WATCH: Twenty-six law students made history at the University of Victoria on Tuesday. They are the first law students in a program that will earn them two degrees: one in Indigenous law, and a second in non-Indigenous law. Mary Griffin reports.
Singing filled the First Peoples House at the University of Victoria and the bleachers were packed.
The dean of law, Dr. Susan Breau, said it was a pleasure to launch the University of Victoria’s new law program combining the study of Indigenous and non-Indigenous legal practices. The joint degree program in Canadian Common Law (JD) and Indigenous Legal Orders (JID) is the first of its kind in the world.
“It is my absolute joy, and pride to see so many people here who are here to celebrate the launch of the JD, JID program,” said Dr. Breau.
B.C.’s Minister of Advanced Education, Melanie Mark, said the program marked a historic beginning.
“Today is about affirming our place as Indigenous people, in Canada, around the world, and the unique distinct nations of this province,” Mark said.
“I think of my duty as the minister for advanced education, and the opportunity that I have to open doors for education, and being here is another one of the best days of my life.”
The new law degree follows a recommendation from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to reverse the decades of abuse of First Nations People, such as Canada’s shameful history with the residential school system. Now the focus is to build the legal expertise taught by, and for, Canada’s indigenous people.
First-year student Amanda Virk is a member of the Gitxsan First Nation and said she feels honoured to be part of the inaugural program.
“Creator put this amazing gift in my way that I couldn’t pass up. And I thought there was no other path for me but this one. I’m really honored to be a part
of the inaugural year,” Virk said.
The president of the University of Victoria, Jamie Cassels, said the program is important to reconcile Canada’s Indigenous, and non-Indigenous people.
“One way of getting to that point is to raise up, and respect Indigenous law. So that we can begin to shape the future of the country together,” Cassels said.
This class graduates with their law degrees in 2022.