Four years ago, UVic launched the world’s first law degree to combine the study of Indigenous and non-Indigenous laws. The innovative Joint Degree Program in Canadian Common Law and Indigenous Legal Orders (JD/JID) opens new avenues for legal education in Canada and has earned UVic’s Faculty of Law a well-deserved national and international reputation. for his leadership in Indigenous legal education and research. .
At Convocation ceremonies in June, this memorable first cohort of 23 graduates will cross the stage to receive their diplomas.
This is a historic moment, and I am honored to recognize and congratulate the graduates of the first JD/JID cohort. They are equipped with unique knowledge, skills and experiences that will enable them to build bridges between several legal systems. I look forward to seeing the impact they will have on the legal landscape in Canada and on our ability to move meaningfully and collaboratively toward solving the significant and persistent problems caused by colonialism.
—Kevin Hall, UVic President
In April, the Class of 2022 gathered with family and friends to celebrate their upcoming graduation at a special recognition event held at Songhees Wellness Center. Greetings and congratulatory messages were sent by prominent leaders from across the country, including Governor General Mary Simon, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada David Lametti, Minister of Higher Education of Colombia -Briton Anne Kang and former senator and chief commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Murray Sinclair. .
“Congratulations to the graduating students of this unique program. They are leading the change we hoped for when we released the TRC report,” Sinclair said. “I encourage them to go out into the world and be bold and creative with their unique legal skills and knowledge.”
Acting Dean of Law School and JD/JID Co-Founder Val Napoleon hosted the recognition event and expressed great excitement about how the new graduates are poised to make a positive impact on the law and the society.
“Indigenous law is an essential part of the fact that Indigenous peoples are peoples and it is the basis of Canada’s multi-juridical system,” she said. “The law is an essential ingredient of any society because it is part of governance, it is part of how we manage ourselves and it is part of how we are responsible to ourselves, to each other and to each other. to our global community. I hope our graduates will take with them the ability to center Indigenous law in the world as a collaborative and principled way of solving problems, so that it is never reduced to mere words on paper, because it is much more than that.
Looking ahead, UVic continues to strengthen its leadership position and will host the National Center for Indigenous Laws in the years to come.
Jolene Ashini is the first Innu woman from Labrador to become a lawyer. She grew up on a reserve and on the Innu territory of Nitassinan, and is a member of the Innu First Nation of Sheshatshiu, located in Labrador. She has mixed non-Indigenous and Inuit roots, with Nunatsiavut ties on her mother’s side, while her father was Innu.
She was raised in the Innu way of life, while remaining in touch with the influences of Inuit culture. Living in Nutshimit, his life and work have been intertwined with strong Innu principles, knowledge and experiences.
She served as a band councilor for the Sheshatshiu Innu First Nation, where she realized that to do more for her community and others, she needed to further her education to apply the law, fairly, to Indigenous peoples. Prior to UVic Law, Jolene earned a bachelor’s degree in geology from Acadia University, where she was vice president of the Indigenous Student Society of Acadia.
“One of the great privileges of my life has been to be able to follow the path of law school alongside the rest of my cohort,” she says. “Through this program, I have had the opportunity to meet people who are now my closest friends and who I would consider family, and we have been able to learn from some of the most renowned Aboriginal teachers, communities of First Nations, hereditary chiefs and educators. — no other law school could offer this type of education.
She will soon article with Olthius Kleer and Townshend LLP (OKT) in Toronto. OKT is a law firm specializing in Indigenous law, representing First Nations and Indigenous clients across Canada.
Beth Fox is a Blood Tribe from Treaty 7 Territory in southern Alberta. She obtained a bachelor’s degree and then a master’s degree in social work from the University of Calgary before entering the JD/JID program.
She is one of three siblings to earn a law degree from the University of Victoria and plans to join her siblings in private practice later this year.
One of the highlights of law at UVic was spending time in Ye’yumnuts learning about Coast Salish law from Professor Morales and community elders.
“It was especially special for me because we had a foundation in law and the Coast Salish language that started in the classroom, and being physically present on the land created a new level of understanding and insight for me,” she says.
Looking ahead, she plans to complete her articles, be called to the bar, and dedicate her skills to working for Indigenous rights and communities.
“The opportunities to learn from some of the greatest Indigenous jurists made my law school experience special,” she notes. “I encourage any student interested in enrolling in the program to take advantage of the opportunities to learn and be mentored by the faculty here.”
Thomas Hawthornthwaite was born and raised in Nanaimo and is a member of the Squamish Nation. Prior to enrolling in the JD/JID program, he completed his undergraduate degree in Business and Commerce at the Peter B. Gustavson School of Business at UVic.
He had a lifelong passion for law and was drawn to UVic Law because of its innovative and progressive approach to legal education.
“My favorite moment of the JD/JID program was when John Borrows took us out into the field for the first time to demonstrate a new pedagogy that I had never experienced, that’s when I knew that the program was something special,” he says. “It was really the people who made this experience special. From my peers, to my professors, to guest lecturers, and to those we met at field schools. I would tell future candidates to take the plunge and know that they have a myriad of amazing people who will support them every step of the way towards their goals.
Going forward, his plans are to leverage his experiences in corporate law and his business degree to help First Nations create business opportunities, with the ultimate goal of one day creating a new business structure. separate entity that protects First Nations and respects the specific rules of the Indigenous legal order in which it applies.
Skeena Lawson is a settler who grew up on Wet’suwet’en territory in Smithers. After earning her undergraduate degree in history at Mount Allison University, she worked on Parliament Hill as part of the non-partisan parliamentary internship program and taught college English in France before starting her studies. of law at UVic in 2018.
“My favorite times were when we could see sources of law outside the classroom and anchor what we were learning in a place or an activity,” she says. “Some highlights were drum making at First Peoples House, learning to make fishing spears in Ye’yumnuts at our field school in Coast Salish territory, digging up bulbs of rice lilies in Cluxewe and our entire cohort paddling two canoes in Kwakiutl territorial waters. ”
She is particularly interested in the relationship between environmental law and Indigenous law regarding conservation, resource use, and land rights and title. Looking ahead, she sees a future in this area and would like to help Indigenous nations assert their sovereignty over their own lands. In her spare time, she enjoys skiing, cycling, doing crossword puzzles and playing the piano.
Last summer she worked with OKT Law in Yellowknife where she learned more about environmental and land use law and its connection to Aboriginal rights and title, treaty rights and fiduciary obligations. of the Crown towards the First Nations.
She will be interning in Victoria with the Legal Services Branch of the Ministry of the Attorney General.