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 which called upon law schools across Canada to require all law students to take a course in Aboriginal people and the law including 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 responded to the Call to Action #28 by making it one of its strategic goals as well as to continue to improve intercultural knowledge, dialogue, and respect. It also added a required second-year course called Truth and Rebuilding Canadian Indigenous Legal Relations which focuses on the substantive elements of the TRC’s call to action, especially Indigenous Laws, Crown-Aboriginal relations, Treaties and Aboriginal Rights. It also elaborates on the history and legacy of residential school building and the colonial foundations of the legal system. It builds on Indigenous teachings and includes skill-based training in inter-cultural competence, anti-racism, human rights, and conflict resolution.
TRU Law’s response and strategic goals are in accordance with TRU’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 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 required and elective courses at TRU Law have indigenous content embedded within them. For example, in Property Law students learn about Aboriginal title and land claims, and in Constitutional Law they learn about Aboriginal and Treaty rights and the duty to consult and accommodate. Several courses also focus exclusively on legal issues affecting Indigenous peoples such as Truth and Rebuilding Canadian Indigenous Legal Relations, Indigenous Peoples and Canadian Law, and Comparative and International Indigenous Rights.
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 Bradford Morse 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, the Indigenous Women Water Defenders: Local to Global event, and hosting film screenings.
Chrystie Stewart is lead partner at Stewart & Springford LLP, a law firm in Kamloops, BC. She is an alum 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.