Faculty, Elders, ministers and members of the community gathered to celebrate the construction of the new National Centre for Indigenous Laws (NCIL) at the University of Victoria.
Four years ago, UVic launched the world’s first Indigenous law degree, to combine the study of Indigenous and non-Indigenous laws.
Last spring, the inaugural class of the historic program crossed the stage.
Right now, the curriculum is taught in the Fraser law building on campus, but as of next year, students and staff of the Indigenous law program will have a brand new building right next door.
“This physical structure represents a sanctuary where our laws, which enable us to be peoples, will be safe, and where both Indigenous and non-Indigenous students will learn about those laws, creating the foundation of a multi-juridical Canada,” says Val Napoleon, the dean of law at UVic.
The 2,440-square-meter addition to the Fraser law building is designed to reflect and honour the relationship between the school and the Songhees, Esquimalt, and WSÁNEĆ peoples.
It will also provide space for gathering, ceremony, the sharing of history, and of course, knowledge.
“This addition will house the new National Centre for Indigenous Laws and will further transform the legal education system in B.C. and Canada, and I think around the world,” says Selina Robinson, minister of post-secondary education and future skills.
The building is a vision 10 years in the making and it’s in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action.
Action 50 states, “We call upon the federal government, in collaboration with Aboriginal organizations, to fund the establishment of Indigenous law institutes for the development, use, and understanding of Indigenous laws, and access to justice in accordance with the unique cultures of Aboriginal peoples in Canada.”
Also today, the Law Foundation of British Columbia increased its total commitment to the NCIL to $11 million, boosting its initial $5 million funding commitment to help complete the new centre. This funding is in addition to $13 million from the B.C. government and $9.145 million from the federal government.
“The new space will help breathe life into the learning and work that take space there, where teachers and students support indigenous communities seeking to articulate and apply their laws to contemporary challenges,” says Mary Childs, on the board of governors for the Law Foundation of B.C.
The National Centre for Indigenous Laws is set to open its doors fall of 2024.