The Faculty of Law at Thompson Rivers University welcomes the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and their calls to action, noting particularly those that call for action within law schools and the legal profession. We thank the Commission for its work as well as all of the survivors and witnesses who had the courage and generosity to share their experiences. The TRC has provided us both with the opportunity and materials needed to assume our role in reconciliation.
The TRC has called for a curriculum that prepares law students for assuming leadership as lawyers in the process of reconciliation and which prepares them for meeting indigenous clients and claims with knowledge, respect and compassion. We look forward to reviewing our current curriculum in light of the TRC’s recommendations and the principles of reconciliation it articulates.
We are grateful for the hospitality of the Secwepemc Nation for hosting our faculty in their unceded territory (Secwepemculecw). As part of our mandatory first year curriculum, we currently build awareness and knowledge of residential schools history by taking our first year class to the neighbouring reserve lands of Tk’emlups te Secwepemc, and holding a class in the former residential school and Secwepemc Heritage museum. Additionally, the Laurier Memorial from 1910, in which the Secwepemc Nation outlined its relationship to its lands, to the settlers, and to the Canadian Government, is required reading.
More generally, our curriculum includes significant content regarding Aboriginal peoples and the law. Aboriginal rights (including treaties and title), colonial history, and aspects of the residential school experience are part of mandatory first year courses, with additional attention to Aboriginal rights in the mandatory upper year curriculum. Beyond mandatory courses, we offer two upper year courses dedicated to Aboriginal peoples and the law, one focused on Canada and one on a comparative international experience. These courses address the colonial history of Aboriginal peoples’ treatment under the law, the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, treaties, Indigenous law, and constitutional and human rights. These topics, inter-cultural awareness, and Aboriginal peoples’ access to justice are further addressed in varying depths across our upper year curriculum, including courses such as Wills & Estates, Health Law, Intellectual Property and International Intellectual Property, Digital Media, Real Estate Transactions, International Trade Law, Environmental Law, and Natural Resources Law. Several of our instructors also incorporate problems and case studies addressing Aboriginal peoples’ legal issues in skills exercises, including in courses on dispute resolution and legal research and writing. Our Indigenous Law Students Association has also shown exceptional leadership building cross-cultural knowledge and respect, as well as awareness within the student body of ongoing discrimination.
We acknowledge that our efforts remain uncoordinated and uneven across the student experience. Our faculty is committed to discussing how to incorporate more skills-based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and anti-racism. In reviewing our curriculum with a view to the directions outlined by the TRC, we will benefit from the TRC’s work, broader efforts within TRU to include an Aboriginal dimension in its programs, and our relationships with our hosts and neighbouring Aboriginal peoples.