Truth and Reconciliation in Secwepemcul’ecw
On July 9, 2015 the Faculty of Law at Thompson Rivers University (TRU Law) welcomed the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and accepted Call to Action #28. Call to Action #28 calls upon law schools across Canada to require all law students to take a course in Aboriginal people and the law, which includes 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. This call also requires law schools to provide skill-based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and antiracism.
TRU Law has responded to the TRC’s Call to Action #28 by making it one of its strategic goals as well as to continue to improve intercultural knowledge, dialogue, and respect. TRU Law continues to develop its TRC days program and continues to include significant class content, presentations and guest speakers, focussing on Indigenous peoples and the law throughout the curriculum.
TRU Law’s response and strategic goals are in accordance with Thompson Rivers University’s strategic priorities, which include increasing intercultural understanding. One of the ways this is being done is through the indigenization of the university through the inclusion of traditional and contemporary Aboriginal teaching, learning, knowledge, research and creative practice. On May 9, 2017, a partnership agreement between TRU and the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc (TteS) was signed. This agreement acknowledged, among other points, that TRU was situated on traditional Tk’emlupsul’ecw ell Stk’emlupsemc territory. TRU also developed the Coyote Project, which is a pan-institutional initiative comprised of commitments from all nine faculties at TRU, TRU World, Open Learning and the Library. The plan of the project is to accelerate indigenization at TRU.
TRU also has an Indigenous centre, Cplul’kw’ten, also known as the Gathering Place, which provides information and workshops on all aspects of university life and doubles as a space for students to study, socialize and receive support from elders.
Guest speakers in classrooms
Professors at TRU Law constantly welcome guest speakers into their classes to talk about their experiences with the law and access to justice. Notable past speakers have been former Honourable Justices LeBel and Cromwell, the Canadian Human Rights Commissioner Marie-Claude Landry, Indigenous Leader Mari Luz Canaquiri, and law professor Kent McNeil.
Both mandatory and optionals courses at TRU Law have indigenous content embedded within them. For example, in Property Law students learn about Aboriginal title and land claims, in Constitutional Law students learn about Aboriginal and Treaty rights and the duty to consult and accommodate, and in Natural Resources Law and Transnational Lawyering students learn about resource extraction in Indigenous communities. Several courses also focus exclusively on legal issues affecting Indigenous peoples in Canada and in other nations such as Indigenous Peoples and Canadian Law; and Comparative and International Indigenous Rights. Faculty members bring in speakers to present on their experience with using the law to raise Indigenous concerns and to understand Indigenous law beyond abstract legal principles. Students at TRU Law who identify as Indigenous have also volunteered to give class presentations on their experience at law school.
TRC Days 1, 2 and 3
TRC’s calls to law schools across Canada is 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 are the TRC days for first- and second-year law students. The first-year TRC day focuses on teaching students about the history and legacy of residential schools in Canada. The second-year TRC day focuses on teaching students about Indigenous law, Aboriginal rights, and Aboriginal-Crown relations. The first TRC day for third-year students was held in the 2018-19 school year.
Faculty members at TRU Law are accomplished legal scholars and have conducted extensive research on a variety of topics. Researchers who have focused on Indigenous law include Dean Bradford Morse, Janna Promislow, Nicole Schabus, and Charis Kamphuis.
The Indigenous Law Students Association (ILSA) hosts a variety of student activities throughout the school year. These activities have included hosting panel discussions that focus on current indigenous issues, promoting and participating in Indigenous events such as Orange Shirt Day and the Indigenous Women Water Defenders: Local to Global event, and hosting film screenings.
Chrystie Stewart is a practising lawyer at Springfords law firm in Kamloops, BC, and current president of the Kamloops Bar Association. She is an alumna of TRU Law, graduating in the class of 2014, and is the current mentor, support person, and advocate for Indigenous law students at TRU Law. In her role, Chrystie keeps in touch with Indigenous students throughout the year and also serves as the onsite coach for the Kawaskimhon Moot with help from other faculty professors. Chrystie is also a consultant for the Faculty of Law and advises the faculty on student support issues and possible curriculum changes.