Research » Aboriginal Law & Policy

Many of our faculty members actively engage in research in the area of Aboriginal law and policy. The research in this area undertaken at Robson Hall is varied and often includes engagement with Aboriginal communities and other faculties on campus. These research projects have provided many opportunities for students including paid summer work as Research Assistants. As well, faculty members researching in this area may be available for LL.M. supervision.

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.  These research projects have provided many opportunities for students including paid summer work as Research Assistants.  As well, faculty members researching in this area may be available for LL.M. supervision.

Resources for implementing Supreme Court of Canada decisions on sentencing Aboriginal people

Former University of Manitoba law professors David Milward and Debra Parkes worked with Robson Hall colleagues, students, and members of the Manitoba bench and bar to improve Manitoba’s implementation of the Gladue decision on Aboriginal sentencing. The Gladue project was designed to address the over-representation of Indigenous people in the criminal justice system.

In March 2011, they organized the symposium Implementing Gladue: Law & Policy 20 Years After the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry.

The symposium was presented by the Social Justice and Human Rights Research Project and the Centre for Human Rights Research Initiative on March 17, 2011 at Robson Hall on “Implementing Gladue: Law & Policy 20 Years After the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry.”

The Report of the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry of Manitoba, found that “The justice system has failed Manitoba’s Aboriginal people on a massive scale. It has been insensitive and inaccessible, and has arrested and imprisoned Aboriginal people in grossly disproportionate numbers.” The 1998 decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in Gladue set out a framework for the sentencing of Aboriginal people meant to address what Parliament and the court recognized as a crisis of overrepresentation.

Some of the questions examined in the symposium included:

  • What principles are articulated in Gladue?
  • What have the courts in Manitoba and throughout Canada been saying about Gladue and its implementation?
  • What does Gladue require of lawyers, judges, and other justice system participants?
  • What is the difference between a pre-sentence report and a “Gladue report”
  • What are some innovations and methods of implementing Gladue that have been undertaken in other jurisdictions?


Gladue Handbook
The Gladue Handbook, intended as a resource for lawyers, judges and other justice system participants was launched in September 2012 in Winnipeg.

Media coverage


Part 1 – Introduction and Opening Ceremony
Part 2 – Professor Debra Parkes
Part 3 – Ms. Sandra DeLaronde
Part 4 – The Honourable Chief Judge Ken Champagne
Part 5 – Mr. Jonathan Rudin
Part 6 – The Honourable Chief Judge Karen Ruddy
Part 7 – Professor Brenda Gunn

Community Legal Education: Implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Professor Brenda Gunn has been the momentum behind initiatives to implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Most recently, she led the organization of Kiskinohamatowin: An International Academic Forum on the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which was held at Robson Hall on January 18 and 19, 2019. Please read the Report from that Forum online.

Through Professor Gunn, the UM Faculty of Law, joined together with the Indigenous Bar Association on a previous project entitled “Implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Canada.” This project was funded by the Law for the Future Fund of the Canadian Bar Association.

The project’s main objective was to raise awareness among Aboriginal communities and broader Canadian society, of the standards set out in the UN Declaration and how to apply these standards in Canada. A 36-page handbook on implementing the UN Declaration was published and has been distributed to Aboriginal communities, lawyers, judges, human rights organizations and educators.  It is available online as Understanding and Implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: An Introductory Handbook.

Former Robson Hall professor Dr. Milward is an expert on criminal law and Aboriginal justice issues. He is widely published in a number of international and national journals. His more recent research was focused on the Mr. Big investigative technique, and Aboriginal over-representation as dangerous offenders subject to indeterminate detention.

Professor Karen Busby, Director of the Centre for Human Rights Research, leads research projects related to the human right to drinking water and sanitation. Visit the CHRR website to learn more.

Truth and Reconciliation: Prairie Conversations

The Faculty was an engaged local partner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s first national event held in Winnipeg June 2010, organizing an interdisciplinary conference. Twenty-five law student volunteers were on hand for the duration of the event to provide legal information and help to anyone who wanted to learn more about Aboriginal law.

Aboriginal Children and Aboriginal Women’s Rights

Former Robson Hall Professor Anne McGillivray’s research focused on children and the law and children’s rights, with a particular focus on Aboriginal children. She also worked in the area of violence against Aboriginal women. Her work has been published in many different academic journals and books including the following:

  • Black Eyes All of the Time: Intimate Violence, Aboriginal Women and the Justice System (1999) with Brenda Comaskey; prefaces by Judge Murray Sinclair and Elder Mae Louise Campbell. Toronto: University of Toronto Press
  • Everybody Had Black Eyes: Intimate Violence, Aboriginal Women and the Justice System (2000) with Brenda Comaskey in S. Pereault and J. Proulx, eds., No Place for Violence: Canadian Aboriginal Alternatives. Fernwood Books
  • Capturing Childhood: The Indian Child in the European Imagination (1999) in M.D.A. Freeman and Andrew Lewis, eds., Law and Literature. Oxford University Press
  • Images of Aboriginal Childhood: Contested Governance in the Canadian West to 1850 (1998) with Russell Smandych) in Rick Halpern and Martin Daunton, eds., The British Encounter with Indigenous Peoples. London: University College London Press

The E.K. Williams Library at the University of Manitoba Faculty of Law houses the most wide-ranging collection of materials on Aboriginal Law and related issues in the country. In the 1980s the government of Manitoba commissioned the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry (AJI) which was the most exhaustive study of the justice system in relation to aboriginal persons ever undertaken.

The AJI created a hugely significant collection of over 1,200 items comprised of government reports, various studies, and unpublished papers in areas such as self-government, land claims, police, aboriginal courts and sentencing practices, etc. Most of the material is Canadian and North American, but there are also instructive items from countries such as Australia and New Zealand. The collection also includes the materials related to the conduct and findings of the Inquiry such as the transcripts of the community hearings, summaries of the 790 presentations to made to the AJI and the final reports of the Commission.

This expansive collection of materials was donated to the E.K. Williams Library in 1991 and has been integrated into its collection. Subsequently the library has made a concerted effort to build upon this foundation by collecting comprehensively in the area of Aboriginal Law and Justice making the library’s collection on this important topic second to none in Canada.

Currently, library staff has curated an Aboriginal Law Study Guide, which is a collection of resources including essential textbooks, notable cases, treaties, and more. This Study Guide will be useful for anyone looking to flesh out their research strategy.


  1. Al Benoit: "Manitoba 150 - The Unfinished Business of Reconciliation." (Mar 18, 2021)
  2. Dr. Megan Davis: "the Right to Indigenous Self-determination." (Feb. 4, 2021)
  3. Erika Yamada: "Implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples from a Latin American perspective." (Jan. 17, 2019)
  4. CHRR Gandhi Peace Award 2018 - Professor Cindy Blackstock (Oct. 11, 2018)
  5. First Nations Water Conference 2018 (series) (May 17-18, 2018)
  6. Jean Teillet: Writing the History of Riel’s People (March 6, 2018)
  7. 4th Annual First Nations Water Research Conference (series) (June 1-2, 2017)
  8. 2nd Annual Create H2O Water Conference 2015 (series) (June 1, 2015)
  9. Between Keewatin and Tsilhqot’in: Reflections from the Centre of Turtle Island (series) (Nov. 21-22, 2014)
  10. 1st Annual Create H2O Water Conference 2014 (series) (June 25-26, 2014)
  11. Tom Berger: The Manitoba MÉTIS Decision and the uses of History (Nov. 13, 2013)
  12. Jacinta Ruru - The Constitutional Indigenous Jurisprudence in Aotearoa New Zealand (Oct. 23, 2012)
  13. Implementing Gladue: Law and Policy 20 Years After the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry (series) (March 17, 2011)
  14. Jennifer Llewellyn: Reconciling the Work of the TRC (Jan 27, 2010)
  15. Merrell-Anne Phare: Denying the Source: The Crisis of First Nation Water Rights (March 18, 2010)
  16. The Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin, “Louis Riel: Patriot Rebel” (October 28, 2010)
  17. Justice Murray Sinclair: The Role of Law in Indian Residential Schools (Nov. 15, 2010)
  18. Justice Murray Sinclair: They Came for the Children (Sept. 21, 2009)
  19. John Borrows: Canada’s Indigenous Constitution: Living Traditions and Human Rights (Jan. 26, 2009)
  20. Dean Kathryn Rand and Dr. Steven Light: Two Decades of Tribal Gaming Law in the United States (Nov. 19, 2009)