Launching a World First: Indigenous & Common Law Program


As the mother of four young sons, I am used to being the bossy boss lady who has answers. As an Ojibwa Metis woman who is a grown-up that’s almost all grown, I am used to having a sense of knowing and a place in the world.

When you’re enrolled in the world’s first Law degree to combine the study of Indigenous and Common Law (JD/JID Law Program), you quickly bid your ego goodbye and make friends with your humility. The learning that came this week arrived through the act of ceremony.

JID student Colby Lizotte addresses the group of Elders, scholars, national and provincial leaders gathered at UVic for the launch of the new Indigenous law program. (Photo: UVic)

The official launch of the JD/JID program marked a profound milestone for Indigenous voices at the University of Victoria, and by extension for communities across the country. While I understood what the official launch of the JID program symbolized, I was unprepared for the intensity of feeling that accompanied the ceremony.

As the doors closed on First Peoples House, the sun poured into the room, filling it with light and heat. The space felt close; the drum beat loudly and prayers invoked all our relations. I thought that the role of students in the ceremony would be on the periphery; the symbolic cherry on top of years of tireless work that has been done for our benefit.

The first cohort of students

When we were asked to stand, what immediately resonated was the depth of responsibility that had been bestowed upon us.

The weight of expectation, hope, and endurance was impressed upon me in almost a physical way that is now carried deep inside. It is not a weight of burden; it’s born from purpose that lives far beyond me. It is a responsibility of honour, and I remain deeply humbled to the task.

Stripped bare of the traditional trappings of pomp and ceremony, the JID ceremony was as it should be; intimate, simple, sacred and profound. And so it begins. Come along as I stumble, trip, and try to find my way along this new path of Law at UVic.

Gigawabamin Menawah,

Melanie Mark, Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training

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