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U of A Indigenous law centre gets federal boost

Two University of Alberta faculties have joined forces to elevate Indigenous laws and legal traditions in Alberta communities.

Shalene Jobin with the Faculty of Native Studies says the centre supports Indigenous communities in implementing their own laws and governance structures. (Trevor Wilson/CBC)

Two University of Alberta faculties have joined forces to elevate Indigenous laws and legal traditions in Alberta communities.

The federal government announced $134,000 in funding Wednesday for the Wahkohtowin Law and Governance Lodge, a collaboration between the Faculty of Native Studies and the Faculty of Law.

The initiative helps address the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 50th call to action: to fund the creation of Indigenous law institutes.

Shalene Jobin, Indigenous governance and partnership director with the Faculty of Native Studies, said the Wahkohtowin team will support Indigenous communities in implementing or rebuilding their own laws and governance structures. 

She described the project as a community-led unit that puts First Nations, Inuit and Métis people in the driver’s seat for determining where they need support.

“We hope to develop long-term relationships with Indigenous communities — not one-time projects, but relationships that last decades,” Jobin said Tuesday during the funding announcement.

They also want to create educational resources for the public and Indigenous governments, along with training opportunities and conferences with Indigenous communities.

Federal Justice Minister David Lametti announced $134,000 in funding Wednesday for the Wahkohtowin Law and Governance Lodge at the University of Alberta (Emilio Avalos/Radio-Canada)

The initiative officially launched at the end of May, with a workshop on Indigenous law and governance principles.

Indigenous laws factor in the principles from First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities, Jobin said.

“Concepts like Wahkohtowin — talking about relationships with each other, but also relationships with land, non-human beings, and how when we make decisions, we have to consider all of those relationships,” she said.

Federal Justice Minister David Lametti said he believes the Wahkohtowin Law and Governance Lodge will increase public understanding of Indigenous legal processes.

“We are committed to building partnerships so that Indigenous normativity, laws and legal traditions can find their place within Indigenous justice systems in harmony with justice regimes and processes across Canada,” he said during the announcement.

“The lodge is a great example of an academic institution listening to Indigenous communities and organizations and building partnerships that respond to the needs that they identify.”

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