Indigenous Initiatives

The Faculty of Law at the University of Manitoba is committed to working collectively to meaningfully implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Call to Action #28, with particular attention to its implications for our curriculum and the learning environment at the Faculty. This page contains the Faculty's official response to the Call to Action, ways in which the Faculty's curriculum is raising awareness of Indigenous people and the issues they face, information on making the Faculty welcoming to Indigenous applicants, students, faculty and visitors, and research being carried out in our Faculty for the education of our students, community, and beyond.


The Faculty of Law supports Orange Shirt Day and invites all members of its community including Faculty, Instructors, Staff, Students and Alumni to wear orange shirts on September 30th to raise awareness and have meaningful discussions about the effects and legacy of Residential Schools.

Orange Shirt Day is a legacy of the St. Joseph Mission (SJM) Residential School (1891-1981) Commemoration Project and Reunion events that took place in Williams Lake, BC, Canada, in May 2013, to commemorate the residential school experience, to witness and honour the healing journey of the survivors and their families, and to commit to the ongoing process of reconciliation. As spokesperson for the Reunion group leading up to the events, former student Phyllis (Jack) Webstad told her story of her first day at residential school when her new orange shirt, bought by her grandmother, was taken from her as a six-year old girl.

The Manitoba Indigenous Law Students Association Blog contains information about Orange Shirt Day from our law students.

Please learn about the importance of reconciliation from our alumnus and Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, Senator Murray Sinclair [LLB/79].
TRC Mini Documentary - Senator Murray Sinclair on Reconcilliation

More educational resources about Residential Schools and Orange Shirt Day events are on the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation website, including the Graham Constant documentary, "Remembering the Forgotten Children - Muskowekwan Residential School" and other NTRC mini docs.

January 26, 2016

Resolution re: Truth and Reconciliation Commission Call to Action #28
For discussion and decision at Faculty Council on February 1, 2016

Redressing the legacy of residential schools and advancing the process of reconciliation is one of the most pressing issues of our time. Many of the 94 Calls to Action made by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) address matters of concern for the legal system. However, Call to Action #28 speaks directly to legal educators:

We call upon law schools in Canada to require all law students to take a course in Aboriginal people and the law, which includes the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, Indigenous law, and Aboriginal–Crown relations. This will require skills-based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and anti-racism.¹

Faculty Council of the Faculty of Law, University of Manitoba endorses the following statement with respect to the TRC Call to Action #28:

The Faculty of Law, University of Manitoba is committed to working collectively to meaningfully implement Call to Action #28, with particular attention to its implications for our curriculum and the learning environment at Robson Hall. Our current curriculum includes a mandatory unit on Aboriginal-Crown relations, Treaties and Aboriginal Rights (in Constitutional Law) and some of the other topics highlighted by the TRC are addressed in deliberate but uncoordinated ways in a range of mandatory and elective courses. A broad-based curriculum review process is already underway (which includes, for example, a proposal from the Academic Innovation Committee that knowledge of Indigenous Legal Traditions be a mandatory competency of the J.D program). The Faculty of Law commits to incorporating measures consistent with Call to Action #28 in the Faculty’s future curriculum. In the short term, faculty members will investigate options for fulfilling elements of Call to Action #28 in existing courses and programs in a more coordinated way.

Moved by: Debra Parkes
Seconded by: Karen  Busby, Brenda Gunn, Aimée Craft, Shauna Labman, Wendy Whitecloud, Sarah Lugtig, David Milward, Jared Wheeler (MALSA)

¹ See also Call to Action #27, calling on the Federation of Law Societies of Canada to “to ensure that lawyers receive appropriate cultural competency training, which includes the history and legacy  of  residential  schools,  the  United  Nations  Declaration  on  the  Rights  of  Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, Indigenous law, and Aboriginal–Crown relations. This will  require  skills-based  training  in  intercultural  competency,  conflict  resolution,  human rights,  and anti-racism.”  Call to Action  #50 further  states  that “In keeping  with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, 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.”

Robson Hall is determined to be a welcoming place for Indigenous law students, and a place where all our students can enhance their awareness of the issues facing Indigenous communities. Our students will be able to use their legal education to work with their communities for change.

Curriculum Review Process

The Academic Innovation Committee has proposed that knowledge of Indigenous Legal Traditions be a mandatory competency of the Juris Doctor (J.D.) program.

Course Descriptions:

Robson Hall offers our J.D. students a variety of courses on Aboriginal Law and Policy designed to inform and prepare students to understand and work with the legal issues involving Indigenous communities including:

  • Aboriginal Justice and Family Law
    The course will cover legal issues related to Aboriginal peoples in both the criminal justice system and the family law systems.
  • Aboriginal Peoples and Land Claims
    The course will provide an overview of Canadian Land Claims and Treaty Land Entitlement policies.
  • Aboriginal Peoples and the Law
    A study of the laws relating to Aboriginal Peoples in North America from the colonial period to the present.
  • Advocating for the Rights of Indigenous People in International Law
    This course looks at how Indigenous peoples have engaged in international law as a site to gain protection of their rights and interests.
  • Critical Conversations: Interdisciplinary Human Rights Studies (The Right to Water and Sanitation in First Nation Communities)
    This course requires writing a research paper on Aboriginal and Indigenous law, environmental law, human rights law and/or advocacy strategies. Through readings, presentations and seminars, students consider the persistent problem of the lack of clean drinking water and adequate sanitation in First Nation communities in Canada and what do to about this problem.
  • Current Legal Problems: Interdisciplinary Human Rights Studies (Truth and Reconciliation)
    The University of Manitoba Centre for Human Rights Research organized a 2016-17 seminar series called Critical Conversations on Truth and Reconciliation. Seminar topics included Indian Residential Schools litigation, Indigenous concepts of reconciliation, decolonizing archives, visual and literary representations of the Indian residential school experience, understanding denial of mass atrocities, and harm and reparations.
  • Kawaskimhon Moot
    The Kawaskimhon Moot (speaking with knowledge) is a culturally sensitive national forum where questions regarding aboriginal legal issues are debated and negotiated by law students across Canada.
  • Métis People & Canadian law
    The goal of this course is to consider the distinctions in the rights and protections of Métis people in Canada, including the legal and regulatory distinctions between Métis and First Nations.

In addition, many of our mandatory courses include Aboriginal perspectives or content on Aboriginal people’s legal issues.

UM Faculty of Law believes that Indigenous people including those of Métis, First Nations, and Inuit heritage, should have individual acknowledgement in the admissions process. Our process is designed to facilitate access to legal education and the profession for Indigenous people in Canada.

Learn more...

The Faculty of Law is in the process of recruiting an Indigenous Liaison Officer.

Check back soon for more information.

With over $450,000 annually in allocations, Robson Hall has a comprehensive needs-based financial aid and bursary program.  The Faculty of Law awards one-third of the tuition surcharge collected back to students in the form of needs-based bursaries.  Since the inception of Robson Hall Bursary in 2005, the Faculty of Law has awarded over $1,700,000.  The allocations are based on financial need and are distributed in the fall. This helps to ensure that all eligible students are supported according to their needs.  Students applying for the RH Bursary Program are expected to apply for government student loans.

We also offer Entrance Awards & Scholarships, some of which are specifically for Aboriginal students.

We demonstrate our commitment to academic excellence by rewarding top students. Each student on the Faculty of Law Dean’s Honour List at the end of first and/or second year who continue their legal studies in the next academic year at Robson Hall become a Pitblado Scholar. Students are presented with a $5,000 scholarship at a formal reception in the fall.  The scholarship is applied directly to tuition.

Each year, Robson Hall welcomes First Year Law students with a week full of welcome and orientation activities including a tour of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation and a Blanket Ceremony. Please see the Orientation Week Schedule for more details.

Members of our faculty have actively engaged in research in the area of Aboriginal law and policy for a number of years. The research in this area that has been undertaken at Robson Hall is varied and often includes engagement with Indigenous communities and other faculties on campus.

Please visit the Aboriginal Law and Policy webpage for more details on research initiatives including:

  • Current Research & Dissemination
  • Implementing Gladue in Manitoba
  • Implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
  • Aboriginal Peoples and Canadian Justice System
  • Working with Elders in Educational Institutions
  • Right to Water
  • Past Research
  • Aboriginal Law Collection at the E.K. Williams Library
  • Relevant Distinguished Visitor Lectures