General principles of reconciliation syllabus

I really love Rebecca’s idea to use local reference points to introduce the reconciliation syllabus to JD students.  At UBC, we are blessed to be located on unceded Musqueam land in close proximity to the Musqueam reserve and to have a cohort of Musqueam, Tsleil-Waututh & Squamish students, not to mention wonderful Indigenous faculty members.  So much of the Canadian law on Aboriginal rights and titles has come from right here – R. v. Sparrow [1990] 1 SCR 1075 and R. v. Guerin [1984] 2 SCR 335 are, of course, the biggest examples.  We can and should do more to make these connections between place and curriculum alive for our students.

Once one expands into BC as a whole, of course, the connections (and the legal histories) become even richer and more vibrant.  T’silqhotin explodes the concept that Aboriginal title is confined to postage stamp reserves, and we need to interrogate the implications of that recognition for other parts of BC and Canada.  I really like Cole Harris’s book Locating Native Space because it demonstrates just how historically contingent the BC reserve system was, and how it could very easily have been otherwise.  It shows that our colonial forebears were well aware of what they were doing when they stripped First Nations of their land and property – this is, I think, an important antidote to the anachronistic concept that we are, somehow, more enlightened in our dealings with First Nations than the colonial governments of first contact.  (To compare and contrast the tactics of the early BC governors around reserve allocation with the tactics of current federal and provincial governments in the NEB process re Northern Gateway would, for example, be a fascinating exercise.)

The UBC Museum of Anthropology and Musqueam have collaborated on an exhibition (c̓esnaʔəm, the city before the city) to examine Musqueam identity and worldview.  It offers lots of information – including oral histories and so on – but just as importantly, it aims to emulate Musqueam ways of teaching.  It’s only scheduled to remain in the physical space until January 2016, but I believe that the content will be archived online and will remain available (http://www.thecitybeforethecity.com)

One concern I have is about how to incorporate Indigenous perspectives, Indigenous elders and Indigenous teaching into our curriculum without making overwhelming demands on Indigenous leaders and Indigenous colleagues and without cultural appropriation or misrepresentation.  Any ideas that others can share on that question would be extremely helpful to me.

Another thing that I want especially to raise and discuss is the TRC recommendation that inter-cultural conflict resolution should be taught in law schools.  I love this idea, and I am really not certain about how to advance it.  Do others know of good resources that might assist us to tackle this recommendation?

A further thing I wonder and worry about is how especially to support our Indigenous students as they are learning law.  Changing the curriculum to ensure that Indigenous law and Indigenous perspectives are foregrounded with great respect is important – but so too is the material context in which our students study.  Recognising that law school presents financial, emotional and other challenges to many students, I suspect that these challenges are especially acute for Indigenous students.  Easing these challenges seems an important part of the #reconciliationsyllabus.

My next task is to be a bit less introspective, and a little more instrumental, by posting some of the readings I actually use and discussions I lead in various courses.  These could, I’m sure, be improved and added to and, yes, critiqued – please add your thoughts!

This is my first blog post.  And this is such a sensitive and important topic.  Please give me feedback on whether I have understood the format correctly, and expressed myself in a helpful way!

apihtawikosisan.com

CaptureThis amazing resource is the work of Chelsea Vowel, Metis, Plains Cree speaking, LLB holding powerhouse (i’ve never met her, but have been following her online for years).  She is a go to source for me.  She tweets at @apihtawikosisan. She’s even made a video game and has a podcast called Metis in space (about scifi and indigenous issues).   On her site she blogs but has also put together what she calls a primer on Aboriginal Issues. http://apihtawikosisan.com/aboriginal-issue-primers/legal-links/  

Highly recommended for a visit.  Even if you don’t put her things on the syllabus, I think that directing your students to the blog is a really important move.  I think that generally trying to send students to indigenous media sources is part of this work, since, “digital natives” or no, they can have remarkably narrow web habits.   The web offers the possibility of seeing how current events are filtered through different perspectives.

-Sonia

 

Wampum at Niagara (it’s not just about the Royal Proclamation)

In 2014, the Canadian Association of Law Teacher’s held their annual conference in Winnipeg (http://www.acpd-calt.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/CALT-Conference-Program-May-26.pdf).
Ovide Mercredi gave a speech at the dinner. During his speech he asked the group what significant anniversary was happening in 2014. The answer was the anniversary of the Treaty of Niagara. He then challenged us as to why so few of us knew that and why we weren’t teaching the Treaty making as opposed to just the Royal Proclamation.  I have lots of excuses, but none are very good.
Whether for the Reconciliation Syllabus or for ConLaw teaching, I can’t recommend John Borrows’ Wampum at Niagara enough.
“Wampum at Niagara: The Royal Proclamation, Canadian Legal History, and Self-Government.” In Aboriginal and Treaty Rights in Canada: Essays on Law, Equality, and Respect for Difference. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1997. 155-172.
SFU even has it online http://www.sfu.ca/~palys/Borrows-WampumAtNiagara.pdf
It is listed on the UBC indigenous foundations site too.

I think that is particularly important for those in my geographic area, given the nations who were represented at Niagara.  But I think the article goes well beyond that in outlining the significance of Niagara.

-Sonia

Finding Resources Close to my Shuswap (Secwepmc) Home

By Rebecca Johnson

TRC Recommendation #28 says:

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.

I have been thinking about how to develop curriculum that addresThe view from my mom's Shuswap homeses this recommendation, and in doing so, have been thinking about how to make this recommendation more ‘personal’.  That is, I have been thinking about ways the recommendation could be rooted in my own sense of “home”.  What would it mean to find resources that speak to my own embedding, as a Settler-Canadian, in these histories?  What would it mean to see MYSELF in this history?  And so, I started to think about resources that are linked to my ‘heart-home’:  the Shuswap Lake.

Here are some pieces I have been thinking might work together as a pod of resources, one which is located in BC (given my location here), and which is located in the Shuswap (Secwepmc territory)  where I spend my summers.

I thought it a good place to start because I have spent so much of my life there, I deeply love the land there, and grew up (like many Settler Canadians) knowing NOTHING of the real history of the place, or of the law of the Secwepmc, or of this history of Setter/Secwepmc interactions.

Partly, I wonder if one way for many of us in law schools to start doing this work is to start it from the place that we are AT.  That is, to try to gather together the resources that might enable us to really teach our students in the spaces that they learn… so they begin to see how the various stories of law are all around them in a very concrete way.

I do not, of course, think that is the ONLY way to approach the work, but I do wonder about the ways the work might feel if we take seriously the ways in which we too (i am presuming a settler ‘we’ here, but am open to conversation on that point) are living on particular places, and might benefit from taking seriously the histories and resources of those places.

And so, here is a first intervention, and I REALLY welcome ideas and feedback about resources, stories, documents that might work together to think about law school curricula linked to Secwepmc territory.

so… a starting place might be basic information about the territory, told from the perspective of current indigenous political communities.  As a starting place, it might involve some attention to using the names indigneous communities use for themselves.  So… if not ‘drop’ the Shuswap, then at least think about also usins Secwepmc (or at least beginning the discussions of naming).  And so, maybe begin with some links to how the communities describe themselves and their lands.  Maybe a link like this? http://tkemlups.ca/our-land/

Might be useful to start with questions about land and governance.

  • Memorial, to Sir Wilfred Laurier, From the Chiefs of the Shuswap, Okanagan and Couteau Tribes of British Columbia. Presented at Kamloops, B.C. August 25, 1910 

http://shuswapnation.org/to-sir-wilfrid-laurier/

Then, what about histories of residential schools?  In this case, we have a wonderful memorie written by a student who attended the Williams Lake residential school.

  • They-called-me-number-one-250x386 Bev Sellars, They Called Me Number One.

This book came highly recommended by friends.  I just finished it last weekend.  So much in there to talk about and discuss.  Here is a link to a short review of it:

https://www.alumni.ubc.ca/2014/events/book-club/they-called-me-number-one-by-bev-sellars/

The book is full of material that could link in easily to any number of courses and topics.  It deals with language, parenting, land, education, torts, crime, politics, policing, governance, religion, hope, despair, etc.

There are some very obvious links to mainstream curriculum.  For example, the Principal at the Williams Lake Residential School was Archbishop O’Connor (familiar in the criminal law curriculum with respect to the right of an accused to have access to the private counselling records of a ‘complainant’ in a sexual assault case).   I found it interesting to re-think/teach the story of O’Connor against the context of the work done in Bev Sellar’s memoire.

  •  R v. O’Connor

          http://scc-csc.lexum.com/scc-csc/scc-csc/en/item/1323/index.do

Another recourse to link in could be this:

  • Report on the Caribou-Chilcotin Justice Inquiry 1993

http://www.llbc.leg.bc.ca/public/pubdocs/bcdocs/149599/cariboochilcotinjustice.pdf

Here, there is a chance to look at the Report of an Inquiry, and in this case, a fairly short report.  Nicely, Bev Sellars was involved in the Inquiry, so her memoire provides an occasion to ask questions about what does or does not end up in the Report of the Inquiry itself.

  • Links to the present might include exploration of the 2010 BCLA intervention in on-going conflict between RCMP and the Williams Lake Community (which gives an opportunity to explore how contemporary moments of conflict find roots in the deeper histories)

https://bccla.org/news/2010/09/conflict-between-rcmp-and-aboriginal-community-in-williams-lake-must-be-investigated-and-resolved-says-bccla/

Well… this is just a start.  Would love to hear ideas from others about how these pieces might be pulled together (or substituted with others) in the interests of moving towards TRC2015 Recommendation #28