McGill law has started something new when students return from the winter break. The first-year students are participating in an intensive course on indigenous legal traditions.
Dean Robert Leckey explains in the Montreal Gazette,
It’s a first for us at McGill and possibly a first at any Canadian law faculty. It’s a promising step toward remedying some of the legal system’s wrongs toward indigenous peoples.
Guided by guests as well as by McGill professors, our students are starting the complex process of learning about indigenous peoples’ law. Doing so involves attending to sources of law — and resources for learning law — such as oral histories and stories that differ a lot from the materials in the usual law classroom.
Studying indigenous legal traditions also involves learning central concepts that are quite different from the ones on which European legal systems are founded. For examples, our students have been seeing an emphasis on relationships and an ideal of interdependence, rather than on individual autonomy.
Not only is this an opportunity to rethink legal education in light of the Truth and Reconciliation Report, it may also be the first step in training the next generation of lawyers to critically appraise our existing legal system in light of the indigenous ones which preceded confederation.
The course is unfortunately only for 1 week, and will end on Tuesday, but hopefully we will see more of this across Canada, and greater integration of these traditions across all law school content.