance, criminal law, environmental protection, intellectual property housing, family law, and more.
“One of the highlights for me was attending field school in Coast Salish territory,” added graduate Beth Fox, blood tribe member from Alberta’s Treaty Seven Territory.
“Because we had invested so much time and learning in the Coast Salish legal order and the Hul’qumi’num language, being able to be out there on the land and to connect our learning really made a huge impact on me.”
UVic says the program directly responds to a call to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to establish Indigenous law institutes for the development, use and understanding of Indigenous law.
“This is a historic moment, and I am honoured to recognize and congratulate the graduating students of the first JD/JID cohort,” added UVic president Kevin Hall.
According to the university, the BC and federal governments and numerous corporate, foundation and private donors provide funding for the program.
UVic’s main campus is the future home of the National Centre for Indigenous Laws, with construction set to start next to the law faculty’s Fraser Building sometime this spring.