By ALISEN KOTYK
Dear Robson Hall,
The University of Saskatchewan’s College of Law offers Indigenous students the opportunity to enroll in two first-year law courses that run from May to July. This program was developed, in part, to lighten the course load of Indigenous students who have been accepted to a Canadian law school, and who are starting their first year of law school in September. The courses offered by the College of Law are: Property Law (5 credits), and Kwayeskastasowin – Setting Things Right (3 credits).
Kwayeskastasowin focuses on Indigenous law, both historical and modern, as well as introduces students to Canadian Aboriginal law. To clarify, Aboriginal law is a body of Canadian law that governs the relationship between Aboriginal peoples and the Crown, while Indigenous law refers to law originating within individual Indigenous nations. The course was developed in response to Call to Action 28 of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Report of 2015. Indigenous students attending the College of Law are required to enroll in both Property Law and Kwayeskastasowin.
However, the University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Law only offers credit for Property Law. Per its Applicant Information Bulletin 2021-2022, “Robson Hall Faculty of Law is concerned about systemic racism within the legal system and in particular the disproportionate impacts on Indigenous peoples.” Robson Hall’s decision to deny credit for the Indigenous law course is not reflective of this sentiment. Whether intentional or not, in effect, this decision furthers the narrative that Indigenous law is lesser than common law.
The University of Manitoba recently announced that it would recognize September 30 as the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. Granting credit to Indigenous students who have successfully completed Kwayeskastasowin would demonstrate a more meaningful commitment to reconciliation.
Alisen Kotyk, First-Year Representative
(National Indigenous Law Students Association)