Presentation on Indigenous law illustrates its complexity
Tyllore Martelle - Staff Writer
Last Tuesday evening lawyer and senior researcher for the University of Victoria, Simon Owen, conducted an in-depth presentation on Indigenous law. Owen presented information gathered by the Indigenous Law Research Unit (ILRU), which is a unit at the University of Victoria Faculty of Law committed to the recovery and renaissance of Indigenous laws.
The ILRU believes that Indigenous laws should be taken seriously. The ILRU webpage states, “We partner with and support work by Indigenous peoples and communities to ascertain and articulate their own legal principles and processes, in order to effectively respond to today’s complex challenges.”
“We believe Indigenous legal research must be conducted with the highest standards of rigor and transparency. We want to recover Indigenous laws’ capacity to be publically applied, critically evaluated, openly debated, and adapted or changed as needed. We provide education, training, and ongoing guidance to communities and professionals engaging with Indigenous laws.”
The overall goal is to create respectful lines of communication both locally and globally. They believe that revitalizing Indigenous laws is paramount to building healthy relationships with Indigenous civilizations across the country. “Creating more respectful and symmetrical relationships across legal traditions is a necessary part of building and maintaining robust reconciliation within and between peoples, now and for future generations.”
Two of the main focuses the ILRU investigates while examining Indigenous laws are lands, waters, and resources; and governance, justice, and citizenship.
Examples of projects under the lands, waters, and resources category are marine use management, water laws, resource stewardship, sustainable development, and lands and boundary disputes.
Under the governance, justice, and citizenship category, some examples of past and present projects include constitution building, harms and conflicts, criminal justice processes, matrimonial property dispute resolution mechanisms, child welfare, and navigating issues of gender, sexuality, and sexual equality.
Through collaborating and communicating with the needs of each individual community, the ILRU finds ways to uniquely cater to each of the community’s needs. Their projects are done in close contact with the chosen communities to ensure optimal results.
Indigenous law is defined as how societies organize relationships and respond to human problems over time and are considered to be more than just rules and practices.
The purpose of Tuesday’s meeting was to inform the public on many of the complex ins and outs of Indigenous laws. The meeting took place at the Sioux Lookout Public Library and was filled to capacity by members of the public.
“I like to think we’re changing,” said Simon during his presentation regarding Canada as a country being accepting toward Indigenous law. “We’ve spent a lot of time as a country asking why. Why should there be law outside of the law we already know? There are a lot of people stuck there, but we have to move past that. We need to ask how we can do it (be inclusive), not why.”
Owen included a few excerpts from the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions report which explained how the acceptance of Indigenous law can aid the relationships with Indigenous people. “Aboriginal people must be able to recover, learn, and practice their own distinct traditions.
“Establishing respectful relations requires the revitalization of Indigenous laws.”
Owen believes that writing up these reports and doing the research with willing communities is an important step in recognizing Indigenous law.
Anyone interested in learning more can visit the following website: www.uvic.ca/ilru or www.indigenousbar.cahttp://www.indigenousbar.ca.