Indigenous Peoples, Intercultural Learning, and Anti-racism

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) called on law schools across Canada to teach students about the history and legacy of residential schools in Canada, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, Indigenous law, and Aboriginal-Crown relations.

Part of TRU Law’s response to these calls is to build a program to address the areas in the TRC’s call that are not fully addressed within the existing curriculum. We call this program the TRC Days, and are developing a mandatory TRC day for all students in each year of the law school program. TRU Law is working closely with neighbouring Secwepemc nations as well as other departments and leaders in Indigenization at TRU in the development and evolution of our TRC days.

TRC Day 1L

The TRC Day in the first year is the longest running part of this program. In the past, law students visited the former Kamloops Indian Residential School (KIRS) as a contextual introduction to the Aboriginal rights and title portions of the first year Constitutional and Property Law courses. The former KIRS is located on the reserve lands of the Tk’emlúps te Secwepemc, across the river from campus.

These visits have evolved to the TRC Day 1L program focusing on the history and legacy of residential schools in Canada. Students hear from residential school survivors, tour the old school dormitory, and listen to panels addressing topics such as the experiences of survivors and the effects of intergenerational trauma. This learning is foundational knowledge for the development of anti-racism and cross-cultural skills required of lawyers. Students are also given the opportunity to consider the role of lawyers and law schools in the reconciliation process.

TRC Day 2L

The TRC Day for second-year law students focuses on teaching students about Indigenous law, Aboriginal rights, and Indigenous-Crown relations. Students also learn intercultural competency and anti-racism through the sharing of cultural protocols and readings related to individualized, institutionalized, and internalized racism.

In 2017, we held the first second-year TRC Day at Pipsell (Jacko Lake), located near Kamloops and of central importance to Secwepemc people and culture. Second-year students learned the Trout Children story, which is connected to Pipsell and carries important Secwepemc law, including teachings from three worlds: the land, the water and the air. During the visit members of the Secwepwemc Nation shared their knowledge about the land, the process that led to their historic dispossession, and their response to the then-proposed Ajax mine development in the area (which has since failed to receive government approval). Students were also taught about the specific land use activities undertaken at Pipsell, including hunting and fishing and collecting foods and medicines. Students also learned about current legal claims about the site, relating to both Secwepwemc and Canadian Law.

TRC Day 3L

In the 2018-19 school year, we held the first TRC day for the third-year students at the Adams River salmon run. There will be more information to follow.