Reconciliation Summer Reading List? “At the Bridge: An Anthropology of Belonging”

[EDITOR NOTE:  I wrote this blog piece for my personal blog rebeccaj63.wordpress.com], but I am re-posting it here as I think it is something that may be of interest to Law folks looking for resources for TRC-engaged teaching and learning.  This book is a goldmine re h TRC#28’s call for education about Indigenous law, Aboriginal-Crown relations, conflict-resolution and intercultural competency.]

20200528_171147_hdrLooking for a good read this summer, during COVID times?  One of my favourite books of the year is Wendy Wickwire’s book,  At the Bridge: James Teit and an Anthropology of Belonging (UBC Press, 2019).

Now, you may be thinking “I don’t know who James Teit is”, or “Anthropology isn’t really my thing.”   I would encourage you to push past those responses, and say that if you give this book a try, you will come away being so happy to have built a relationship with James Teit, and I suspect you may also come away feeling connected in a more intimate way to the places you live (where ever those places are) and feeling more  hopeful about the ways we all may choose, in these difficult times, to become anthropologists of belonging.  In concrete terms, here is what it says on the back cover of the book:

Every once in a while, an important historical figure makes an appearance, makes a difference, and then disappears from the public record.  James Teit (1864-1922) was such a figure.  A prolific ethnographer and tireless Indian rights activist, Teit spent four decades helping British Columbia’s Indigenous people in their challenge of he settler-colonial assault on their lives and territories.  At the Bridge chronicles Teits’s fascinating story:  From this base at Spences Bridge, BC, Teit practised a participant-based anthropology that covered much of BC and northern Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana. Whereas his contemporaries, including famed anthropologist Franz Boas, studied Indigenous peoples as the last survivors of “dying cultures” in need of preservation in metropolitan museums, Teit worked with them as members of living cultures actively asserting jurisdiction over their lives and lands.  At the Bridge lifts this story from obscurity.

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It bugs me knowing Boas published this photo of Teit and Ankto photo without identifying them.

I was excited when this book came out, in part because I had already encountered Teit.  Or at least, I knew his name.  For several years, I had been part of a partnership between ILRU (the Indigenous Law Research Unit at UVic) and the SNTC (The Shuswap Nation Tribal Council) working on a number of the Secwépemc Law projects. In these projects, we were asked to work with a number of Secwépemc storied legal resources, and to draw on a number of those gathered by James Teit at the turn of the last century (You can see a copy of the Lands and Resources Law Research Project here).  All this to say, I knew that his name was on the monograph from which we drew these resources.  But I knew next to nothing about Teit himself.

And now, I love him.   Seriously.  And I love thinking about his Nlaka’pamux wife Antko, and the place of women in this important story.  And I love the book.   You know I love a book if I lay traces of my pens and highlighters so thickly across the paper.  20200528_171439_hdrMy copy of the book pretty much looks like this…..  I couldn’t help myself!  (sorry to you librarian folk out there who try to maintain book purity). But the text simply drew me into engagement, and there were just so many things i wanted to be able to return to. While my kids (nearly adult man-cubs?) have not yet ‘read’ the book (physically run their eyes over the pages), they both have a good sense of what is there:  while I was reading, I was constantly stopping to interrupt them in their other endeavours, so I could read them different sections from the book.

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A treat to see pages from his field notes, always identifying specific storytellers, weavers, hunters…

It is just chock-a-block full histories that need knowing.   And it is written in such an accessible style, whether one is a theorist, a historian, a  teenager, a community member, a health care worker, an environmentalist, a linguist, a knitter, a basket maker.  Beautifully thoughtful and inviting.

I also think it should be mandatory reading for anyone teaching in a law school (OK.  Not that I would “mandate” anything, but I think people would WANT to have access to this one).

The day I finished my first read through of this book, I sent the following note out to my law school colleagues, detailing all the reasons I think this book should be on all our shelves, and should be drawn into our teaching, our research, and our practices of engaging in the socio-political world around us.  I still stand by that analysis.

Hi all:

I have been reading my way through Wendy Wickwire’s new book At the Bridge: An Anthropology of Belonging, and wanted to put the word out that I think this book might be the “must read” book of the year.  I have been thinking about how it is a game changer in a number of areas:

1. People teaching in BC law schools – I feel like the historical pieces of BC finally started settling into place with this book
2.  People teaching constitutional law – wow to the ability of this book to get at both confederation questions and federalism ones
3.  People thinking about reconciliation stuff — the story of James Teit is so absolutely inspiring in terms of seeing indigenous/settler collaborations and working relationships
4.  People working on any of the transsystemmic questions — this book gets at the legal orders in the BC interior
5.  People thinking about the history of Victoria and Vancouver Island — I just think this book should be taught in all the high schools here too.
6.  People looking for models and pathways for how we begin to have more complex engagements of law at the current juncture.
7.  People cautious about the place of anthropology in our legal work — this book makes visible multiple ways of doing anthropology, and provides tools for distinguishing the kinds of approaches that are more and less helpful/valuable (indeed, left me feeling rather inspired about the possibilities of acting otherwise)
Anyways…. I think it would be a great choice for a faculty “book club” read.   This will be an amazing resource for us here in the law school, and I am really keen on having others to talk to about the book (and ways to think about drawing this book into our resources in both first year and upper year courses)

Wendy Wickwire’s At the Bridge is one of those books that has shifted my sense of history, and my sense of what is possible when it comes to walking the path of respectful relations, and taking seriously the hopeful potential in decolonizing actions.  What James Teit did (as a settler to Canada) is possible for all of us to do.  He offers us a pathway.  It is ours to walk.

Truth and Reconciliation – A Place to Start

[Note from Gillian Calder and Rebecca Johnson:  We came across this lovely TRC Action Plan, produced by Sarah Robinson, a former law student.  It left us thinking about all the different ways people might not only think about their own TRC learning plans, but also about the ways such plans might be helpful with people in their classrooms, families, or communities.  We asked her if it could be shared here as a resource, and invited her to reflect on her own experiences of the ways people at different stages of their own work might begin to think about their own learning journeys]

Truth and Reconciliation – A Place to Start

Sarah Robinson

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TRC Action Plan, page 1

Many Canadians – including those working in legal and justice systems –  find truth and reconciliation efforts overwhelming, and often express that they don’t know where to start.

If you feel that way, know that you’re not alone.  Many online resources exist to help build understanding about Indigenous perspectives, including a free Truth and Reconciliation Personal Action Plan [link to: http://rainwatch.ca/tr-personal-action-plan] to help you get started.

Hundreds of Indigenous cultures exist in the lands now known as Canada. Many continue to operate under complex legal systems that have existed for millennia, and all have been impacted by the recent introduction of Canadian law.

Aaron Paquette, an Indigenous[i] artist and politician, once remarked that

If you’re born Indigenous, you’re born political. From birth, the government is intensely interested in who you are [and] where you live… Indigenous lives are the most legislated lives in Canada.[ii]

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TRC Action Plan, page 2

To understand what this means, we must examine the dominant legal system that now operates in the territories now known as Canada. Interrogating this legal system exposes its Euro-Christian foundations and brings its histories into the realm of light and truth. Seeking truth is a necessary component of each Canadian’s responsibility to reconciliation.[iii]

Generally, a legal system is a mirror of the society in which it develops, and of the people who hold power in that society. Western legal systems – including contemporary Canadian and provincial legal regimes – are built upon Euro-Christian worldviews, beliefs, and values, such as patriarchy, private property, wealth accumulation, individual rights, and elections-based governments. These approaches sit in contrast to many Indigenous worldviews, beliefs, and values, such as matriarchy, communal use of places, wealth distribution, collective rights, and accountability-based governments. None of these systems are perfect. All cultures and legal systems offer successes, challenges, and room for improvement.

However, it is vital to appreciate that all legal systems uphold and replicate – both visibly and invisibly – particular worldviews, beliefs, and values.

When settlers first arrived, they may have imported Euro-Christian values with them but they relied heavily on Indigenous allies and knowledge in order to survive. Many Indigenous communities recount oral histories about their first interactions, in which the newcomers were often lost, hungry, and in need of help. The newcomers brought new diseases to this continent and epidemics quickly swept through Indigenous communities, decimating some populations by up to 90%.[iv] Simultaneously, thousands of settlers continued arriving to “the colonies,” their occupation made easier as railways and other forms of transportation improved. By the time colonial leaders began drafting legislation about Indigenous peoples, settlers physically outnumbered Indigenous peoples. Due in part to this, the colonial legal system eventually took hold as the dominant legal system in the developing geopolitical country of Canada.

In 1850, colonial legislation established a legal distinction between Indigenous peoples and settlers by defining – from the colonial government’s perspective – who is an “Indian.”[v] Subsequent legislation clarified that a “person” was an “individual other than an Indian.”[vi] In 1869, the colonial government implemented a patriarchal approach to Indian Status and identity control, which erased the legally-recognized Indigenous identities of innumerable Indigenous women and children. (In fact, Bonita Lawrence estimates this figure to be in the millions[vii]). Over time, Canadian legislation effectively dispossessed these millions of Indigenous individuals from their territories, thereby opening up the land for settlement. This oppressive legislative approach was finally revised in 1985, but the damage done by this 116-year regime remains widespread.

To reiterate: from 1869-1985 Indian Status had nothing to do with Indigenous ancestry. (For an excellent overview, see Val Napoleon’s work[viii]). Indian Status was established to legally create, erase, and control Indigenous identities and bodies by regulating who can do what and where. The Pass System is a disturbing example.[ix] From the 1880s until the 1930s, Status Indians were supposed to seek a written pass from their local Indian Agent before leaving their reserve. This allowed Indian Agents to monitor and control Indigenous people’s movement. There was no legislative basis for this approach. Instead, rations and other “privileges” were withheld from those who did not comply, although the most effective compliance approach was to have the police arrest those found off-reserve without a pass.[x] In 1902, a commission from South Africa visited Canada to study its Pass System as a method of social control,[xi] and passes later became a cornerstone of South African apartheid.

It is curious that Canadian legislation about Indigenous peoples presents a paradox of “protective assimilation,” [xii] in that it acknowledges Indigenous peoples’ unique rights while concurrently placing strict restraint on Indigenous identities, and therefore Indigenous bodies.

In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Canada released 94 Calls to Action, [link to: http://trc.ca/assets/pdf/Calls_to_Action_English2.pdf] which place responsibility on the shoulders of each Canadian to learn about and unpack these histories. Of particular significance are Calls to Action 25-42, which are directed at those working in legal and justice systems.

There is no time like the present to begin righting the wrongs of the past. As the TRC Final Report encourages, “the country has a rare second chance” to pursue truth and reconciliation.[xiii] Download your free Truth and Reconciliation Personal Action Plan [link to: http://rainwatch.ca/tr-personal-action-plan] to get started, and be part of the change.

FOOTNOTES:

[i] Although this blog post frequently uses the word Indigenous (which signals Inuit, First Nations, and Métis peoples), its content speaks to legislation that was somewhat targeted to First Nations. However, all Indigenous peoples are impacted by colonial legal systems that interfere with Indigenous experiences, including defining and categorizing different types of Indigenous identities in the first place.

[ii] CBC. I Am Indigenous. https://www.cbc.ca/news2/interactives/i-am-indigenous-2017/paquette.html.

[iii] As the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Final Report stated, “reconciliation is not an Aboriginal problem; it is a Canadian one.” TRC Summary Report, vi. http://www.trc.ca/assets/pdf/Honouring_the_Truth_Reconciling_for_the_Future_July_23_2015.pdf.

[iv] I am married into the Toquaht Nation, one of the Nuu-chah-nulth Nations on the west-coast of what is now called Vancouver Island. Toquaht was once a Nation of thousands. After disease epidemics passed through, around 30 remained.

[v] An Act for the better protection of the Lands and Property of the Indians in Lower Canada. August 10, 1850. https://bnald.lib.unb.ca/sites/default/files/UnC_1850_cap%2042_edited.pdf.

[vi] The Indian Act, 1876. https://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/1100100010252/1100100010254.

[vii] Bonita Lawrence. “Real” Indians and Others: Mixed Blood Urban Native Peoples and Indigenous Nationhood (UBC Press: 2004), 56. Check this book out for a brilliant and comprehensive analysis of the impact that Indian Status has had on Indigenous women, children, Nations, territories, and identities.

[viii] Val Napoleon. “Extinction by Number: Colonialism Made Easy.” Canadian Journal of Law & Society (2001)16, 117.

[ix] A documentary about the Pass System is available at: http://thepasssystem.ca/.

[x] John Giokas. “The Indian Act: Evolution, Overview and Options for Amendment and Transition” (March 22, 1995), 45. http://publications.gc.ca/collections/collection_2016/bcp-pco/Z1-1991-1-41-130-eng.pdf.

[xi] F. Laurie Barron. “The Indian Pass System in the Canadian West, 1882-1935.”

https://www.saskarchives.com/sites/default/files/barron_indianpasssystem_prairieforum_vol13_no1_pp25ff.pdf.

[xii] For an interesting overview of the “protective assimilation” paradox and its presence in colonial policies about Indigenous peoples, see: John Giokas. “The Indian Act: Evolution, Overview and Options for Amendment and Transition” (March 22, 1995), 2. http://publications.gc.ca/collections/collection_2016/bcp-pco/Z1-1991-1-41-130-eng.pdf

[xiii] TRC Summary Report, 7. http://www.trc.ca/assets/pdf/Honouring_the_Truth_Reconciling_for_the_Future_July_23_2015.pdf.

 

Ceremony as Remedy? A Heiltsuk resource for doing TRC#28 work in the law school.

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Bella Bella Big House – Photo credit Charity Gladstone/Canadian Press

In the fall of 2019, the news carried the story of an Indigenous man and his granddaughter who were detained and handcuffed in the context of trying to open a bank account at a branch of the Bank of Montreal in Vancouver.  In short, a bank teller had ‘become suspicious’ that fraud was involved, and the RCMP were called. The pair were detained and handcuffed in front of the bank. The RCMP determined within the hour that there was no criminal activity, and the bank later agreed that it had been a mistake to call the police. Here is a link to Angela Sterritt’s report on what happened to the grandfather and granddaughter, both Heiltsuk from the community of Bella Bella.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/indigenous-girl-grandfather-handcuffed-bank-1.5419519

There was significant national and international media swirl around the case.  Angela Sterritt played an important part in keeping the issue prominent, and with a lens that focused on the Indigenous experience of commercial racism.

What is exciting here is seeing what the Heiltsuk actually DID in response to the injury that had been caused to their members — they held a “Washing Ceremony”.  Here is  Rafferty Baker’s report for CBC.  https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/bmo-heiltsuk-bella-bella-ceremony-1.5483320

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Maxwell Johnson said being in the community’s big house brings him a solace that the incident at BMO disrupted. (Angela Sterritt)

What the Heiltsuk have done in this case is to take action on the basis of Heiltsuk law. I do not know very much about the Heiltsuk washing ceremony, and I suspect that few of us teaching in law schools do, but the Heiltsuk conducted the ceremony in a way that can help non-Heiltsuk begin learning about their obligations and responsibilities under Heiltsuk law, as well as about Heiltsuk ways of addressing harms and injuries.

Angela Sterritt was invited to participate as a witness to the ceremony, and the community agreed that media could be part of this conversation.  Thus, these reports provides a lens for learning about (and teaching about) this work.  Here is her CBC report,”Indigenous Ceremony tries to right wrong caused by handcuffing of grandfather and granddaughter. (https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/reporter-s-notebook-grandfather-handcuffed-bank-1.5484448

There is also a twitter feed that fleshes out this experience. https://twitter.com/AngelaSterritt/status/1235040345722720257

HOW MIGHT THIS BE DRAWN INTO THE CLASSROOM?

For people thinking about how they might respond to the TRC Calls to Action in their own classrooms, this case provides many powerful lessons, and directions for engagement.  It could also be draw into a number of different classroom contexts.

  • One might think of this case through a criminal law lens. The story offers space for looking at the law around detention, reasonable grounds/reasonable suspicion. It also asks about the place of private citizens (or corporations) in ‘policing’ the spaces of commerce and economy. There is lots here that raises questions about what racial profiling looks like when it is performed by private rather than public actors.
  • One might also think of this case through a tort law lens. Again, what does ‘wrongful arrest’ look like in the tort context? What duty of care do banks owe to customers? And what precisely is the harm? What kind of damages would repair the injury done? And who precisely is responsible for the injury: the bank teller? the police officers? the bank manager? the board of directors?
  • The question of WHO is responsible for the harm also raises the kinds of questions that come up in the context of not only corporate crime, but also corporate torts. That is, there are questions raised here about institutional actors (corporations). What theories of liability and responsibility are most appropriate when intention and action are differentially distributed through a corporate structure.  There is much in this case that can provide background for addressing Call to Action #92.
  • And of course, WHOSE LAW applies to injuries such as these? This is a particularly live question in BC where questions about unceded territory, and the limits of state sovereignty continue to take centre ground.  [NOTE: a super helpful resource on Sovereignty in BC is Claxton, Nicholas XEMTOLTW, and John Price. “Whose Land Is It? Rethinking Sovereignty in British Columbia.” BC Studies 204 (2019-2020): 125-48.  I would HIGHLY recommend putting this on your summer reading list or in your curriculum for the students].

 

In both the Sterritt and Rafferty accounts of the ceremony, there are some spaces for opening the conversation. Things to note:

  • The harm to Maxwell Johnson and his granddaughter is identified as having both individual and collective elements: There was an injury not only to the two of them, but to the community as a whole.
  • The community as a whole stepped in to focus on repairing the harm to the grandfather and granddaughter. The ceremony enabled a public acknowledgement and witnessing of the harm, and an opportunity for him to speak about that harm to those representing the bank.
  • 15 representatives from the bank were present. Their job was to hear the expression of hurt and anger.  They were not (like other witnesses) given a space to speak. There is something interesting and important here in thinking about the role of taking public responsibility (at least of thinking about the different ways that acknowledgement might work). Also something important about the place of listening without responding.
  • Witnesses were called, so there is a public memory of the event, and of the removal of shame from the grandfather and granddaughter.  Witnesses play an important role in keeping the memory of the ceremony alive. The focus here, even if involving representatives of the Bank of Montreal, is on the Heiltsuk taking action to relieve the harm caused by others (my point is that the job of repairing and restoring is carried not only by the ‘person who did the harm’, but also of the full community in which the member is embedded).  The work of healing from the injury is not confined to the person who did the injury.
  • The ceremony seemed designed not with the primary goal of ‘punishing’ the bank, but with the goal of healing and repair.   It presumes that a piece of this means attending to the work of ongoing relationships (ie. many people will still have their money in the bank…so what is needed to repair trust?).  This ceremony does not wash the stain off the bank members (as far as I can tell).  It is focused on repair.  But at the same time, it makes a space for the bank to participate in doing their own acts of restoration, rehabilitation, acknowledgement and repair.   Part of the remedy seems to involve drawing them closer into relationship rather than just pushing them away. The representatives of the Bank were gifted, blanketed, and given a role in the ceremony. The remedy, in effect, is one which helps those responsible for the injury to learn more about both the Heiltsuk, about the impact of the injury, and about what it might mean to repair an injury in ways that go beyond apology or monetary compensation (particularly if one asks also about the harm to the community)
  • Note that, in attending the ceremony, the Bank of Montreal was in a sense acceding to Heiltsuk law.   Maybe ‘acceding’ is too strong a word, but at the very least, they came to the Ceremony without being ‘required to’ by a court action, or contract.  Rather, they took their lead from the Heiltsuk, and agreed to come and occupy a role in ceremony designed to heal the injury done.  One might imagine conflicts over what reconciliation is or isn’t, but one can see in this decision an action that affirms the legitimacy of a Heiltsuk response.
  • the Washing Ceremony was conducted in the Big House. The Bella Bella Big house was newly reconstructed (after 120 years). The Big House is the venue for important public ceremonial and spiritual business. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/heiltsuk-big-house-ceremony-   It is significant and moving to see the new space (“a living space”) being put into action right away.
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Representatives from the Bank of Montreal take part in a washing ceremony in Bella Bella. They were invited there by the Heiltsuk Nation in an effort to repair the damage done when two members of the Heiltsuk community were arrested at a Vancouver BMO branch in December. (Shawn Foss/CBC)

This is an important case to think with and through.  It is one for conversation in the law schools, both between us as colleagues and with our students.   There are undoubtedly a number of other resources that could help us begin to think about this case as a helpful resources for responding to the TRC calls in our classrooms.  If this is a case you have been thinking about too, please feel free to add more links into the comments.   This is a story worth learning from!

 

Of expertise, ‘activism’, and substantive equality for Indigenous Canadians

Introduction

This is a case note about R v Heimbecker, 2019 SKQB 204 and a meditation on some mechanisms by which colonial courts fail to accord substantive equality to Indigenous people within Canadian legal processes.

In Heimbecker, a Saskatchewan judge declined to allow Senator Kim Pate to testify as an expert witness in relation to the proper sentencing of a young Indigenous woman. Although the Crown consented to much of Senator Pate’s evidence, the judge excluded her evidence entirely because:

[45]                                 I have grave concerns about the Senator’s ability to fulfill her duty to the court as an independent and impartial witness in light of her three and a half decade old advocacy role. In coming to this conclusion I must make clear that I am in no way casting aspersions upon Senator Pate or suggesting that she would intentionally give evidence in such a way as to sway the court in a particular direction vis-à-vis Ms. Heimbecker.

[46]                                 However, I am not persuaded that Senator Pate can so easily shed the cloak of advocate or the mantle of activist. And, at the end of the day, this court cannot be a platform for Senator Pate’s social advocacy.

The case, and the expert evidence

Ms Heimbecker is an Indigenous woman who had pleaded guilty to, and was due to be sentenced for, two counts of possessing cocaine for the purposes of trafficking.

Senator Pate’s evidence was offered alongside a Gladue report, character evidence, and a pre-sentence report. The topics on which her evidence was offered were listed in the judgment as follows:

(i) the impacts of incarceration on young people and, in particular, on young Indigenous women;

(ii) declassification delays systemic within the [Corrections Service] which results in an automatic maximum-security classification for female Indigenous offenders, which delays access to programming and delays their access to potential early release in accordance with the statutory eligibility dates for day parole or full parole;

(iii) the lack of access to rehabilitation programming and healing lodges due to the classification delays and limited resources;

(iv) the consequences of overcrowding in prisons for women;

(v) the costs to the Canadian taxpayer of prison versus costs associated with a non-custodial/community-based disposition; and

(vi) how the prison system does not meet the sentencing principle of denunciation or deterrence as research and study, including research by the Department of Justice Canada, has demonstrated that incarceration does not serve as a deterrent, including for young Indigenous women.

The Crown objected to Senator Pate’s evidence on point (vi), arguing that this is a question of law and not a matter for evidence. However, it consented to the evidence being offered on the remaining topics.

The admissibility judgment

Justice MacMillan-Brown adopted an active conception of her ‘gatekeeper’ role as trial judge, observing that ‘I would be shirking my duty as gatekeeper of the evidence if I qualify Senator Pate as an expert simply because of a lack of objection by the Crown.’

The judge relied largely on the Supreme Court of Canada’s decisions in R v Mohan, [1994] 2 SCR 9, White Burgess Langille Inman v Abbott & Haliburton, 2015 SCC 23 and R v Bingley, 2017 SCC 12. Quoting from each of these decisions, MacMillan-Brown J found that Senator Pate met the ‘modest threshold’ for independence and impartiality set out in White Burgess and therefore proceeded to the second stage of the admissibility test set out by Cromwell J for the SCC in that case. However, she concluded that Senator Pate’s evidence was inadmissible in its entirety at the second, ‘gatekeeping’ stage.

Justice MacMillan-Brown focused her concerns regarding Senator Pate’s independence and impartiality on Senator Pate’s occasional use of the term ‘activist’ or ‘advocate’ to describe her work with criminalized women. So, for example:

Does an “activist” or an “advocate” have a role as an expert witness for the court – regardless of her impressive background and expertise?  The answer, I find, is no.  [para 42]

I am not persuaded that Senator Pate can so easily shed the cloak of advocate or the mantle of activist. And, at the end of the day, this court cannot be a platform for Senator Pate’s social advocacy. [para 46]

The judgment gives rise to two important questions, both of which shed light upon the limits of the legal system’s capacity to respond to TRC calls to action 30 – 32 and MMIWG calls to justice 5.11 – 5.17 and 14.3:

  1. did the trial judge apply the admissibility test correctly in this instance?
  2. how do implicit beliefs about legal impartiality and political activism operate to shield the legal system from grappling with the colonial harms of the legal system?

Was the trial judge correct?

The leading decisions on the independence of expert witnesses are White Burgess and Mouvement laïque québécois v. Saguenay, 2015 SCC 16. In White Burgess, the SCC allowed the admission of expert evidence from an accountant who was a partner at a firm that had a financial and reputational interest in the outcome of the case. Justice Cromwell stated that the relevant question is whether there is evidence to suggest that an expert witness is actually biased, or actually lacking in impartiality (see e.g. para 50 and 57). To exclude on this basis, the judge must identify evidence that the proposed expert witness is in fact biased or lacking impartiality in her work in the case, or acting as an advocate for a party. Where the witness indicates that she is aware of her duty of independence and intends to comply  with that duty, and the evidence otherwise suggests that she understands and able to discharge that duty, it is an error to exclude on the basis of a lack of independence.

MLQ v Saguenay was not cited in Heimbecker. It is a pity that MacMillan-Brown J did not turn to this decision, as it would likely have provided clarity. In that case, MLQ challenged a practice adopted by the City of Saguenay of beginning its City council meetings with a prayer. The basis of the challenge was that this practice offended against the principle of religious neutrality and infringed religious freedom. The case was first brought in the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal by MLQ and a named plaintiff. MLQ is a non-profit organization that ‘advocates the complete secularization of the state in Quebec’. Most of its activities relate to the state use of Christian religious practices and symbols.  In this case, the Tribunal held that the practice of starting meetings with the prayer infringed the religious freedom of the named plaintiff, who was an atheist.

Saguenay appealed from the Tribunal’s decision on several bases, including the Tribunal’s reliance upon expert evidence given by Mr Daniel Baril. Mr Baril’s qualifications are not described in detail in the decision, but the judgment notes that he was a co-founder and member of MLQ and had previously taken public ‘stands’ on the issues being considered in this trial (here is a recent example of an op-ed by him). The Quebec Court of Appeal held that the Tribunal had erred by relying on Mr Baril’s evidence in preference to that offered by two experts called by Saguenay. Specifically, Mr Baril’s independence was called into question because he is ‘an advocate for secularization of the state’ (SCC decision, at para 104).

The SCC unanimously disagreed with the Quebec Court of Appeal’s characterization of the duty of independence. The Court held that assessing whether an expert is able to discharge the duty of independence ‘requires consideration of, inter alia, the substance of the expert’s opinion.’ (at para 106) For present purposes, the key passage of the SCC’s decision is as follows:

the entire discussion on Mr. Baril’s opinion with respect to state secularism, which the Court of Appeal stressed in its reasons, actually missed the point. The expert evidence of Mr. Baril and of the respondents’ witnesses was relevant only to the determination of whether the prayer at issue was religious in nature. And that is exactly what the Tribunal used it for. Mr. Baril’s opinion regarding the role of the state in religious matters goes to the definition of the state’s duty of neutrality. That is a question of law that is within the jurisdiction of the courts. It is distinct from the expert’s views on the religious nature and discriminatory effect of the prayer.

In short, by focusing on Mr Baril’s work as an advocate for secularism and his role at the MLQ, the Quebec Court of Appeal had misunderstood the nature of Mr Baril’s work as an expert in this case.

With respect to MacMillan-Brown J, I believe that she has made a similar error in Heimbecker.  Justice MacMillan-Brown appears to have focused largely, if not entirely, on Senator Pate’s occasional use of the word ‘activist’ or ‘advocate’ to describe aspects of her work  in her former roles. (Prior to her appointment to Senate, Senator Pate was Executive Director of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies and holder of the Sallows Chair in Human Rights at the University of Saskatchewan.) The judgment does not engage with the substance of Senator Pate’s proposed testimony or with the foundation for that testimony. As a reminder, the topics on which Senator Pate’s evidence was offered included the impacts of incarceration on young Indigenous women, resources available within the corrections system to Indigenous women, and evidence about the (in)effectiveness of incarceration as a means of deterrence. These matters are relevant to the determination of a fit sentence for Ms Heimbecker; and they are the kind of questions that can be rigorously studied using appropriate research methods. By virtue of her lifelong work, Senator Pate is distinctively – perhaps uniquely – placed to assist the court to understand the Canadian research on these matters.

Information very similar to that which was offered by Senator Pate in this case was foundational to the Supreme Court of Canada’s decisions in R v Gladue, [1999] 1 SCR 668 and R v Ipeelee, 2012 SCC 13. In those decisions, the work of Professor Michael Jackson was cited to ground the SCC’s expressed concerns about the over-incarceration of Indigenous people in Canada and the Court’s interpretation of s. 718.2(e) of the Criminal Code. Like Senator Pate, Professor Jackson describes himself as an advocate.  Like Senator Pate, Professor Jackson has a long and honourable history of activism with respect to the harms inflicted by the colonial legal system on Indigenous Canadians.

The rule of law, substantive equality, and what the legal system ‘knows’

‘Rule of law’ is a phrase that is presently being wielded by settler governments against Indigenous Canadians and their allies. In the context of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs’ opposition to the route proposed for a pipeline through Wet’suwet’en territories and Indigenous and settler engagement in civil disobedience to protest the State’s handling of this dispute, settler politicians and courts alike are repeating a mantra that positions the colonial state legal order as the sole and proper arbiter of right and wrong on questions of justice for Indigenous people. Never mind that Canada and BC have had twenty three years to act on the SCC’s direction in Delgamuukw v BC, [1997] 3 SCR 1010 to negotiate in good faith with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs to resolve their land title claims:

By ordering a new trial, I do not necessarily encourage the parties to proceed to litigation and to settle their dispute through the courts.  As was said in Sparrow, …, s. 35(1) “provides a solid constitutional base upon which subsequent negotiations can take place”.  …  Moreover, the Crown is under a moral, if not a legal, duty to enter into and conduct those negotiations in good faith. (para 186)

In a speech she gave to the House of Commons Justice Committee in the wake of the Cabinet ‘shuffle’ that removed her as Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of Canada, the Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, Puglaas, observed:

[M]y understanding of the rule of law has also been shaped by my experience as an Indigenous person and leader. The history of Crown-Indigenous relations in this country, includes a history of the rule of law not being respected. Indeed, one of the main reasons for the urgent need for justice and reconciliation today is that in the history of our country we have not always upheld foundational values such as the rule of law in our relations with Indigenous peoples. And I have seen the negative impacts for freedom, equality, and a just society this can have firsthand.

In my own research, I have observed the truth of Puglaas’ observation. Canadian law and legal actors have a dismaying tendency to forget or overlook core tenets of Canadian state law when the rights and interests of Indigenous Canadians are engaged. For example:

  • The Crown, defence and trial judge in R v Barton, 2019 SCC 33  failed to accord Cindy Gladue (the Cree/Métis victim in that case) the procedural protections granted by s. 276 of the Criminal Code. Throughout the trial, Gladue was subjected to racialised and gendered stereotypes about Indigenous women who exchange sexual activities for payment. Gladue’s dignity and humanity were thoroughly disrespected during Barton’s murder trial, to the extent that a portion of her body was actually entered as evidence. Because of Canadian principles of standing in criminal cases, Gladue and her family were never legally represented in the process of determining whether her rights had been breached.
  • A botched crime scene investigation, coupled with racism towards Indigenous eyewitnesses, contributed to the circumstances in which a jury acquitted Saskatchewan farmer Gerald Stanley of all charges after he killed Cree man Colten Boushie by shooting. (See the forthcoming special issue in the Canadian Bar Review for more about this case.) Both the crime scene investigation and the Crown’s approach to the credibility of the Indigenous eyewitnesses were starkly at odds with the standards that Canadians would expect in a case where a victim was shot in the head with a semi-automatic handgun. The poor quality of the police investigation hamstrung the Crown, depriving them of the opportunity to properly assess Stanley’s defence of accidental hangfire. For more on the impacts of this case on Cree people in Saskatchewan, and Colten Boushie’s family’s reaction to the case, see Tasha Hubbard’s wonderful film nîpawistamâsowin.
  • In the case of R v Lance Blanchard, 2016 ABQB 1323, woman who is publicly known by the pseudonym Angela Cardinal was arrested and held in remand. She was the complainant in this case and not the accused – but the Crown and preliminary hearing judge believed that she was at risk of failing to appear to testify. The trial judge who eventually heard this case described Ms Cardinal’s treatment as ‘appalling’. An independent review concluded that there was no legal basis for Cardinal’s arrest and that her treatment reflected a lack of cultural competence  on the part of the legal actors.

In her recent book Implicating the System, Elspeth Kaiser-Derrick explored the narratives used by Canadian judges when sentencing Indigenous women. She found that judges have difficulty understanding and applying the tenets of Gladue and Ipeelee, particularly with respect to the impacts of colonialism upon Indigenous women. She also found that Indigenous women’s criminal offending is deeply connected to their victimization, both personal and structural. In the 175 cases Kaiser-Derrick reviewed, she found many examples of cases in which judges sentenced Indigenous women to a term of incarceration for the stated purpose of giving them access to treatment and services in prison. Kaiser-Derrick’s finding makes Senator Pate’s proposed evidence in Heimbecker especially salient.

What does all of this have to do with Heimbecker? This pattern of cases suggests to me that the Canadian legal system may be particularly prone to ‘forgetting’ or mis-applying its own rules when those rules operate to protect or advance the rights and legal interests of Indigenous people. In the Heimbecker decision, the politically charged word ‘activist’ appears to have deflected the trial judge from a careful application of the relevant rules of evidence. In consequence, a young Indigenous woman will be sentenced on the basis of some contextual information – e.g. the Gladue report – but without the benefit of structural information that should as a matter of justice, bear upon the determination of a fit sentence in her case. As in Barton, Stanley and Blanchard, this deprivation of procedural rights and legal protections appears to operate in a manner that insulates the colonial legal system from hearing evidence about the extent to which that system inflicts harm on Indigenous people.

It is not my intention to suggest that the dynamics I have traced in this post are conscious or to suggest, for instance, that legal actors deliberately fail to accord legal protections to the Indigenous people with whom they are dealing. Rather, I believe that this tendency to overlook procedural protections reflects deep and long-held implicit beliefs about the legitimacy and universality of criminal legal processes, and the tendency to cast Indigenous challenges to State processes as political rather than legal. Colonial law’s procedural protections have been established on the basis of implicit norms that reflect the interests and rationality of a privileged group, largely white men, who historically held a monopoly on law making, policy decisions, and the legal profession. Generations of Indigenous, feminist and critical race scholars have traced the mechanisms by which claims for the extension of these protections to those who do not embody these norms have been delegitimized and sidelined. Even though many historically narrow rules have been broadened to reflect the Charter value of substantive equality, judges seem to have particular difficulty according the full value of these expanded rules.

Expert evidence is a crucial means by which information about the harms inflicted by colonial law on Indigenous people can enter the adversarial common law process. The Supreme Court of Canada’s caselaw indicates openness to hearing expert evidence that contests the taken-for-granted universality and neutrality of Canadian law. However, cases such as Heimbecker suggest that we have more work to do to educate judges about how to exercise their responsibilities as legal gatekeepers in a manner that accords substantive equality to Indigenous Canadians.

Meanwhile, while acknowledging the profound constraints imposed by legal aid, I hope that some consideration is given to appealing the admissibility decision in Heimbecker. That decision does seem to be out of step with Canadian legal principles.  If left uncorrected, it has the potential to undermine Indigenous Canadian’s capacity to put important evidence before colonial courts. Both statistics and lived experience indicate that much more fundamental change is needed to the colonial legal process of sentencing Indigenous people. But in the context of the present system, Heimbecker removes one of the few existing tools available to Indigenous Canadians in individual cases to educate colonial courts about the harms inflicted on Indigenous people by the colonial criminal legal system.

Note: on 1 March 2020 at 1:40pm BC Time, I edited this blog to remove two references to a mandatory minimum sentence. Although the decision itself is unclear, I understand that the offences to which Ms Heimbecker pleaded guilty do not carry a mandatory minimum. However, the standard tariff for these offences requires a jail term.

Implementing Indigenous Law in Agreements – Learning from “An Agreement Concerning the Stewardship of the Witness Blanket”

witness blanket

In October of 2019, through ceremony conducted in Kumugwe (the K’omoks First Nation Bighouse), the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) and Artist Carey Newman entered into “An Agreement Concerning the Stewardship of the Witness Blanket – A National Monument to Recognize the Atrocities of Indian Residential Schools” . Under this agreement, the Witness Blanket would find a permanent home in the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg.

https://humanrights.ca/exhibition/the-witness-blanket

A group of us from the Indigenous Law Research Unit at UVic had the privilege of being present at the Ceremony, watching as artist Carey Newman and the CMHR  (through its President and CEO John Young) entered into an agreement to be Joint Stewards to the Witness Blanket.  This agreement  is on the cutting edge of transsystemmic law.  It is governed, shaped, and enacted through a weaving together of Indigenous and Canadian legal understandings and protocols.  It contains both written and oral commitments.  More specifically, it draws both Kwakwaka’wakw traditional legal orders and Canadian Common Law into collaborative engagement.   Click on the link below to read more about the Ceremony.

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/art-and-architecture/article-the-witness-blanket-an-installation-of-residential-school-artifacts/ 

The experience of reading the Written Agreement and of attending the Ceremony was powerful on so many levels.  In particular, it was an inspiration and education on what might be possible in the work of law, as we think about next steps forward in legal education and practice.

Drawing on this experience, we drew on the Witness Blanket during the January segment of our Legal Process class this year.   In this post, we share a number of resources that might be helpful for people in law wanting to think more about many of the things to learn from both the Witness Blanket, and the Stewardship Agreement.  At the end of the post are a few comments on our own first experiences of drawing the Witness Blanket into the law school classroom.

We note here that the Agreement is shared with the permission of both Carey Newman and the Canadian Museum of Human Rights. Their willingness to have the agreement shared and made publicly visible is both a gift, and a teaching.  There is more to be said about this teaching, and about the powerful work of Ceremony, and the Oral component of this agreement.  I hope to return to those in a later post.

Here is a copy of the Agreement itself:

Witness Blanket Stewardship Agreement v04.4

This is an ‘annotated copy’ of the Agreement (Rebecca’s annotations) designed to organize some thoughts and make visible some aspects of the Agreement that can generate important conversations.

Annotated Witness Blanket Stewardship Agreement

BACKGROUND:   What IS the Witness Blanket?

WitnessBlanket (2)
Carey Newman and the Witness Blanket (photo credit: Doug Little/CMHR)

For those who have not yet encountered the Witness Blanket, it is described on its website as follows:

Inspired by a woven blanket, we have created a large scale art installation, made out of hundreds of items reclaimed from Residential Schools, churches, government buildings and traditional and cultural structures including Friendship Centres, band offices, treatment centres and universities, from across Canada. The Witness Blanket stands as a national monument to recognise the atrocities of the Indian Residential School era, honour the children, and symbolise ongoing reconciliation.

http://witnessblanket.ca/

THE DOCUMENTARY

There is a wonderful documentary on the Witness Blanket, produced by Carey Newman and Cody Graham of M1 Films https://m1films.ca/portfolio_page/witness-blanket/.  Below is a link to the Trailer for the movie.

 

There are two versions of the Documentary: one is 90 minutes, and the other is 55 minutes (edited down to make it easier for teachers to show it during a standard class time).  You can contact the CMHR to arrange to have it streamed (no cost involved).

The documentary is powerful in so many ways, and can open room for many conversations:

  • It gets at the history and legacy of residential schools
  • It provides an introduction to the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement
  • It enables one to listen to the voices of a number of survivors, and does this in ways that are contextualized and respectful, and which take up land, place, voice, memory, and more
  • it gets at the intergenerational transfer of trauma, and at avenues for disrupting those injuries and patterns (for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people alike)
  • it opens space for looking at the relationships between art and law (including questions about problem solving, process, creativity and collaboration)

THE BOOK

51YgZU4Je7L._SY461_BO1,204,203,200_

Another great resource for background is a book about Witness Blanket, called ‘Picking up the Pieces”.  The book contains a collection of  stories and reflections on segments of the larger blanket.  It has many colour photos, and lots of closeups, and is organized so that you can explore small pieces of the Blanket in more intimate detail (along with stories related to the objects)

 

MEDIA CONVERSATIONS

Another resource is a 24 minute interview with Carey Newman on the APTN Program “Face-to-Face.”  He was being interviewed at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, during the launch of the book and Documentary “Picking up the Pieces: The Making of the Witness Blanket”.  It is a lovely introduction to both the artist, and the work.  Carey Newman speaks about community based and collaborative art practice, and there are some very interesting parallels there to legal practice and processes.  Also some lovely thoughts on how to carry ‘the weight’ of difficult stories.  I very much appreciated his comments about challenges in the ways we (artists and lawyers) attempt to tell complex and multi-layered stories.

 

 

A SIDE NOTE ON THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE WITNESS BLANKET, THE TRC AND THE IRRSA

It can be worth making visible the relationships between the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement (IRSSA), the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the Witness Blanket.  There were 5 main components to the IRSSA (which was the settlement of the largest class action in Canadian History.   The first three involved agreements about payments that would be made to the parties to the action (still living survivors from a list of 139 schools co-managed by the federal government and 4 church organizations).  But the last two components aimed at involving all Canadians in the discussion, and in the work ahead.  These were:

  • The establishment of the TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION COMMISSION; and
  • The establishment of a fund to produce works of COMMEMORATION.

Of some significance is the fact that both the TRC and the Commemoration projects serve to benefit all of Canada.  That is, you can see both these projects as funded not by the government or churches, but by the survivors themselves (as they chose to direct payments forward to the future, rather than directly to themselves).  A moving gift to all of us.

And so, The Witness Blanket is one of the projects that emerged from the Commemoration component of the IRSSA, and is thus designed to engage all Canadians in the work of Truth and Reconciliation.   For more on the Terms of Reference for both the TRC and the Commemoration fund, you can follow the link below (see Schedule J and Schedule N:

http://www.residentialschoolsettlement.ca/settlement.html

The federal government also has a webpage that organizes some information around Indian Schools Settlement Agreement (including summaries and links to more information on both the TRC and the Commemoration Projects.

https://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/1100100015576/1100100015577

SOME COMMENTS ON TEACHING WITH THE AGREEMENT

As mentioned at the beginning, we used the Agreement as part of our teaching during the during our Legal Process course in January.   Legal Process is a mandatory class for our first year students.  The majority of the class occurs in the first two weeks of September.  It is an intensive course where the students spend the two weeks in a combination of small and large group settings.  In the context of the small sections, they work in groups of 20 or so students and 3 teachers.  They return to those groups in January for 2 mornings which have been devoted in recent years to TRC work.

This year, the first morning focused primarily on the TRC, and the second morning on the Witness Blanket.   The second morning, there were three primary activities related to the Witness Blanket:

  • The students watched the Witness Blanket documentary as a group (an hour)
  • Students then met in their small groups to read the Stewardship Agreement.  They were given an “assignment” to help guide them in their reading.  Note, the premise of the assignment was that students could imagine themselves wanting to produce a postcast episode about the Witness Blanket.  There was no expectation that they would in fact complete such a task, but the hope was that this imagined activity might help guide their reading in ways that would direct their attention to the importance of sound, image, translation, collaboration and more.
  • Students returned with their questions to meet as a large group, where, through the magic of a Video linkup, they were able to listen to Heather Bidzinski (Head of Collections – Canadian Museum for Human Rights).  She spoke to them about her participation in the creation of the Stewardship Agreement, in the Oral Ceremony, and about challenges, lessons learned, and what is being carried forward through this form of legal work.

One of the powerful take away lessons for me came in Heather Bidzinski’s comments to the students that there were nearly a dozen prior versions of the Agreement, and that the work of arriving at the ‘final version’ involved more than two years of ‘building relations’. In short, she told them that the most powerful learnings came in the work PRIOR to the signing of the agreement.  The magic, she argued, is not so much IN the written text as it is in the RELATIONSHIP that was built between the Parties as they spent time and energy learning more about the ways they might work with each other.

This insight is helpful in thinking about how we do the work of teaching about the TRC in the classroom.   There is lots to be said about the concrete lessons plans and teaching materials, but also lots to be said about what we learn in the process of planning and trying to implement those plans.   Doing TRC related work is affectively challenging, and can require much from both faculty and from students.   One can anticipate that this work is more or less difficult for different students.  It is helpful to remain reflexive in the exercises, as there will be things to learn in each encounter about way to support learning, both by students and professors.  We acknowledge that we are baby-learners in this work, and that there are a number of bumps and bruises (both to ourselves and others) as we try to move ourselves along this path.

Some things we considered in setting up the exercise included:

  • There is great power in film to help convey some of these histories.   The Witness Blanket documentary is particularly powerful in this regard.  Let the students know this in advance, so they can be prepared for the different learning that can be enabled where they can see/hear/feel an argument.
  • Let the students know in advance that some of the students (and faculty and staff) have personal experience with residential school histories.  It is important to be alert to this in dealing with each other, and kindness and care are crucial.  The more advance notice, the better.  There is power in watching a film in a group, but it is also possible to leave space for students to do the watching in smaller or more intimate contexts.
  • If the material is linked to a mandatory element (as ours is), then it can be helpful to create space for some students who have concerns to complete the requirement through an alternative exercise (that does not require them to be in the classroom with other students).
  • We involved our Amicus team (counsellors and cultural support people), so that there were people and resources to support students for whom the affective load of the material felt too high.
  • For at least part of the time, students worked in small groups.  Each group had two professors and a grad student assigned to it, so there would be a range of experiences to draw on and from.
  • Advance workshops for faculty or students on Trauma-informed practice can be helpful.  It also can be useful to create space for Faculty to work with each other in advance, so that they feel comfortable both with the material, and in working with students.  It is helpful to remember that we, like the students, are often coming to the game with some gaps in prior knowledge about residential schools.  Some tenderness and care with each other (and not only with the students) can be very helpful in doing TRC work in the law school.

There is undoubtedly more to say, and there are many ways to learn with and from the Witness Blanket Agreement.    Certainly, for those of us in Law, the work of truth and reconciliation is the work of a lifetime.  It is hopeful having models to look at, models that can help us think through more useful questions about ways to do the work. The hope is that these resources/links can provide some context for others to also explore the power of this Agreement for the teaching and practice of law.

We would love to hear ideas and thoughts about things you have tried in your own classrooms and law schools, as well as comments about things that might be done differently!

Teaching with Love: Inside and Outside the Law School Classroom

Author meets Readers: Law’s Indigenous Ethics[1]

Laws Indigenous Ethics

 

A question that I have been thinking about for a while is some version of “What role should love play in a legal education?”

The question is partly prompted by the work of bell hooks, when she argues — “When as teachers we teach with love, combining care, commitment, knowledge, responsibility, respect, and trust, we are often able to enter the classroom and go straight to the heart of the matter.  That means having the clarity to know what to do on any given day to create the best climate for learning.”[2]

It is also partly prompted by the work of Susan Bandes, and other scholars of Law and Emotions, who argues with her colleague Jeremy Blumenthal that “there is mounting evidence that emotion cannot be cordoned off from ethical and moral judgment without impairing both ethical judgment and well-being; such evidence has broad implications for the teaching and practice of law.”[3]

My recent thinking on love and legal education is also deepened by three Scottish colleagues who in the Fall of 2019 rode their bicycles between the six Scottish law schools, offering workshops on (amongst other things) the role art can play in critical feminist pedagogy, and in particular feminist judgment.  They argue, in the words of Patricia Williams, “It really is possible to see things – even the most concrete things – simultaneously yet differently.”[4]

Is bringing the body/art/emotion into the study and practice of law one means of bringing love into a legal education?

So, you will imagine my delight when I first picked up my colleague John Borrows’ book, Law’s Indigenous Ethics, and read these words: “Love is an important internal self-explanation for many public-spirited actions.  So, I ask the question again: Why are concepts of love absent in legal language and debate?”[5]

My contribution here today flows from a read of Chapter One[6] in conversation with Chapter Five[7] – what might happen in legal education, at this critical moment on the planet, if we took seriously love as necessary practice and reimagined the walls that silo us inside classrooms?

Chapter One looks carefully at love as a legal principle, one of the seven Grandmother/Grandfather laws, and its place in the language of rights and obligations throughout Canadian Law.  Chapter Five offers some on the ground storytelling of how to take a love as a legal principle out of the classroom and onto the land, figuratively and metaphorically.

I start my reflections by drawing on the techniques of “found poetry”; pulling insights from reading Gift One: Love in conversation with Gift Five: Wisdom.  I conclude by offering some thoughts on how to take up John’s challenges about love, law and pedagogy, for transformative teaching.

 

1.      Found Poetry[8]

 

Her voice was clear; its strength was unmistakeable.  She called to the ends of the earth and sky.
When you don’t know where to turn, open this bundle – the laws within will guide you, even if they don’t settle every question.
How is love relevant?  Why are concepts of love absent in legal language and debate?

Love should be perceptible; it should swell, expand and project itself into our relationships.
While some of this instruction can occur in the classroom, walls can hide important legal resources.
We must beware of the dangers of a single story.

Many laws flowing from our political processes are designed to enhance freedom, autonomy and choice.
Law is not just about force – it also requires our participation and agreement.
We must join our best legal insights to help one another avoid the misery, pain, and destruction all societies face when love fails to guide their actions.

The language of love can be dangerous and we must be exceedingly wary of its appearance.
Languages of love must be decolonized; appeals to love must always be contextual.
Air, fire, water, earth, plants, animals and fish.

We learn differently when we change the physical context; engaging all of our senses.
When students learn in an embodied way these lessons can be more deeply internalized.
Constitutions, statutes, regulations, by-laws, declarations, adjudicative judgments, songs, carvings, textiles, dances, wampum belts, scrolls, and petroglyphs.

Law is a human tool – a resource for reasoning and acting.
In contemporary Canada, political and legal language seems generally devoid of references to love.
We learn differently when we change the physical context; engaging all of our senses.

I found my source of strength.
Outside.
Beware the dangers of a single story.

 

2.     So…

 

It might seem obvious that when you teach courses, like I do, on Family Law and Queering Law, that love is something that needs to be addressed, if not integrally.  Love is love is love, they say.  But the question I am trying to answer is not just about language for talking about the physical dimensions of love, and it is not just for the “pink ghetto.”  The question I am trying to answer is as relevant to Constitutional Law, or Securities Law, for courses taught transsystemically, in the field and on the land, as online, or in clinics.  What is experiential learning?

At this moment, where it seems like we are living in a universe more prone to hate, than to love, this text gently demands that we stop and listen to the seven Grandmother/Grandfather teachings. It asks us to see how love inhabits our public spaces, informs s. 35 of the Constitution and is essential to readings of treaties and other texts.  It is also wary and critical of love’s place in political life.  Like law, love cannot be forced, its powers too are easily abused.[9]

Beware the dangers of a single story.[10]

What I take away from this book about legal ethics and the legal imaginary, is that love is complicated, but deeply woven into the fabric of law.  To not find a way to bring love into legal education is to miss offering students another lens of analysis, another way to read texts, another way to deepen their skills for how to work through and across trauma.  To enhance the ethical imaginations of our future ethical professionals.  Lots of work to do, though to see love as law.

At this moment when it seems that people are more likely to build walls to keep us out, this book deconstructs those walls, metaphorically and actually, to move students out of the classroom and onto the land, or into community, or into their bodies, or inside an idea.  It is thick with stories of how these 7 laws are in action at different law schools across the country, of how deep learning results from bodies engaging with law in unexpected ways and places. In field schools, in downtown Victoria, under bridges in Vancouver.[11]

John’s stories are of the relationship between law, land and learning; I aim to take up those challenges, playing with the notion of what it means to be outside.

By pushing, conceptually, what might happen if we are to weave thick notions of love into a legal education, John revisions what experiential education means.  And, in so doing, offers ways to respond to the TRC, to MMIWG, to #MeToo.  Drawing deeply on examples of placed-based teaching spaces hope is created for alternative notions of where learning happens.  More ways to think about moving students out of their heads and into their bodies to become the ethical professionals we believe they can be.

Found poetry, art bombs, finding Indigenous plants, image theatre, playreading, theatre of the oppressed, baking, dancing with dichotomies, mask and mural making, movies.[12]

I think the answer is: be brave, and things will happen.

When you don’t know where to turn, open this bundle – the laws within will guide you, even if they don’t settle every question.

 

[1]              This presentation was part of a panel dedicated to discussion of John Borrows’ most recent text, Law’s Indigenous Ethics (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2019).  Thank you to Freya Kodar for organizing, to my co-panellists, Pooja Parmar, Christine Sy, Jean-Paul Restoule and John Borrows, and to our audience for their rapt attention and feedback.

[2]              bell hooks, Teaching Community: A Pedagogy of Hope (London: Routledge, 2003) at 134.

[3]              Susan A. Bandes and Jeremy A. Blumenthal, “Emotion and the Law” (2012) 8 Annual Review of Law and Social Science 161-181 at 175.

[4]              See Sharon Cowan, Chloë Kennedy, Vanessa E. Munro, eds., Scottish Feminist Judgments: (Re)Creating Law from the Outside In (Hart Publishing, 2019) at 1, citing Patricia Williams, The Alchemy of Race and Rights ( Cambridge , MA , Harvard University Press , 1991) at 150.

[5]              Borrows, supra note 1 at 27.

[6]              Borrows, ibid., “Nitam-Miigiwewin: Zaagi’idiwin (Gift One: Love), Love: Law and Land in Canada’s Indigenous Constitution” at 24-49.

[7]              Borrows, ibid., “Naano-Miigiwewin: Nibwaakaawin (Gift Give: Wisdom), Wisdom: Outsider Education, Indigenous Law, and Land” at 149-175.

[8]              I have been inspired by the work of Kate Sutherland to bring poetry into the law school classroom.  This has included reading poetry, but also using creative writing techniques to inspire students to write poetry; drawing on resources from their legal training.  Found poetry is one of these techniques, essentially creating a poem by taking words, phrases or passages from other sources and reimagining them.  The poem that follows is comprised of words, phrases and passages from Law’s Indigenous Ethics.  For a discussion by Kate Sutherland of writing poetry in the law school classroom see: Kate Sutherland, “Law, Poetry, and Pedagogy: Reading and Writing Poems in the Law School Classroom” in Christina A. Corcos, ed., The Media Method: Teaching Law with Popular Culture (Durham: Carolina Academic Press, 2019) at 399-414.

[9]              Chapter One is a love story; including interrogation of how love informs Canadian common law and Canadian Constitutional Law and how it sits within the seven Grandfather/Grandmother teachings of the Anishinaabe.

[10]             Borrows, supra note 1 at 28.

[11]             Chapter Five is a curricular model; with stories of how land-based teachings have been employed at several law schools across Canada by Indigenous and non-Indigenous scholars including folk at the University of Victoria, the Peter A. Allard School of Law, and Osgoode Hall Law School, amongst many.

[12]             These are some examples of “outsider” pedagogies that I have tried to take up in my courses and seminars at UVicLaw.

Art, Law, and Community: Truth and Reconciliation through Art

By: Julie Tucker & Gemma Smyth

28. We call upon law schools in 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, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, Indigenous law, and Aboriginal–Crown relations. This will require skills-based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and anti-racism.[1]

83. We call upon the Canada Council for the Arts to establish, as a funding priority, a strategy for Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists to undertake collaborative projects and produce works that contribute to the reconciliation process.[2]

Photo credit Nadja Pelkey

How can community collaboration address the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action? How can we more meaningfully embody and integrate the 94 Calls to Action in a teaching/learning practice for art and law students alike? How can community be meaningfully incorporated through an embodied, community-engaged practice?

Through a partnership between the School of Creative Arts (SoCA), the Faculty of Law and the Arts Council Windsor Region (ACWR), artist/maker Barry Ace (Anishinaabe [Odawa])[3] was invited to participate in the inaugural Art + Law Residency. Ace developed an original work entitled, “As Long as the Sun Shines, The Grass Grows and the River Flows” that incorporated multidisciplinary understandings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action. The Residency and exhibition commenced during the World Indigenous Law Conference at the University of Windsor. Organized by Professor Beverly Jacobs, the conference was a collaboration between settlers and Indigenous artists and lawyers, as well as university and community-based organizations.

Photo credit Gemma Smyth

Over the course of two weeks, Ace worked with dozens of participants to create a 54-panel work that allowed participants to write, “bead,” and thus take artistic responsibility for one of the TRC Calls to Action. Ace likened his work to a “contemporary wampum”, with each participant actively engaging in self-examination, discussion, and artistic practice around individual Calls to Action. Each small group session comprised a group of between 5 and 20 students, lawyers, community members and artists.

Picture3
Photo credit Nadja Pelkey

Ace contextualized the project by first orienting participants to his selected works touching on aspects of residential schools.

“Debwewin” (Anishnaabemowen for “truth telling”) includes tiny shoes woven and enmeshed in rope symbolizing lost Indigenous children and culture.

“Memory Landscape” evokes images of Ace’s adopted brother, and a photo montage maps the geography of a residential school attended by his great aunt.

Picture4
Photo credit Czarina Mendoza

Ace’s storytelling connects the painful memories of his family members to his art, revisiting photos and geographies that embody the residential school experience. There are inherent risks in undertaking a project that can trigger trauma in both the audience and maker. It was a significant risk in this particular project because of the small group work, discussion, and emotional engagement required. Ace explicitly addressed this risk with participants. His experience working in the community, his thoughtful and meticulous making, and his careful, individualized engagement with each participant navigated potential harm while leaving space for lingering, difficult questions.

Before beginning their work together, participants were required to relinquish their rights to the piece for $1.00 (a “loonie”) by signing a contract.

Excerpts of the contract read, “In consideration of the sum of One Dollar (1.00) and other good and valuable consideration the receipt of which is hereby acknowledged, I, _________, whose address is ______ release and discharge Barry Ace, his or her executors, administrators, successors and assigns from all actions, suits, debts… in respect of my participation in the creation of a work of art entitled ‘As Long as the Sun Shines, The Grass Grows and the River Flows’…”

The act of giving up one’s rights recalled the way contract law is used in modern and historical contexts to deprive people of their rights – often without knowing exactly what they are giving up. In this case, participants were required to sign this contract without fully knowing its outcome. In receiving a shiny new dollar, the exchange is reminiscent of the nominal amount of money that is issued on Treaty Days across Canada.

Because this exchange was a condition of participating in the project, it was particularly poignant for students required to be at the session as part of their class assignment. This work therefore referenced the complex relationship between Canada and Indigenous peoples which permitted a narrow range of options – acquiescence, assimilation or death.

Photo credit Gemma Smyth

After this exchange, participants then chose a Call to Action and wrote it in HB pencil on vellum paper. Vellum is translucent and allowed each participant’s unique handwriting to appear, even as it was rolled up and tied. Using the materials that Ace often favours, the participants then mixed floral and geometric beadwork with electronic pieces including capacitors and resistors, to bead floral designs onto 56 velvet surfaces. Ace describes his choice of materials as referencing the “cultural continuity, bridging the past with the present and the future, and as a demonstrable act of nationhood, resistance and modernity.”[4] Ace had pre-prepared the surfaces with the general pattern he wanted and affixed tobacco ties above the floral pattern.

Both Ace’s artwork and the residency respond to Call 83 and 28. Ace’s contemporary wampum belt engages traditional cultural beading practices but also modern electronic components, reflective of the materials of present day communication – the small bits, bytes and wires that make our devices work. Wampum is legal document beyond words and time. It is meant to last and to be remembered. Because of Ace’s understanding of material culture and experience working in community, he was able to teach and to share through his own process of making. Through his teaching and practice, participants were able to embody the Calls as artistic expression, personal commitment and lived experiences. “As Long as the Sun Shines, The Grass Grows and the River Flows” will be exhibited at galleries in Canada. Posted next to the work are the names of the participants, which for many was a meaningful, public connection and acknowledgment of their participation. Ace’s experience directed the collaboration successfully and his input will shape how the project moves forward.

In the following reflections, two of the organisers of this project – an Indigenous artist/ cultural worker and settler lawyer/professor – reflect on the partnership and its potential for future collaborations between lawyers and artists to bring deep interpretative, embodied and enacted meanings to the Calls to Action.

 Julie

My heritage is both settler and Lunaapeewi from the Munsee-Delaware First Nation. I am both an artist and cultural worker. Currently, I am the Director of the Arts Council Windsor and Region and a founding member of the Munsee-Delaware History and Language group, developing its first project through the recently defunded Indigenous Culture Fund courtesy of the Ford Government. This year is marked by the UN as the Year of Indigenous Languages.[5] Language embodies the culture, law and ways of being. This and other acts by both the Federal and Provincial governments are clear departures from the work of reconciliation. The CBC’s website “Beyond 94” tracks the progress of the 94 calls to action: 10 are completed, with 19 in progress, 33 proposed and 33 not started[6]. I have come to learn that we all hold the responsibility to ensure this work continues. In 2016, I was in attendance of a Night for Chanie on the 50th anniversary of his death, which honoured Chanie Wenjack and all former students of residential schools, organized by imagineNATIVE Film and Media Arts Festival. Significantly, Senator Murray Sinclair spoke during the event and issued a directive to the whole audience to answer one of the Calls to Action by whatever means available to them. I felt and continue to feel a deep responsibility to develop relevant and meaningful programming to all people from across Turtle Island who call this region home. My interests are in projects that are collaborative, interdisciplinary and opportunities for artists to be engaged in meaningful work.

The responsibility I feel is bred from the colonial structures of which I have learned, worked and have benefited from. David Garneau states:

The government apology and the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission are important, but the deeper work of conciliation will be among individuals who re-cognize themselves as also other than agents of the State. Settlers visiting these permanent sites of conciliation do so as individuals who are conscious that their institutions perpetrated systematic abuses designed to assimilate or destroy Aboriginal people so they could take their land[7].

Gemma asked me, “What is the significance of collaborating with the Law School and its faculty?” There are many things I would like to say here, but I think this collaboration is just one of many ways to tell the important stories that need to be told along with a way to support that telling. I don’t think institutions like universities are always aware how artists need to be supported in their work. As a cultural worker my role is to advocate for opportunities that benefit artists. I hope to offer an experience that is valuable to their practice.

Lastly, when I experienced Barry’s work, it allowed me to reflect on my Grandmother’s stories of Mount Elgin Residential school. I think there are many stories that need to be heard. And I know that one day you will know them because an Anishanaabe/Haudenosaunee /Lunaapeewi artist will have the opportunity and the means to tell you in the right way.

Gemma

As a second- and fourth-generation settler of German and Irish ancestry living on Anishnaabe territory, this collaboration brought renewed meaning and urgency to the Calls to Action, and clarified anew the complicated complicity of the law, legal education and myself in ongoing colonialism. By profession, I am an academic, lawyer and mediator. I am fortunate to learn from colleagues whose academic and lived experience challenge me to remain alert and conscious about the ongoing impacts of colonialism and my complicity in its ongoing metamorphosis. This project was inspired by the work of my colleague Professor Jeff Hewitt, whose academic work challenges lawyers to reconceive of art as law. I found this collaboration incredibly impactful and would encourage other law schools to reach out to their communities and art schools.[8]

For lawyers, intellectualization of pain is our stock-in-trade. This perhaps is the danger of simply reading the TRC Calls to Action without embodying or enacting them, or without engaging with the affective elements of cultural genocide. Ace’s work accessed these pedagogies. He personalized the TRC through his own stories; he crafted installations and images that made pain real in way that the common law avoids. Yet understanding this pain is key to effective legal representation. The participants engaged with one another in a collaborative, community-based learning environment which allowed for interdisciplinary discussions and uniquely co-created meanings.[9] In the session I participated in, for example, art students, practicing artists and an Indigenous community member created a mini-conversation group. Our discussion became intimate quickly as we discussed the TRC and our own experiences with Ace’s work. The beading practice allowed a shared experience of making/ creating. My own inefficiency and inelegance with beading was in sharp contrast with practicing artists whose beautiful beading was a healthy dose of professional humility. As we discussed the role of law and lawyers in the residential school settlement, we quickly came to the limits of law to address pain. For me, the practice de-emphasized over-intellectualization and encouraged embodied presence. During the final show launching Ace’s work, participants felt deeply invested in the work and had formed relationships both with one another and with the artist. Our fingerprints were literally imprinted onto the velvet and our handwriting was visible through the vellum. For me, Ace created community-through-truth-telling – offering painful imagery and narrative without emptiness, offering tangible connections between the past and present.

Acknowledgement

This project was possible because of the work (paid and unpaid) of a large group of people. Students in the School of Creative Arts (SoCA) were guardians and hosts in the gallery space. Rod Strickland and Lucy Howe were experts in organizing the project, supporting the creation and hanging of the work, hosting the Artist and solving the inevitable challenges that come with making. Vincent Georgie and Chris Waters were strong institutional supporters and embodied fruitful interdisciplinary co-existence. Jeffery Hewitt was the creative brain behind this initial idea, with co-generative effort with Julie and Gemma. SoCA technicians Nadja Pelkey, who took photos and prepared the space and Victor Romano who runs the SoCA Gallery, while Czarina Mendoza lent her photography skills to the project. Michelle Nahdee and Beverly Jacobs supported the project alongside the World Indigenous Law Conference. The work took place on the land of the Three Fires Confederacy, Anishinaabe territory.

[1] Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action (Winnipeg: National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation) at 28.

[2] Ibid at 83.

[3] Barry Ace, Barry Ace (website), online: <http://www.barryacearts.com/current-exhibitions/&gt;.

[4] Barry Ace, “Artist Statement”, Barry Ace (website), online: <http://www.barryacearts.com/artist-statement/&gt;.

[5] 2019 Indigenous Year of Indigenous Languages (website), online: <https://en.iyil2019.org/&gt;.

[6] “Beyond 94: Truth and Reconciliation in Canada”, (19 March 2018), CBC News, online: <https://newsinteractives.cbc.ca/longform-single/beyond-94?&cta=1&gt;.

[7] David Garneau, “Imaginary Spaces of Conciliation and Reconciliation” (2012) 46:2 West Coast Line 74 28 at 38.

[8] Indeed, at least one other law school has done meaningful work in this area. See Ruth Buchanan & Jeffery Hewitt, “Treaty Canoe”, (2019), Osgoode Digital Commons: Articles & Book Chapters, online: <https://digitalcommons.osgoode.yorku.ca/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3610&context=scholarly_works>; Ruth Buchanan & Jeffery Hewitt, “Encountering Settler Colonialism Through Legal Objects: A Painted Drum And Handwritten Treaty From Manitoulin Island”, (2017), Osgoode Digital Commons: Articles & Book Chapters, online:  <https://digitalcommons.osgoode.yorku.ca/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://scholar.google.ca/&httpsredir=1&article=3668&context=scholarly_works>.

[9] See Sarah Buhler, Priscilla Settee & Nancy Van Styvendale, “’We Went In as Strangers, and Left as Friends’: Building Community in the Wahkohtowin Classroom” (2015) 1:2 Engaged Scholar J 96; Sarah Buhler, Priscilla Settee & Nancy Van Styvendale, “Teaching and Learning About Justice Through Wahkohtowin” (2014) 4 Annual Rev Interdisciplinary Justice & Research 182.

Loving, Working, and Living on Stolen Land: People of Colour, Settler Colonialism & White Supremacy

This past August, I participated in the Blanket Exercise organized by the Faculty of Law University of Windsor with our incoming law students. The narrative exercise, designed by KAIROS (though slightly modified by Windsor Law), is intended to educate participants of the brutal genocide of Indigenous Peoples of Turtle Island. It illustrates how they were treated by European settlers. The exercise more importantly demonstrates the ensuing effects of the colonial policies and practices of the Canadian white supremacist settler state on Indigenous Peoples.

Windsor Law has included the Blanket Exercise for the past two years as part of our ongoing efforts to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) Calls to Action. In volunteering to help with the exercise, I indicated that I would be happy to take on any role the organizers needed. Subsequently, I was designated the role of a European settler.

At first, I was dismayed. I am a queer Person of Colour, a Tamil refugee to Canada from the Northern Province of Sri Lanka. Now I would have to pretend to be a white European settler?

My apprehension with playing the role of the European settler opens a window into the role of People of Colour not only in the legal profession but in the ongoing settler colonial project. I am a refugee settler of colour living, loving, and working on the traditional territories of the Three Fires Confederacy. I also own a house and land in Windsor, Ontario. The land is Anishinaabe land.

As we move forward in implementing the TRC’s Calls to Action I find myself engaged in deeply complicated conversations. These conversations are animated by what Professor Jeffery Hewitt (a colleague at the Law School) has framed as the anti-violence work of decolonizing our disciplines, our institutions, our private spaces, and our lives. Communities of colour are also responding to the Calls to Action in our own ways. I imagine there are two strands of thought within the communities of colour about the recent attempts to decolonize and indigenize the academy (and other spaces). Though likely many more that I still have to engage with and learn about.

The first strand is hopeful and helpful: we are finally addressing the white supremacy that many People of Colour and our community members have had, and continue, to face. It is great that we are focusing on the First Peoples of this land, their experiences with the criminal justice system, the prison industrial complex, and how the legal system has so abysmally failed Indigenous women, are a few examples. This hopeful and helpful framing belies an uncomfortable truth articulated by Professors Bonita Lawrence and Enakshi Dua in their 2005 essay “Decolonizing Antiracism” on the erasure of Indigenous Peoples from antiracist practices, theories, and analysis. They argue that People of Colour have not taken seriously the impact of colonization on Indigenous Peoples and this has resulted in a bifurcated set of anti-racist practices. Building from this framing, we can comfortably note that People of Colour, in various gradients and iterations, continue to benefit from the violence of colonization of Indigenous Peoples and their respective territories. People of Colour are full-fledged participants in the systems of oppression that continue the process of settling on Indigenous lands and the genocide of Indigenous Peoples (by purchasing Indigenous lands, for example). This strand of thought then is about dismantling white supremacy in solidarity with Indigenous Peoples.

The second strand is even more complex, if not nefarious: How can we argue that People of Colour are complicit in the ongoing process of settlement? Are People of Colour not marginalized too? Do People of Colour and their marginalization not need the same kind of attention that is being garnered towards Indigenous Peoples on this land? Of course, the very framing of People of Colour as a discrete and homogeneous category is contested. Descendants of former enslaved peoples in what is now Canada do not bear the same kind of complicity as ‘new arrivants’ and they do not benefit in the same ways either (see Eve Tuck, Allison Guess and Hannah Sultan).

From my own perspective, I was a refugee that fled a war-torn country in the late 1980s with my mother. We had to leave our village of Vilan near Jaffna, Sri Lanka because the Tamil Tigers had set up a camp next door (quite literally). We were afraid of the Sri Lankan government helicopters and the bullets and bombs they dropped on us. So, we fled to Colombo first, and then to Canada and claimed asylum (via various other safe ‘third countries’) in search of a safer home. Of course, the role of Western countries and their allies in the bloody war in Sri Lanka should not be forgotten. The colonization of Ceylon (what is now known as Sri Lanka) began with the Portuguese, the Dutch, and then the British. In my scholarship, I have argued that this conflict in large part erupted as a result of the policies of former colonial masters. Moreover, the bombs and bullets used in the Sri Lankan conflict were produced by the military industries of the former colonial powers, who profited.

The questions I have raised are tremendously difficult for me to unpack and I confess that I do not have a complete answer. As I continue to learn about the Anishinaabe and the Three Fires Confederacy in whose territory I am now a guest, I cannot ignore the location of our new home that I recently purchased with my partner – as though broadcasting to me every day to remember. Our cross road is Mohawk Street. We park our car on Mohawk street. I see the road sign each morning as I leave for work (the University of Windsor is also located on Anishinaabe land). When I bike to work, I take Seneca street. My office is in the Ron Ianni Law Building (named after a former Windsor Law Dean), overlooking both the United States (more colonized land), and Assumption Church, which is just in front of the law school. The church’s history is complicated at best and is tied to a land claim (which encompasses vast parts of the area) by Walpole First Nation.

Irrespective of how I got to Windsor, Ontario and my various struggles to reach this point, I cannot ignore the fact that I live, work, and love on stolen land. This is a difficult fact to digest for People of Colour. Shaista Patel has eloquently captured this sentiment when she writes: “While we may share some histories, it is critical for us Muslims and other non-indigenous peoples here to not fall into the trap of equating the struggles of Muslims with that of Indigenous Peoples in white settler colonies, where Indigenous Peoples who have been living here since time immemorial have now been outnumbered by whites through illegal land grab, dispossession, and outright genocide”.

White supremacy on Turtle Island is built on what the TRC has coined the twin justification for the colonial and imperial violence: “In short, it was contended that people were being colonized for their own benefit, either in this world or the next”. Through violence and forceful removal of Indigenous Peoples, European settlers built the tapestry of infrastructure that would become Canada and the United States. At times, the process of settling was based on the labour of enslaved peoples and indentured workers from various parts of the world.

Even though I have thought about colonization and settler colonialism in various ways, it is easy to succumb to the divide and rule policies imbedded within our societies built upon white supremacy. The European settlers built this vast infrastructure for one purpose, and one purpose alone: to eliminate Indigenous Peoples and replace them with white settlers. The tapestry that has been carefully crafted then encompasses various imbedded codes of performance. These include the need for recognition of diverse forms of oppression through legal doctrine like antidiscrimination laws.

Western law works, so I have been taught, to create equality between and amongst various peoples. But the demand for equality is left up to the different marginalized groups to articulate. Human rights violations are then to be decided by decision makers invested in white supremacy. Tribunals and courts are set up by the white supremacist settler state with decisions makers devoted to maintaining white supremacy. Indigenous scholars have described this phenomenon as the politics of recognition. Inevitably, this has caused a competition between different marginalized communities, once vividly captured by Professor Patricia Williams as “oppression Olympics”.

My unease with playing the part of a white European settler setting up white supremacist infrastructure in the Blanket Exercise then goes to the root of the second strand of thought (that I referenced at the start). It is a reaction to the recent attempts to implement the Calls to Action of the TRC. The uneasiness is tied to what Devon W. Carbado and Mitu Gulati have coined as “acting white”. Those from the margins seeking recognition will inherently engage in oppression Olympics. It is a competition for resources and space within a market of adjudication. The market built on white supremacist values decides whose discrimination matters more. Oppression Olympics ignores and obscures the historical context by which white supremacy became a reality. Moreover, oppression Olympics hides the fact that marginalized groups are in fact seeking redress from those that continue to oppress and discriminate. This is learned behaviour, dished out via our educational institutions (including law schools).

In a recent talk to researchers at the University of Windsor on decolonizing research methodologies, Professor Hewitt challenged participants to reflect on our own complicity in the ongoing process of colonization. He suggested that we engage in greater self-reflection and pay closer attention to how our own systems and behaviours deeply impact and contribute to the ongoing colonization of Indigenous Peoples.

By engaging in oppression Olympics, People of Colour are helping to maintain white supremacist structures. These structures continue to oppress Indigenous People and People of Colour. We can however, as People of Colour committed to dismantling white supremacist practices, work with Indigenous Peoples on our respective campuses, and in our respective spaces and places. We can foreground Indigenous Peoples’ struggles as a means to achieve our own emancipation. By participating in the Blanket Exercise, building thick relationships, learning more about the lands we inhabit, and supporting the TRC Calls to Action through our words and our actions, we can work alongside Indigenous Peoples in dismantling white supremacist practices for everyone’s benefit, “either in this world or the next”.

Sujith Xavier, Faculty of Law University of Windsor (I am grateful to Amar Bhatia, Fathima Cader, Tyler Dunham, Jeffrey Hewitt and Adrian Smith for their comments)

Xwelíqwiya – The Life of a Stó:lō Matriarch

XweliqwiyaIn a recent conversation, Gillian Calder commented on how helpful she has found the IFLS blog (thanks Sonia Lawrence at Osgoode!), and particularly those posts titled “What we are doing/reading/thinking”.   These posts point/link to interesting texts (without worrying about doing the full out suggestion of how those texts might be used).  The posts do serve to get the creative juices running.  Gillian suggested that folks might consider doing something similar with #ReconciliationSyllabus.

In that spirit, I thought I would share some thoughts on a wonderful new book on my bookshelf: Xwelíqwiya – The Life of a Stó:lō Matriarch.  While I haven’t fully sorted out full teaching materials using the book, I am convinced that it is a powerful resource for those thinking about TRC work in the law school.

The book is about the life of Rena Point Bolton.  Rena Point Bolton is, amongst other things, the mother of Steven Point, British Columbia’s first Indigneous Lieutenant Governor.  Rena is a force of nature herself.

The word “Xwelíqwiya”  in the title is her name in Halq’eméylem , the language of the Stó:lō people.

As the books explains, Stó:lō is the Halq’eméylem word for “river”, and the Stó:lō are the river people. In this case, the lower Fraser River.  In the summer, making the trip from Victoria to the Shuswap, the drive through Abbotsford, Harrison Hot Springs and Chiliwack is in fact a drive through Stó:lō territory (or, Stó:lō tém:éxw).

4159W9VRBHL._SX372_BO1,204,203,200_
Another great resource!

As is all too often the case, the first challenge for me was the limits of my own limited language fluency.  That is, the title.  I was just not sure how to pronounce Rena Point Bolton’s name in Halq’eméylem!  Richard Daly, the other co-author, gives a good approximation of how to do it, while acknowledging the challenges for English speakers, since nearly half of the sounds in the Halq’eméylem language don’t exist in English.  But the book invites the reader to nonetheless plunge in and try.

As an aside, Halq’eméylem has 8 different sounds for what in English is the letter “K”! (click here for a link to an interesting article on the expressive qualities of the language, and here for a link to the First Voices, website, where you can listen to and learn words in the language).  I found myself heading to my bookshelf to flip through my copy (well… the copy I lifted from my mom’s bookshelf?) of the award-winning Stó:lō-Coast Salish Historical Atlas.   It’s another great related resource to check out (click here for a link to a “good reads” review of the book).

But, back to Xwelíqwiya.  I have been practicing saying her name outloud, trying to put the sound of her language into my mouth.   I am still processing the book, but have found myself bringing it up in conversation on a daily basis since completing it.   There is so much in there that is interesting.  For today, here are a few comments.

Firstly, I have been increasingly looking for biographies and life histories of women.   There are some out there, but not nearly enough.  And there are CERTAINLY not enough books out there that engage with the lives of Indigenous women.  This book does that, situating Rena’s life in the flow of both Stó:lō history, and colonial history.  It does so in a way that engages with questions of land, language, lineage, class, marriage, child-raising, economy, culture, politics, and change.  Law is never far from the surface.

What was so remarkable was the way that the book was able to follow this one woman’s life over a period of 90 years in a way that personalized questions of history and politics.  Her story is told in a way that let me both have a sense of proximity to her “voice”, and simultaneoulsy contained the kind of “distance” necessary for a measured appreciation of the depth of her actions, her contributions, and her own learnings.

Second point?  This book left me reflecting on the power of its  two-voiced authorship.  This book was written collaboratively with social anthropologist Richard Daly.  At the beginning of the book, there is a discussion of the practice of joint-authorship used here.  They situate this decision against the background of Salish practices of legal governance: in the context of potlatchs and other important governance work, families will hire a Speaker — that is, someone who will speak publically on behalf of the family (rather than having the family themselves do the speaking).  They make visible that Richard Daly’s role in the project was theorized in this way — his role was very much like that of a Speaker.  There is much to be talked about in terms of the way the authorship of this book is thus an example of Salish practices of legal governance, enacted in a contemporary context, with a non-Stó:lō writer being asked to play a part in what is very much the operationalization of a Stó:lō way of living.

This book is largely written with future Stó:lō readers in mind (Rena says this explicitly), but it is also written in a way that invites the non-Stó:lō reader to join, to listen, and to begin to feel the different rhythms of Stó:lō  life, and to appreciate the power of culture, and of women’s place (historically and in contemporary society) in maintaining, promoting and developing social and legal life.  There is a section at the beginning that talks about the different conventions of reading for Stó:lō and settler readers, and what each can know about the other in order to have a productive conversation.  That was really helpful!

The book itself contains so much nuance and complexity about questions of identity, and of pragmatics, and of strategy.  It helped me get a better appreciation of the many ways that we are all actors in history, and of the many pathways that women have walked, and how sometimes those paths circle back to beginnings.  It also explicitly took up questions of silence — of how Indigenous people (and Indigenous women in particular) have experienced both silence and silencing, and of the politics of silence at different moments in time.  It asks us to understand the different meanings of silence, and to ask when the time might come to change some of our strategies.  Really powerful.

Lots to be said about this book, which I think is another of those must-have books.  It is certainly a true gift to those who are seeking to take up the challenge of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for all Canadians to increase their cultural knowledge. Indeed, six of the Calls to Action place this goal at the centre of calls to “professionals”.  We see acknowledgement of the need for cultural competency in the six calls aimed at:

CallsToActionPDF

  • 23 – Health Care Professionals
  • 24 – Medical and Nursing Schools
  • 27 – Law Societies
  • 28 – Law Schools
  • 57 – Public Servants
  • 92 – The Corporate Sector

I came away from the book having had a taste of what it is to live within a Stó:lō life-world, and the beginnings of an appreciation for the rich history that is written on the land that I live on.  I also have an appreciation for the gift of story, and for this book’s invitation to understand the power and possibility of beginning to live in right-relation.  I love this book, and will be returning to it!  Take a look, and see what you think.   Or, maybe write us a post about something you are looking at these days?   Sharing what we are reading is one way to help us think about the project of decolonizing, and of diversifying the reading lists (particularly the required reading) in our courses.

 

 

 

Gladue reports in the classroom: a group project from the Nunavut Law Program

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Koojesse Inlet, Iqaluit in late September 2017

Benjamin Ralston – benjamin.ralston@usask.ca

What follows is a brief description of a group project that I put together for a course during the first year of the University of Saskatchewan’s Nunavut Law Program. While the context in which this assignment was created is unique, I hope this post might help spark others’ imaginations as to how a robust discussion of the Gladue analysis might be brought into the classroom.

Unique context

I was part of the team that delivered the first year curriculum of the Nunavut Law Program (NLP) during the 2017/2018 academic year. The NLP students are only now completing the ordinary 1L course load of their Juris Doctor degrees. The first year of their four-year program was something more sui generis. First year courses in the NLP included: Legal Process; Inuit History & Government Relations I & II; Introduction to Research & Research Methods; Writing & Communication I & II; Nunavut Land Claims Agreement I & II; Introduction to Professionalism; and Conflict Resolution & Reconciliation.

This group project was used as an assignment for the Introduction to Research & Research Methods course that I taught in the fall term of 2017. The course provided a general introduction to academic research, as well as an introduction to the unique ways in which research is conducted in legal studies and practice. It canvassed the formulation of research questions and plans, literature reviews, research ethics, methods and methodologies, and some of the tools available for legal and academic research. As the course preceded any black letter coursework, the focus was on ‘law-adjacent’ research rather than standard legal research.

The assignment

The students were assigned to create mock “Gladue reports” in groups of five. A Gladue report is a form of pre-sentencing report for Indigenous offenders that provides sentencing judges with the types of information that they need in order to fulfill their obligations under R v Gladue, [1999] 1 SCR 688, Sentencing judges are obliged to consider:

  1. The unique systemic or background factors which may have played a part in bringing the particular Aboriginal offender before the courts; and
  2. The types of sentencing procedures and sanctions which may be appropriate in the circumstances for the offender because of his or her particular Aboriginal heritage.

I put together this Gladue report assignment in order to have students practise their research skills on a project that was both concrete and clearly relevant to their overall legal education, but without requiring much familiarity with black letter law and legal research. It was an attempt at a problem-based learning exercise that would be open-ended enough to allow for creative responses from each group based on their own background knowledge, perspectives, and interests. I also wanted to encourage them to reflect on what they were learning in their Inuit History & Government Relations course in context to legal process.

The project was assigned on the first day of class. Each group was given a set of facts about a fictional character from one of the regions of Inuit Nunangat: Inuvialuit, Nunavut, Nunavik, or Nunatsiavut. Four of the fictional characters were Inuit and one was a fictional Sayisi Dene woman living within Inuit Nunangat. The fact scenarios for each group were meant to nudge the students in the direction of exploring a diversity of Gladue factors. Some but not all of the fact scenarios directly referenced residential school attendance. Others pointed students in the direction of examining how the Gladue analysis might relate to community relocations, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD), the child welfare system, out-adoption, and contemporary racism.

One major constraint on the project was that it would be difficult for students to employ the primary research method used by Gladue report writers: in-person interviews with the subject, as well as their family and community members. Still, we covered qualitative research and interviewing skills in the course and many students ended up interviewing local lawyers or individuals involved in restorative justice initiatives in order to flesh out the available alternatives to incarceration.

Students were encouraged to explore a wide variety of research methods by looking at peer-reviewed academic publications, grey literature, reports from commissions of inquiry, and case law to find information of relevance to the Gladue analysis. In terms of precedents, I provided students with access to three redacted examples of Gladue reports from British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and Ontario that included reference to secondary source research. It is worth noting that not all Gladue reports contain extensive secondary source research so I was selective about the precedents I obtained for this purpose. I wanted to ensure that the precedents were at least partially replicable in the classroom, as opposed to reports that are solely the result of interviews. I also provided the students with three examples of sentencing decisions that I felt clearly address both prongs of the Gladue analysis: R v Drysdale, 2016 SKQB 160; R v Christmas, 2017 NSPC 48; and R v Callihoo, 2017 ABPC 40.

The Gladue report project was also supported by guest lectures throughout the term. For example, Anisa White, Chairperson of the Gladue Writers Society of British Columbia, lectured the class via Skype on how Indigenous legal traditions can be incorporated within Gladue reports—a topic she has previously addressed elsewhere. Our cultural advisor, Aaju Peter, led a discussion of excerpts from Linda Tuhiwai Smith’s Decolonizing Methodologies to get students to think critically about the research process. During Restorative Justice Week, we also had representatives of the Department of Justice come in to speak to the students about restorative justice programming in Nunavut, including the Iqaluit Justice Committee. This was a happy coincidence. And while I was unsuccessful at arranging a guest lecture from someone involved in a Gladue report process elsewhere in Inuit Nunangat, a well-timed news article helped demonstrate the reports’ potential relevance to Inuit regions and was shared for discussion. Note that unlike Nunavik, Gladue reports are rarely if ever used in Nunavut courts.

The results

This group project was assessed through a combination of the final mock Gladue reports, group presentations on their work-in-progress in advance, and reflective essays mid-way through the project. The plurality of assessments allowed me to weigh in on their progress well in advance to see how the course materials were being applied in context to the assignment. This was a research class after all.

There is a broad scope as to what types of information may qualify as relevant to a Gladue analysis. While most Gladue reports are largely focused on a community’s history, the individual’s history, and what programming is available in the community, they may also engage with social science research and information on Indigenous legal traditions, among other things. I encouraged students to prepare their reports in response to the Supreme Court of Canada’s directions in R v Gladue rather than feeling constrained by the redacted precedents I provided, which were themselves diverse in their approaches and content in any event.

The students clearly took this advice to heart. One of the reports provided a very detailed treatment of how FASD relates to sentencing and the Gladue analysis, clearly linking this to the limited programming available in Nunavut. That same report also provided a detailed community history of Iqaluit, summarized in large part from the Community Histories component of the Qikiqtani Truth Commission’s Final Report. Other students contributed sections that addressed the impacts of the child welfare system on Indigenous children, for example, or that provided specific and detailed statistical information on how systemic discrimination manifests itself in specific communities. One report provided a detailed discussion of the impacts of high arctic relocations on Inuit in Nunavut and Nunavik. This was based in part on secondary sources but also included interviews with family members of one of the students in this group who experienced a relocation firsthand. More than one of the students’ mock Gladue reports touched on Inuit legal traditions as well.

The students’ reflection papers provided other interesting insights into how the Gladue analysis might be adapted to the realities of Inuit Nunangat. Several students raised concerns with the lack of Inuit-specific research available on the intergenerational impacts of the residential school system, community dislocation, and colonization. Many were uncomfortable relying on research that made broader generalizations about Indigenous experiences while being focused on First Nations rather than Inuit experiences. This was a good example of what we learned in the course about the identification of research gaps through a literature review. One student made a persuasive argument for the need to modify the name, form, and content of Gladue reports to better reflect Inuit culture and perspectives, linking this to course readings from Cindy Blackstock and Linda Tuhiwai Smith. Another who had a background in the criminal justice system persuasively argued that emphasis on community and familial dysfunction in a Gladue report could be coded as risk factors that lead to even greater levels of overincarceration for Inuit. Needless to say, I learned as much if not more than the students through administering this project.

Reflections for the future

Overall, I think this assignment was a success. Each group was able to demonstrate research skills on a project that was open-ended and interest-driven. There is enough complexity and depth built into the Gladue analysis that each group had the freedom to approach the assignment from unique angles and perspectives. The focus of the project was on developing and practising research skills, but this was accomplished in a way that I believe to be at least partially responsive to Call to Action #28.

On the other hand, the students’ inability to extensively engage in the interviewing process was a significant limitation. All groups conducted interviews regarding community-based resources that could be put forward as alternatives to incarceration and at least one group conducted interviews for the community history component of their report. Yet the investigation-type interviews conducted by Gladue report writers were not replicable in this assignment as the scenarios were fictional. This was disappointing as the students did not have a chance to practise what they learned about interview techniques as part of this project. For example, we had discussed the importance of asking open-ended questions, and clarifying and corroborating information obtained through interviews, all of which are equally relevant to the practice of law as they are to the Gladue report process.

These limitations may be addressed by having law students directly involved in the preparation of real Gladue reports through an externship program like the one that is apparently taking place at the University of Alberta. Unfortunately, in jurisdictions like Saskatchewan and Nunavut where there is no formal process for the preparation of Gladue reports, we have little choice but to use our imaginations.

Resources

Among other resources, students were assigned the following relevant readings during this course:

  • Kelly Hannah-Moffat & Paula Marutto, “Re-contextualizing Pre-Sentence Reports: Risk and Race” (2011) 12:2 Punishment and Society
  • Cindy Blackstock, “First Nations Children Count: Enveloping Quantitative Research in an Indigenous Envelope” (2009) 4(2) First Peoples Child & Family Review 135
  • Rebecca Johnson & Lori Groft, “Learning Indigenous Law: Reflections on Working with Western Inuit Stories” (2017) 2:2 Lakehead Law Journal 117
  • Hadley Friedland & Val Napoleon, “Gathering the Threads: Developing a Methodology for Researching and Rebuilding Indigenous Legal Traditions” (2015-2016) 1:1 Lakehead Law Journal 16
  • Linda Tuhiwai Smith, Decolonising Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples (London & New York: Zed Books, 1999) [excerpts]
  • Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and Nunavut Research Institute, Negotiating Research Relationships with Inuit Communities: A Guide for Researchers, Scot Nickels et al, eds (Ottawa & Iqaluit: Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami and Nunavut Research Institute, 2006)
  • Benjamin Ralston & Christine Goodwin “R v. Drysdale: A Gold Standard for the Implementation of R v. Gladue” (2017) 33:7 Criminal Reports 114
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“Inuktitut word of the week” board in the NLP classroom, maintained by the Nunavut Law Students Society