A $13-million investment by the Province will enable the University of Victoria (UVic) to build its much-anticipated National Centre for Indigenous Laws.
“When the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act passed unanimously in the B.C. legislature in 2019, we voted for systemic change,” said Melanie Mark, Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training. “The new National Centre for Indigenous Laws will be a place where the rights of Indigenous peoples in Canada will be recognized and upheld. This new space is being designed to allow for the unique ways in which Indigenous laws have been and are being practised — incorporating ceremony and oral traditions — all within a culturally relevant space and expected to meet LEED Gold standards. This is a historic step toward reconciliation and will be a positive legacy for social, economic and environmental justice.”
The new addition will be home to the world’s first joint degree in Indigenous legal orders and Canadian common law (JD/JID), which launched at UVic in 2018, and to the Indigenous Law Research Unit. The 2,440-square-metre (26,264-sq.-ft.) addition to the Anne and Murray Fraser (Law) Building is designed to reflect and honour the law school’s location and long-standing relationship with the Songhees, Esquimalt and WSÁNEĆ peoples on whose territory the university resides. The project will use Coast Salish designs, signage, public art and materials such as B.C. wood, cedar weaving and natural light.
“Supporting the University of Victoria’s world-leading Indigenous law centre and programming is another example of how B.C. continues to advance reconciliation with Indigenous peoples in a meaningful way,” said Scott Fraser, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation. “Education is key to reconciliation. Through this knowledge, we must come to understand the past and can work together to support healing to make a real difference in the lives of Indigenous families and everyone in B.C.”
New high-tech digital infrastructure will enable students to connect with their home communities and also enable sharing of legal traditions with one another. It will also enable UVic to host conferences, public workshops, research and partnerships for faculty, students and visitors. The new addition will include public lecture theatres, faculty and staff offices, classrooms, meeting space, an Elders’ room and spaces for gathering, ceremonies and sharing of histories and knowledge.
“The National Centre for Indigenous Laws will be home to the first Indigenous law program in the world to combine the intensive study of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous law, and will help Canada build a new nation-to-nation relationship based on the recognition – and renaissance – of Indigenous legal traditions,” said Jamie Cassels, president and vice-chancellor, UVic. “We are grateful to the provincial and federal governments that helped establish this unique Indigenous law program at UVic and to the Law Foundation of BC for its generous donations today.”
The $27.1-million project is being funded by the Province ($13 million), the federal government ($9.1 million) and the Law Foundation of BC ($5 million).
In 2019, B.C. was the first province or territory to pass legislation to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This new legislation provides a path forward on reconciliation – one that respects Indigenous peoples’ human rights and creates clarity and predictability for all people in British Columbia.
Improving access to post-secondary education and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples are shared priorities between government, the BC Green Party caucus and Andrew Weaver, MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head, and are part of the Confidence and Supply Agreement.
The joint degree program in Canadian Common Law (JD) and Indigenous Legal Orders (JID) combines intensive study of Canadian Common Law with deep engagement with Indigenous laws:
Find out more about the Fraser Expansion at UVic:
Two backgrounders follow.