VICTORIA — After receiving significant funding from the federal government, the University of Victoria (UVic) is in the early stages of planning construction of a national centre for Indigenous law and reconciliation.
Ottawa recently announced it would contribute $9.1 million to the project, which will create a national centre of excellence for the study and understanding of Indigenous laws. The centre will house the world’s first joint degree in Indigenous legal orders and Canadian common law (JD/JID), launched at UVic last September.
According to the school, the centre’s design will reflect modern and traditional values of the Coast Salish people to welcome students, academics and community members from all nations for engagement, debate and public education.
The federal funds will be distributed over three years starting in 2019/20 to support construction.
“We are grateful to the federal government for its support of the University of Victoria and this national centre for Indigenous law which will play a vital role in helping to grow a more just and inclusive Canada—socially, economically and legally,” said UVic president Jamie Cassels in a press release.
“This learning and research centre and UVic’s Indigenous law degree program are part of UVic’s commitment to the Truth and Reconciliation Report and Calls to Action to establish Indigenous law institutes for the development, use and understanding of Indigenous laws.”
Once complete, the centre will also house a Indigenous Law Research Unit (ILRU) which studies Indigenous law and its application.
The unit has worked with over 50 Indigenous communities across Canada on legal research questions related to lands, water, governance, citizenship, gender and human rights, harms and injuries, and child welfare, and works with institutions across the globe to revitalize and rebuild Indigenous legal orders.
“Figuratively and literally, this commitment will enable us to build a strong, stable foundation from which to teach and study Indigenous law as one of the great legal traditions of the world,” said Val Napoleon, director of the ILRU and the JD/JID program.
UVic intends to build the centre as an addition to the existing UVic law building. The school’s relationship with the Songhees, Esquimalt and WSÁNEĆ peoples are expected to influence its design. The layout will include public lecture theatres, faculty and staff offices, an Elders’ room and spaces for gathering, ceremony, and sharing of histories and knowledge.
The building will also feature state-of-the-art digital capabilities so students can connect with their home territories and share legal traditions.
The space will also allow the school to host conferences, public workshops, research and partnerships for faculty, students and visitors.
Officials said planning for the building is still in the early stages.