Canadian Government says revitalization of Indigenous laws in Ontario a priority

OTTAWA – Several officials from the Canadian government are showing support to the Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians (AIAI) and Lakehead University’s Bora Laskin Faculty of Law for their projects to build capacity for and implement Indigenous laws and law-making institutions. Support for this initiative aligns with the Government of Canada’s response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) Call to Action 50.

Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada Honourable David Lametti, accompanied by Minister of Health Honourable Patty Hajdu and Member of Parliament for London North Centre Peter Fragiskatos made the announcement.

The AIAI’s project “Indigenous Law-Making Research and Implementation” has two parts. In phase one of the project, AIAI will work with the communities to better the traditional laws and law-making processes of the Lenape, Mohawk, Oneida, and Anishinaabe Nations. In phase two, there will be a pilot project to re-establish law-making institutions and begin the process of developing laws. The project will help create the necessary capacity and community network to support participating Nations’ law-making institutions in a sustainable manner.

“It will be interesting and challenging work to meet with the communities and gain an understanding of what is truly ours and how we can build a firm foundation to establish and assert our inherent jurisdiction. As we begin the work required to rebuild capacity for our own legal processes, it is important for us to focus on what is inherent, what was given to us through Creation, and what we need to be able to carry out our responsibilities as Indigenous Nations for the generations yet to come,” said Grand Chief Joel Abram from Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians.

The “Maamawi Bimosewag – They Walk Together” project will lay the foundation for an Indigenous Law and Justice Institute at the Bora Laskin Faculty of Law at Lakehead University. The project will include three elements: growing relationships and partnering with regional First Nations communities, tribal councils and the Métis Nation of Ontario for the revitalization of Anishinaabe and Métis Law; land-based and partnered learning opportunities for community members and law students, and continuing legal education opportunities for the regional practicing bar and the judiciary; and research to support the project’s revitalization and curriculum development initiatives.

Call to Action 50 calls upon the federal government to collaborate with Indigenous organizations to fund Indigenous law institutes for the development, use and understanding of Indigenous laws and access to justice in accordance with the unique cultures of Indigenous peoples in Canada. Supporting Call to Action 50 aligns with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which sets out the right of Indigenous peoples to maintain and strengthen their distinct legal institutions.

The Department of Justice is providing a combined total for these two projects of up to $918,270 over three years through its Justice Partnership and Innovation Program. This program supports activities that respond effectively to the changing conditions affecting Canadian justice policy.

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