In 2016, the respondent Ms. Sharma, an Indigenous woman, pled guilty to importing two kilograms of cocaine, contrary to s. 6(1) of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (“CDSA”). Ms. Sharma sought a conditional sentence of imprisonment, and challenged the constitutional validity of the two-year mandatory minimum sentence under s. 6(3)(a.1) of the CDSA and of ss. 742.1(b) and 742.1(c) of the Criminal Code, which make conditional sentences unavailable in certain situations. The sentencing judge found that the two-year mandatory minimum sentence under s. 6(3)(a.1) of the CDSA violated s. 12 of the Charter and could not be saved under s. 1. The judge therefore declined to address the constitutional challenge to s. 742.1(b), and he dismissed the s. 15 challenge to s. 742.1(c). Ms. Sharma was sentenced to 18 months’ imprisonment, less one month for pre-sentence custody and other factors.
Ms. Sharma appealed and, with the Crown’s consent, also brought a constitutional challenge to s. 742.1(e)(ii) of the Criminal Code. A majority of the Court of Appeal allowed the appeal. Sections 742.1(c) and 742.1(e)(ii) were found to infringe both ss. 7 and 15(1) of the Charter, and the infringement could not be justified under s. 1. The majority held that the appropriate sentence would have been a conditional sentence of 24 months less one day, but as the custodial sentence had already been completed, a sentence of time served was substituted. Miller J.A., dissenting, would have dismissed the appeal and upheld the sentence of imprisonment.
The outcome of the case is that the majority (Brown, Rowe, Wagner, Moldaver, and Coté) found there to be no violation of either s.7 or s.15(1) of the Charter. The dissenters (Karakatsanis, Kasirer, Martin and Jamal) came to the opposite position, finding violations of both.
The case is likely to generate lots of discussion, given the quite stark differences in how the majority and dissent (5-4 split) understood the challenges in front of them. Perhaps this will come as no surprise, given the number of interventions in the case (here is a link to the 23 facta filed in the case – Facta on Appeal). There is some powerful written and oral advoacy in this case, and there is much in here that could be profitably drawn into the law school classroom. Here is a quick link to the webcast of the case: Webcast of hearing in Sharma)
On November 7, there was a “Pop-Up Conversation on Sharma” at UVic law, with Professors David Milward, John Borrows, Patricia Cochran, Patricia Barkaskas and Rebecca Johnson, and Sentator Kim Pate and UVic law student Michael Davidson (2L in the JD/JID program). The point was to provide an introduction to the case, followed by a series of short (3-5 minute) interventions, attempting to start a conversation about the case, and about how to understand next steps forward in terms of addressing the crisis of over-incarceration. [On that front, here is a news item on the report of Correctional Investigator Ivan Zinger, released mere days before Sharma.]
For the purposes of #ReconciliationSyllabus, we gather here some of the resources from that event, to share with folks who are trying to figure out how to be responsive to the TRC Calls to Action in engaging with both the majority and dissent in this case.
First, here is a link to an audio recording of the Pop-up-Panel.
Rebecca Johnson (Introduction to the Case)
Questions & Conversation
Second, here is a link to the handout prepared for the conversation.
Third, here is a link to the background powerpoint prepared by Rebecca Johnson for use in the Criminal Law classroom [it is open access, so feel free to use, modify, change, as you will…. and to disagree!]
The audience also took up the relationships between litigating and legislating for change, pointing to Bill C-5, which attempts to reduce the number of ‘excluded offences’ in order to create the discretion needed to build sentencing practices that respond to the TRC calls to incorporate Indigenous centred approaches to justice.
There is so much to be said about this case, particularly the majority and dissent engage in quite different ways with the challenges ahead of responding to and reversing the complete crisis of Indigenous over-incarceration in Canada, and particularly the over-incarcernation of Indigenous Women.
We know there are many resources out there to help us, in our law schools, engage with the challenges ahead. We would love for folks to attach to this post any additional resources (articles, links, teaching materials, ideas) in order to begin changing either the discourse, or the legislative framework or the shape of our conversations (both in our classrooms, and in the broader public).
The pursuit of reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Peoples is becoming more and more widespread, permeating unexpected aspects of Canadian life. Many teachers across the country are eagerly taking up this challenge, but sometimes struggle to find accurate and appropriate lesson plans to work with.
The Confederation Debates took up this challenge in one small area by developing mini-units for grade 7-12 teachers that bring Treaty histories into Confederation discussions. For historians and legal scholars, the term “Confederation” is usually constrained to visions of the 1864 conferences at Charlottetown and Quebec City with the likes of John A. Macdonald, George-Étienne Cartier and Leonard Tilley. A charitable few academics extend this to include the Red River Resistance (around present-day Winnipeg), British Columbia and Prince Edward Island, which all entered Confederation by 1873. Even these depictions leave out many of Canada’s provinces as well as Indigenous Peoples not present for the Red River Resistance.
The Confederation Debates challenges these preconceptions. In addition to expanding the temporal scope of “Confederation” to include Canada’s most recently added provinces and territories, its leadership wanted the project to affirm that Indigenous Peoples were — and continue to be — “partners in Confederation” (as the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples insisted). Thus, on the project’s website, treaty texts and records of treaty negotiation are positioned alongside the verbatim records of legislative debates about each province’s decision to join or reject Confederation.
While the project lacked the resources to reproduce the texts of all historic and modern Treaties, along with the records of their negotiation our team, a multi-disciplinary team comprised of Robert Hamilton, Daniel Heidt, Jennifer Thivierge, Bobby Cole and Elisa Sance, developed educational mini units that allow grade 7/8 and high school students across the country to develop a multifaceted understanding of their province’s entry into Confederation. To guide this team’s work, the project’s leadership sought the guidance of John Borrows, who provided helpful and regular oversight. Each mini-unit, catered to address each province’s curriculum requirements, is split into “parliamentary” and “Indigenous” sections. The former provides the research sources and original records necessary for an engaging mock parliamentary debate on a province’s entry into Confederation. The latter section contains two lesson plans about Indigenous peoples and their roles in shaping the country.
In developing these lesson plans, we sought to challenge historical narratives which minimize or erase the role of Indigenous peoples, providing an understanding of Confederation which recognizes Indigenous agency. This required rethinking notions of Confederation that construed Indigenous peoples as cultural minorities within a broader political community. These activities were developed to emphasize simplicity, Indigenous agency, and fiduciary obligations. To that end, the mini-units begins with a brief summary for teachers about conceptualizing confederation:
There are two very distinct stories we can tell about Confederation and Canada’s Indigenous Peoples. In one story, Indigenous Peoples are largely invisible. Here, their only presence is found in s.91(24) of the British North America Act, 1867, where “Indians, and lands reserved for the Indians” were deemed to be federal, as opposed to provincial, jurisdiction. This has subsequently been interpreted as providing the federal government with a power over Indigenous Peoples and their lands. The Indian Act of 1876, which is largely still with us today, was passed on this basis. This created what political philosopher James Tully has called an “administrative dictatorship” which governs many aspects of Indigenous life in Canada. Many of the most profoundly upsetting consequences of colonialism are traceable in large part to the imposition of colonial authority through s.91(24) and the Indian Act of 1876.
But there is another story as well. Canada did not become a country in single moment. Though the British North America Act, 1867, created much of the framework for the government of Canada, Canada’s full independence was not gained until nearly a century later. Similarly, the century preceding 1867 saw significant political developments that would shape the future country. Canada’s Constitution is both written and unwritten. Its written elements include over 60 Acts and amendments, several of which were written prior to 1867. The Royal Proclamation, 1763, for example, is a foundational constitutional document, the importance of which is reflected by its inclusion in s.25 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Royal Proclamation, 1763 established a basis for the relationship between the British Crown and Indigenous Peoples in North America. By establishing a procedure for the purchase and sale of Indigenous lands, the proclamation recognized the land rights of Indigenous Peoples and their political autonomy.
Both the pre-Confederation and post-Confederation treaties form an important part of this history and what legal scholar Brian Slattery calls Canada’s “constitutional foundation.” It is through Treaties such as these that the government opened lands for resource development and westward expansion. It is also through the treaty relationship that Indigenous Peoples became partners in Confederation and helped construct Canada’s constitutional foundations.
Our challenge was to present narratives of Confederation that provide students with a glimpse into the complexity and pluralism in Canada’s founding in ways that were historically accurate and accessible for students in the grade ranges we targeted.
Towards this end, we developed two exercises focusing on Indigenous issues as part of the lesson plans. The first is a “leaving a trace” exercise that helps students to understand how cultural misunderstanding can come about, as well as how historical events are shaped by both the chronicler and the interpreter of historical narratives. The exercise requires students to silently draw their own recent activities or conversations and then ask their peers to interpret those ‘records’ without any contextual information. This exercise encourages students to think critically about the materials used in their second activity.
The second activity is a mock “museum curation” exercise where students learn about a Treaty in their province by breaking into groups to study one of up to six ‘artifacts.’ One group researches the treaty, other groups study Indigenous and Crown negotiators, and at least one group studies a cultural object that was important to the negotiations. For example, in the British Columbia exercise, groups receive one of the following:
Text of a Vancouver Island Treaty
Biography of Sir James Douglas
Biography of David Latass
Biography of Joseph Trutch
Written description of the WSÁNEĆ reef net fishery
Records of treaty negotiation and comments on treaty implementation
Each item or historical figure was carefully chosen for the historical information and perspectives they exemplified. Teachers also have a list of questions to guide discussion. The first group is provided with a text of one of the Vancouver Island Treaties. We felt that it was crucial for students to actually engage the text of treaty.
Using these ‘artifact’ records, each group is expected to produce an exhibit to share their findings (ex. a diorama, poster etc…) and the teacher then guides the class through the exhibit with questions designed by our team to spur discussion. In the case of the Vancouver Island Treaty, for example, the questions include:
What rights and responsibilities are recognized in the treaty?
The treaty uses complex and technical legal language. Did you find it easy to understand?
Would it have been difficult for people who did not grow up speaking English to understand the language used?
Which of the parties to the treaty might have benefitted most from having it written this way?
How might current understandings of the treaty be shaped by the fact that the only copy is written in English and articulated in dense legal language?
What might be missing from the treaty as it is presented here?
These questions were designed to help teachers to guide the students through a critical reading of the text while developing their critical faculties. Some of the questions could elicit quite sophisticated answers. But we also believed that it could open students’ (and perhaps even teachers’) minds to new ways of understanding treaty relationships.In addition to these questions, The Confederation Debates encourages teachers to invite local Indigenous leaders to also join this tour, hoping that it will allow these local leaders to comment on the displays and raise important questions about representations of historical relationships and the nature of the Crown obligations undertaken in the treaties.
Taken together, our team hopes that these activities will be one of the many tools that teachers will use to help their students explore history, historical narratives, Indigenous agency, and the meaning of Confederation. By helping students to learn that Confederation encompasses all of Canada’s provinces, territories and Indigenous Peoples, we hope to foster dialogues that will improve Indigenous and non-Indigenous relationships.
This work, however, is not yet finished. To complete its bold vision of educational materials, the project is still in need of volunteers. Despite undertaking considerable preliminary planning, the project ultimately lacked the resources to complete mini-units for the territories as well as Newfoundland and Labrador. If anyone is interested in co-developing the Treaty sections of these mini-units, please contact one of us and we’ll be happy to share the work completed to-date.
Faculty of Law
University of Victoria
This is a description of and reflection on an in-class exercise I did with a group of 115 students studying constitutional law. The exercise asked the students to respond to the TRC’s call for the creation of a Royal Proclamation and Covenant of Reconciliation.
Call to Action 45 reads in part:
45. We call upon the Government of Canada, on behalf of all Canadians, to jointly develop with Aboriginal peoples a Royal Proclamation of Reconciliation to be issued by the Crown. The proclamation would build on the Royal Proclamation of 1763 and the Treaty of Niagara of 1764, and reaffirm the nation-to-nation relationship between Aboriginal peoples and the Crown.
In this exercise, I invited students to work together to address some preliminary issues that would need to be addressed in order to move forward with this recommendation.
At my institution, constitutional law is a year-long, mandatory, first-year course that aims to introduce students to important constitutional law issues, and to provide students with a substantive and methodological foundation on which to further study the constitution in the future. We meet for 1 hr and 20 minutes twice a week. This year, the first four classes of the term were devoted to exploring questions around the sources of Canadian constitutional law and how those sources relate to each other. In particular, we focused on the complicated questions of sovereignty, jurisdiction, and the history of Indigenous-Crown relations. I assigned excerpts from:
the final RCAP report,
books by Jeremy Webber and John Borrows,
SCC decisions including Guerin and Tsilhqot’in.
One key element of the course is participation in an online Reading Journal. Throughout the year, students are asked to write a certain number of reflections (this year, 8) on the text we read, before we discuss them in class. The journal entries are not evaluated on their content, only on the fact of their completion. As an instructor, I find reading these journals an invaluable part of my teaching practice; they reveal to me common questions, themes, points of confusion and the amazing range of connections that students make to their other academic training, community work, and life experiences.
In the fourth class of the term, we addressed the difficulties that arise for Canadian constitutionalism when we squarely face the question of how Canadian law applies in this land at all. Presented with the history of Canadian law and the inability of colonial law to justify itself on many of its own terms, students often see a crisis of legitimacy or a paradox. This inherent tension is perhaps nowhere more starkly presented that in paragraph 69 of theTsihqot’in decision:
 The starting point in characterizing the legal nature of Aboriginal title is Dickson J.’s concurring judgment in Guerin, discussed earlier. At the time of assertion of European sovereignty, the Crown acquired radical or underlying title to all the land in the province. This Crown title, however, was burdened by the pre-existing legal rights of Aboriginal people who occupied and used the land prior to European arrival. The doctrine of terra nullius (that no one owned the land prior to European assertion of sovereignty) never applied in Canada, as confirmed by the Royal Proclamation of 1763. The Aboriginal interest in land that burdens the Crown’s underlying title is an independent legal interest, which gives rise to a fiduciary duty on the part of the Crown.
In this class session, I aimed to provide ways for students to address this tension/crisis/paradox directly, and (drawing on the SCC’s reasoning in the Quebec Secession Referenceand scholars such as Webber and Borrows) to think about ways in which constitutional law is a complex process for facilitating relationships. Also, perhaps more than anything, I wanted to provide a way for students to hold in view a serious, foundational critique of the legitimacy of Canadian constitutional law, without seeing as inevitable a cynical, thin or purely instrumental understanding of what law is and its role in society.
To that end, I devoted the last 20 minutes of the class to a small discussion exercise addressing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s call for the creation of a Royal Proclamation and Covenant of Reconciliation. My goal for this exercise was to orient students to the future and the ongoing relationships in which they participate.
To prepare students to do the exercise, I spent about 20 minutes discussing the argument offered by John Borrows in Chapter 1 of Canada’s Indigenous Constitution. I also spent about 20 minutes addressing, in very general terms, three legal theoretical concerns that I drew out of the questions and comments raised by students in their Reading Journals. I wrote three sets of terms on the board, and under each set of terms, articulated for the full group several questions that were raised privately by students in their journals.
Under the first set of terms, we discussed law’s disputed relationships to violence, force and power. I discussed arguments that law and force are mutually exclusive concepts (referencing the students’ exposure to legal positivism in their introductory legal process course), and arguments that legal structures are simply institutional articulations of political power relations.
Under the second set of terms, we discussed the potential usefulness of thinking about legal obligations as different from other kinds of obligations (here, drawing on an earlier class discussion of the Guerin case). I identified the concerns about the conceptual indefinability of “law” (if everything is “law,” nothing is), as well as the history of using the boundaries of “law” to identify certain people as having none.
Under the third set of terms, I talked about legal claims as distinct from other kinds of “factual” claims. Again drawing on Webber and Borrows, I described the possibility of understanding law a rhetorical practice, in which descriptive modes of speaking may simultaneously be exhortatory, aspirational, and future-oriented. I emphasized for students the contested nature of that approach, inviting them to work on developing their own view.
Discussion exercise on the Royal Proclamation and Covenant of Reconciliation
Against that background, I invited students to work in groups of four to take up the TRC’s Call to Action 45. I gave them only the first paragraph of the Call, leaving out the list of items that the Commission saw as important elements to include. My rationale was to make sure students did not feel bound by that list, or distracted by the fact that most of its elements would be unfamiliar to them (not yet having studied s. 35, for example).
I acknowledged, and urged students to appreciate, that in order to meaningfully respond to this Call to Action, far more knowledge would be required and radically different processes would be needed. Thus, I did not ask them to draft a new Royal Proclamation, but rather to address some preliminary questions. The exercise directed as follows:
Drawing on the course materials in constitutional law so far, discuss this Call to Action with your group and create a record of your conversation on a large paper.
Consider the following questions:
1. What form might such a Proclamation take? What would it look like? (Format? Languages? Long or short? Detailed or general? Etc.)
2. What are some of the substantive issues or themes that you would expect to find addressed in this Proclamation?
3. What kinds of processes would be required to respond meaningfully to this Call to Action? (Who would participate? What knowledge and expertise would be required? Whose interests are at stake?)
In responding to these questions, you may find it useful to consider questions such as:
What would the scholars we have engaged with so far include in the Proclamation? What would Webber think, what would Borrows think? In what ways might they disagree?
How do your ideas for the Proclamation relate to the historical accounts offered by RCAP?
How does your discussion relate the new Proclamation to existing constitutional texts such as the Royal Proclamation 1763, Constitution Act 1867, Constitution Act 1982
Is your new Proclamation consistent with Guerin? With Tsilhqot’in? Or does it change the law? Does it take a form that can achieve that change?
To engage in this exercise, students were provided with 11 x 17 sized papers and coloured markers. I gave them around 15 minutes to work on the three questions, to make notes on the papers, and then post their work around the room. For the final 5 minutes, students walked around to read their colleagues responses.
Most student groups organized their notes according to the three questions posed, listing elements they discussed under each theme. As expected, a large range of issues were discussed. The prompt about language yielded an unexpected (to me) amount of conversation, with numerous groups exploring how to make their Proclamation equally authoritative and/or accessible in multiple languages.
On reflection, I believe the exercise achieved its core objective of providing students with an outlet for future-oriented thinking in constitutional law. The largest drawback I observed relates to the basic tension I often experience in teaching a broad, introductory course, and that is the question of whether it is more pedagogically effective to begin from concepts or from context. This exercise, presented so early on in the course and in such a short time, tended towards engagement with abstract concepts rather than the rich, real context of questions around sovereignty. This made the exercise accessible, and served the objective of encouraging critical thought around basic concepts such as sovereignty. However, it also encouraged a broad and sometimes superficial engagement, with many student groups speaking in general terms about justice and equality, with little attention to the real nature of the dilemma. (For example, no student group noted whether their proposal contemplated a change to the law, or distinguished between actions that would have to be taken by federal and provincial governments, Indigenous governments, Canadian courts, civil society, etc.). In some ways, the goal of the exercise was undercut to the extent that it allowed students to make sweeping claims about the legitimacy or illegitimacy of the Canadian constitutional order, without grounding those claims in legal or political context, or accounting for the implications of such claims. This observation leads me to think that the value of an exercise such as this may be in its potential as part of a larger, iterative process. Repeated again near the end of constitutional law, this exercise might allow students to draw together their forward-looking aspirations with a more concrete sense of its context and implications.
I will try some version of this exercise again in the future, with a view to framing constitutional law as a potential site for transforming relationships between Indigenous and settler peoples and legal orders, and individuals and communities as active agents in the creation of constitutional law.
John Borrows, Canada’s Indigenous Constitution (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2010).
Jeremy Webber, The Constitution of Canada: A Contextual Analysis (Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2015).
The TRC Calls to Action speak to the importance (for law students, lawyers, doctors, nurses, journalists, bureaucrats, citizens) of learning about:
If you are looking for examples of the application of Indigenous Law and procedure in a contemporary context, then here is a great case for you, “In the matter of R v. Joseph Thomas and R v. Christopher Brown and Esquimalt and Ditidaht Nations”
The case started in BC Provincial Court, involving two men who were charged with hunting/poaching in violation of the BC Wildlife Act. I first heard about the case in a newspaper report, and was completely taken with it!
Here is a copy of the Case Comment/Case Report, summarizing the case, and signed by the Chiefs of the Esquimalt and Ditidaht First Nations. i-5-sentencing-dec-11-15-signed-chiefs-case-comment (with many thanks to lawyers Steven Kelliher and Declan Redman)
This case has been positively hope-inducing in me (a less than common feeling for one who spends much of her time teaching Canadian Criminal Law). Below is a copy of the ILRU Case Note, followed by a few thoughts on ways this case might be used in a variety of law school contexts/courses.
ILRU Case Note: In the matter of R v. Joseph Thomas and R v. Christopher Brown and Esquimalt and Ditidaht Nations
Context: Two Coast Salish men from the urban Esquimalt nation (in Victoria) were charged by conservation officers with two counts of poaching under the BC Wildlife Act. The two men initially asserted what they believed was a treaty right to hunt on unoccupied Crown land. However, the Ditidaht  (in whose historic territory the Esquimalt men had been hunting), were concerned about over-hunting of Roosevelt Elk. They were in favour of conservation, and the conviction of poachers.
As things unfolded, it also became clear that the two Esquimalt hunters had not sought permission from the Ditidaht to hunt in their territory, nor had they complied with Indigenous conventions in the manner of their hunt, breaching both Ditidaht and Esquimalt legal principles, and bringing shame on the communities.
Application: The case was heard in First Nations Court by Justice Marion Buller (now Chief Commissioner for the MMIWG Inquiry). With the consent of the Crown, the accused and the two concerned Nations, the Court made space for the Esquimalt and Ditidaht communities to work together, using their respective laws and procedures, to resolve the case.
The intial hearing, drawing on Coast Salish procedures for dispute resolution, involved a larger number of interested parties, including Elders, Chiefs, Counsellors and other members of the Esquimalt, Cowichan and Ditidaht nations. The communities spoke to not only current treaty and provincial law, but also to older laws between the two nations respecting hunting. They agreed that seeking permission from the other community was a fundamental law that continued to have force. The hunters accepted responsibility for their conduct, and agreed to accept the resolution that would be determined by the nations.
A number of procedural steps were necessary, as the violation of law here imposed responsibilities on not only the two hunters, but the Esquimalt community as a whole. As a result, the hunters were required to visit each household in Esquimalt to tell them what they had done, and to invite them to a meeting, which would be held in the Esquimalt Long House and involving people from both nations. At this meeting (180 people in attendance), representatives of the Ditidaht were wrapped in blankets and presented with gifts as a way of acknowledging the harm that was done, and committing to the re-establishment of good relations. The hunters are to refrain from hunting for a year, and are required to do work for the community, doing maintenance and service at the longhouse at least twice a week for the year. This was to function not as punishment, but as an opportunity to be a model for youth, and to demonstrate the continuing obligations and operation of Coast Salish and Ditidaht law.
Significance: This case is a powerful and hopeful example of the application of Indigenous law in ways that provide a meaningful resolution to a very real problem. A second important dimension of this case is that it is an example of intersocietal law. That is, this is not only a conflict over hunting, but a conflict between communities from two distinct legal orders. It shows the power of Indigenous law and procedure to create the conditions for people from different legal traditions to come together to work through a shared problem in ways which link in appropriate decision-makers, who are positioned to better identify the challenges, and construct meaningful solutions. Note that the procedures also supported an increase in legal literacy (increased familiarity in each community with the legal terrain of the other), and the building of community connections.
Even more powerfully, in the process of resolving this specific hunting/poaching claim, the two communities were able to identify a bigger systemic challenge: given the pattern of land development in this territory, the Esquimalt do not have access to many areas in which to exercise hunting rights. There is thus a pressure to hunt in the other territory with potential to impact on wildlife.
The result of the case has thus also been that the two First Nations have begun discussions aimed at developing protocols to govern hunting in Ditidaht territory by Esquimalt members, to support the ability of people in urban settings to have access to hunting.
In short, what could have otherwise been a conventional hunting sentencing case instead has produced an outcome which:
Attends to questions of human safety (drawing on indigenous laws and protocols governing ways, times, and places in which hunting can happen),
Attends to questions of conservation (drawing on Indigenous laws related to stewardship of land and animals),
Attends to questions of inter-community conflict, drawing on the point of contact as an occasion to work together to collectively address a shared problem.
 The Ditidaht and the Pacheenaht people speak closely-related dialects of a language called Nitinaht or “Ditidaht.” Ditidaht, is one of three closely-related languages (Nitinaht, Makah, and Westcoast or Nuu-chah-nulh) forming the South Wakashan sub-group of the Wakashan Language Family. The Nitinaht and Makah languages are much more closely related to each other than they are to Nuu-chah-nulh. From http://www.ditidaht.ca/.
one could supplement this case through reference to two ILRU reports: Coast Salish Legal Traditions Report; ILRU, Coast Salish Civil Procedure Report
There are some helpful video talks available on line on Coast Salish Legal Traditions & the Canadian State by Professor Sarah Morales.
THOUGHTS ON USING THIS CASE IN THE LAW SCHOOL CONTEXT
This case is great for teaching “Sentencing”. It was really wonderful to be able to give students some examples of sentencing cases that did not induce despair. It was also useful for helping them see that some cases may involve MORE work for offenders, rather than less. Certainly, the students would agree that it would not be ‘easy’ to have to go door to door in the community to let people know about a wrong you had done. The case also made visible the ways that many people in a community could be brought together in order to produce a meaningfully better outcome.
This case is great for troubling the divide between Criminal/Provincial offences, particularly in the context of Indigenous Laws. To call a hunting case ‘provincial’ is in many ways to fundamentally misconstrue the depth of relationships between indigenous peoples and animals. In many contexts, it is perhaps most appropriate to understand the relations between many Indigenous peoples and animals through the language of treaty (this is visible in Westcoast Nation stories about the Salmon People, or in Plains stories like The Buffalo Child). This is visible in this hunting case, where Esquimalt and Ditidaht parties agreed that, in the past, a second violation of laws around hunting could have resulted in the punishment of death. This indicates the importance of Indigenous laws pertaining to human/animal relations. Michael Ashe’s 1989 article on asche-wildlife-cpp-1989 might be a useful resource for supplementing such a discussion.
This case is great for exploring Conflict Resolution in the context of International Law. On the one hand, this case could be treated as simply as instance of alternative measures within Criminal Law. However, there are powerful reasons to see this as rather an example of conflict at the intersection of THREE legal orders (BC/Canadian; Esquimalt; Ditidaht). What we see in some ways is the visionary willingness of the BC Court System to step to the side, to make space for the other two first nations to draw on their own legal procedures and institutions to solve a challenge that touched deeply on legal obligations and responsibilities in those nations. The eventual solution is one that accords with the needs of all three legal orders. From my perspective as a reader, it seemed that the Esquimalt and Ditidaht legal orders contained powerful problem solving resources, ones that provided a very successful resolution, one that is hard to imagine within the more conventional boundaries of the BC Wildlife Act. The case provides a great model for dispute resolution between conflicting legal orders.
This year, as part of the Legal Process course at UVic, we took two days in January, (cancelled all other first year law classes) and brought the students back into their Legal Process groups to spend some concentrated time on the Truth & Reconciliation Commission’s “94 Calls to Action.”
What follows is first a description of what we did over the two days, and then some comments on how these materials could be adapted for use more generally.
THE TWO DAY PROGRAM – DESCRIBED
On the first morning (a 3 hour block), we had a panel of 6 speakers. The goal was, in an embodied way, to introduce our students to the history and context for the establishment of the TRC, including the history and legacy of Residential Schools. Here is the agenda for the day Agenda for Jan 20 – Day 1 panel (sorry…it will come up on its side, so you may have to rotate it to read it). In brief, we had:
a Welcome to the territories by Songhees Elder Butch Dick, Artist and Educator
Tla-o-qui-aht Elder Barney Williams Jr, member of the TRC Indian Residential School Survivor Committee
Karla Point, Hesquiaht First Nation and UVic Cultural Support Coordinator
UVic (law) Prof Rebecca Johnson, giving an overview of the legal history leading to the TRC and the 94 Calls to Action [See below for more on this]
Ry Moran, Director of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation
Aimee Craft, Director of Research, National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation
UVic (visual anthropology) Prof Andrea Walsh, speaking about the process of repatriating children’s art from a provincial residential school
UVic Chancellor Shelagh Rogers, Honorary Witness to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
On the second morning (another 3 hour block), following a short debrief of the day before, the students worked in small groups on a set of exercises aimed at introducing them working collaboratively and individually with the 94 Calls, with the goal being, in part, developing fluency with the content (that is, just knowing what is IN the document). Here is a copy of the exercise handout.TRC 2016 assignment handout. Here is a copy of the instructor notes that were distributed to the teachers facilitating the small group work. Instructor notes for TRC session-jan19
COMMENTS ON SETTING UP A MANDATORY TWO DAY PROGRAM:
Because these two days were part of a mandatory course, attendance was expected for the two days (for students who were unable to make one session or there other, there was an alternative exercise). While this was mandatory, we did not want to create more work for either faculty or students: we wanted a space to do some work, but not in a way that would be overwhelming. Indeed, the focus was in large measure not on the entire history of residential schools, but on the 94 Calls to Action.
We did NOT ask them to read anything in advance, nor did we give them any additional readings about the TRC or its history. We presume that there will be much to do on this front over the course of the students’ education. At THIS point, we wanted to work exclusively with the 12 page document that is the TRC Calls to Action.
To set the context, there was some coordination with first year profs early in the year/term, so that all the students had already had a few lectures relating to issues emerging in the TRC Calls to Action [including a lecture in Criminal law on the Kikkik case, and Inuit relocations; a lecture in Constitutional law on the history of Govt/Indigenous relations leading up to the establishment of residential schools]
The first day panel was an intense experience, in a good way. We had struggled in advance over the question of whether or not to ask someone to come speak with us about their residential school experience. On the one hand was the worry that Indigenous folks are all too often asked to share in contexts that are very exacting (that is, I was not wanting to do more damage). On the other hand, people pointed out the real importance of having space made for those voices, and of letting others make the decisions. Certainly, Barney and Karla’s participation was a crucial part of the experience. As many students noted afterwards, it is one thing to have read about things. It is a very different experience to be physically present with someone who speaks to their experience. This was a super helpful piece of situating WHY the TRC Calls to Action matter so profoundly.
Part of the goal for the second day small group work was to enable them to meet up again with the groups with whom they had spent the first two weeks of law school. It was also designed to be more practical and hands on — to look concretely at the text of the 94 calls, and to have a chance to work with them collaboratively with others.
In addition to ‘attendance’/participation in the group work, the “assignment” was two small pieces of reflective (non-graded) writing: at the end of each of the two days, students were to submit a post to a blog (set up so that no one but the teacher would see their comments). They could put down anything they wanted in terms of responses/comments/thoughts/questions. The piece would show up as complete/incomplete based on simply the submission of text, and there were no marks for brilliance, nor content. The point was to create a space for reflective thinking, focus on the process of thinking, not on the substance of the thought.
COMMENTS ON ADAPTING THE EXERCISES TO A SMALLER CLASS CONTEXT
These materials were later adapted for use in the context of an upper year Criminal Law seminar course, using two class sessions.
The first class session was in the nature of a lecture/powerpoint, setting up the legal context that resulted in the TRC Calls to Action. Attached is the powerpoint, which people should feel free to use/modify/adapt, etc. [TRC powerpoint-for sharing] I have a longer draft narrative text which walks a person through the powerpoint. I also have an audio file from the talk for Legal Process. If you want a copy of either, email me at email@example.com. I am happy to pass them along. The point is to introduce students to the largest class-action in Canadian history (the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement – IRSSA), and to have them see the structure of the settlement agreement. This helps to make visible who is and who is not covered by the IRSSA.
For ‘homework’ after the first session, hand out copies of the TRC 94 Calls to Action (the document is only 12 pages long), and ask them to read it through, and highlight “The federal government” every time they see it mentioned. While the feds are not the only actors, they ARE a party to the Settlement Agreement (IRSSA). Thus, the highlighting helps to make visible the sections that speak to their particular obligations. Highlighting the document also helps the students see more clearly how many other parties are present in the document. The other reason to have them highlight is to help with the reading (having a task helps ground the reading, so that eyes don’t just slide over the text and out of focus).
The first exercise focuses on Recommendations 1-42. The goal in each case is not to have students ‘debate’ the recommendations, or consider IF they should be adopted (that would be OK too, but would be a different exercise than the one we used here), but is rather to spend the time trying to ask [in a very descriptive way] what a working group might do, if they were working for a government who was committed to acting on the Calls to Action. The goal is to imagine a space that is actively affirmative and committed to reconciliation.
It helps to divide students into 5 different groups (Justice, Education, Health, Language and Culture, Child Welfare), so each group is only focusing on a handful of recommendations. It also helps for them to have flip chart paper to work on [part of the goal is to also provide a chance for collaborative work and discussion], with plenty of coloured pens. Remind them as they map out strategies to also be including the section numbers. The goal is less for them to SOLVE problems, than to be able to describe the sections, and identify the kinds of verbs and parties involved. For the exercise, we asked them to imagine themselves as the federal government. But many recommendations are aimed at other parties, or are collaborative. So the goal was also for them to think about the mechanisms they would need to put in place to build relations with the other parties they are to be collaborating with. It was helpful (when touching base with the groups as they work) to keep reminding them to think about questions like “division of powers”, and “cooperative federalism”, and also about resources OTHER than money. If they work on flip charts, you can hang them up, so that they can move around to see what the other groups have come up with, which can help in identifying themes.
The second exercise (10 different possible questions to work on) was designed to focus on Recommendations 43-94. These questions again presume people in the community, and don’t require the student to imagine themselves as a lawyer. They can be providing information more generally based on their knowledge. The goal is to help an interested person locate sections that may be of interest, and to think about creative solutions. Here, try to focus them in on finding recommendations that might be drawn up even where they don’t require action (that is, consider that there are recommendations that might serve as inspiration for people wanting to take steps, rather than seeing them only as obligations to be met or avoided). This approach makes it easier for them to read the sections with a sense of who is invited in, and the kinds of actions of reconciliation that might be imagined.
The above was one way of introducing the 94 Calls to Action into an upper year crim law class. Given the breadth of the calls, it is hopefully clear that one might just as easily do this in the context of many other law school classes. Indeed, it is also possible to do this with high school or general community groups, adapting the materials both to the time available, and the particular interests of the group.