In the summer of 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission released the executive summary of its Final Report, following on years of gathering information about Canada’s legacy from Indian Residential Schools. The process of implementing the various Calls to Action will take many years, and will involve participation from most segments of Canadian society.
Law is, of course, deeply implicated in this history. Law schools will have an important role to play in the long-term processes of reconciliation. That is clear in Call to Action #28:
#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.
In a short article in Canadian Lawyer reflecting on the implications of this Call for Canadian law schools to take action, we (Gillian Calder and Rebecca Johnson) said:
“And on recommendation 28, we hope law schools across the country will take up the challenge to talk to each other. What educations models have been employed at universities to address the legacies of genocide, and what partnerships have been put in place to engage creatively and rigorously on those questions? What strategies, curricular innovations, and programs have already been put in place to take up the questions of indigenous laws in our multi-juridical country? What have our colleagues tried in their classrooms? What innovative pedagogies have they developed to ensure that the critical questions of colonialism are woven into all courses?” http://www.canadianlawyermag.com/5620/TRC-offers-a-window-of-opportunity-for-legal-education.html
And then we got a note from lawyer Elin Sigurdson, reflecting on the work being done by the hashtag #CharlestonSyllabus in the US, to help people generate lists of readings or resources for moving forward some US conversations on histories of race and hate. What about, she asked, doing something similar with the TRC Recommendation #28, maybe using hashtag #ReconciliationSyllabus? Could we imagine that as one avenue for moving us forward with the important conversations about legal education and reconciliation? Great idea!
And so, we invite our colleagues to start sharing ideas, thoughts, texts, comments, etc using the twitter hashtag #ReconciliationSyllabus. We imagine this wordpress site as one spot for the conversation about resources, strategies, and possibilities to take place. What might be required of us is courage, imagination, and vulnerability. What might be required are examples of both success and failure in this endeavour, as we begin to imagine the kinds of actions necessary to have the Calls to Action take shape in the world? Hopefully, this (non-institutionally grounded) site can be a decentralized site for all those teaching law in Canada.
And so, this site is an invitation to law professors across Canada (and lawyers? and students?) to gather together ideas about resources and pedagogies that might support recommendation #28 of the TRC Calls to Action: the call for us to rethink both what and how we teach in our schools.
Leave us a comment if you want to be added as a contributor!