Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck:
Honourable senators, I rise today to highlight the Native Law Centre at the University of Saskatchewan. The centre was founded by Roger Carter in 1975. “A lot has happened since the opening of the college,” says Larry Chartrand, the centre’s academic director, listing the expansion of the field of Aboriginal law, the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the release of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action. Chartrand describes Aboriginal law as Canadian law as it relates to Indigenous people, whereas Indigenous law is the traditional laws of Indigenous peoples themselves.
This past May, a Cree naming ceremony took place whereby the centre became the Wiyasiwewin Mikiwahp Native Law Centre, which means law-making tipi or lodge. The naming coincides with a release of their new mission, vision and strategic plan, a document shaped by the feedback of elders, the Indigenous Bar Association, law professors and other stakeholders.
Following these events was the implementation of the Gladue Awareness Project, a series of seminars being held throughout Saskatchewan to educate the public on section 718.2(e) of the Criminal Code and the Gladue case. The fact that Gladue factors have been cited in only 290 cases in Saskatchewan over the last 20 years is an alarming indication that section 718.2(e) remains disturbingly underutilized by the court system.
Lastly, starting this September, the Native Law Centre is running a new mandatory course for first-year law students, entitled Kwayeskastasowin Law. This course acts to introduce students to Aboriginal law, the history and legacy of colonialism, Indigenous treaties and Aboriginal rights, Indigenous laws and traditions, human rights and anti-racism, and cultural competencies.
Larry Chartrand says this course is in direct response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action No. 28, which calls upon law schools in Canada to include a mandatory course on Aboriginal people and the law in their respective programs.
These initiatives are just a few examples of what is surely more to come from the centre, which already sees their new direction generating more and more interest.
Congratulations to the Wiyasiwewin Mikiwahp Native Law Centre for being a leader on reconciliation by taking “reconcili-action.”
Thank you. Kinanaskomitin.