Indigenous Initiatives

McGill University is located on land which has long served as a site of meeting and exchange amongst Indigenous peoples, including the Haudenosaunee and Anishinabeg nations. McGill honours, recognizes and respects these nations as the traditional stewards of the lands and waters on which we meet today.

As the Faculty of Law continues to engage with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action [.pdf] , we are committed to working toward giving Indigenous legal traditions and Indigenous voices their just place in the McGill program, at our Faculty and in the legal profession.

In this section, you will find information about programs and student support, admissions, scholarship and research, news and events, and career development that touch upon those calls.

McGill Law is committed to becoming one of Canada’s leading faculties in the study of Indigenous legal traditions.

Programs and student support

Indigenous applicants

McGill offers students the opportunity to study and complete research with a wide range of legal scholars in English and French. The Faculty is host to a vibrant Indigenous Law Students’ Association and the Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism's Aboriginal Human Rights Initiatives.

First Nations, Inuit and Métis persons are strongly encouraged to apply to the Faculty of Law. If you are interested in studying law at McGill, contact the Admissions Office, self-identify on your application form, and include additional supporting documents in your application.

Please refer to the Indigenous applicants’ page of our BCL/LLB Admissions Guide for complete information about linguistic support, funding and more.

The BCL/LLB Program

McGill’s unique transsystemic approach and the importance of legal pluralism to the Faculty of Law create fertile ground for studying Indigenous legal traditions. These legal traditions have formed an integral part of many courses for several years. In line with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action, we have increased the presence of Indigenous legal traditions in the list of mandatory and optional courses.

Indigenous legal traditions are notably taught in Criminal Justice (LAWG 102), a one-year course in 1st year, and in  Property Law course (LAWG 220), a one-year course in 2nd year. The Faculty’s Curriculum Committee is working on expanding the opportunities to study Indigenous legal traditions inside and outside of the classroom.

One such initiative is our new full-year course on Indigenous Constitutionalism taught by Professor Aaron Mills. This course uses Anishinaabe pedagogies to explore Anishinaabe legality, constitutionalism, and law. Students will begin to develop an understanding of the logic, structure, and principles of one view of Anishinaabe constitutionalism, what kinds of legal processes and institutions it supports, what kind of law these generate, and how that body of law changes through time and across places. This course involves practising and applying Anishinaabe legal reasoning and reflecting upon a number of contemporary Indigenous law revitalization projects in Canada.

In addition to incorporating Indigenous legal traditions in these courses, McGill also offers courses that focus on the impacts of Canadian state law and policies on Indigenous peoples, including Aboriginal Peoples and the Law (CMPL 500), and Aboriginal Peoples and Canadian Criminal Justice.

Visit the Student Affairs Office Courses page for the latest information on current courses.

Field study courses

Students can register in a field studies course and receive teachings on Indigenous law directly from the source, in an Indigenous community. In August 2017, Distinguished Visiting Tomlinson Professor John Borrows led a unique Field Course on Anishinaabe Law with the Chippewas of the Nawash First Nation. The students were initiated to Anishinaabe law by learning how they regulate their behaviour, and resolve disputes in a community context. Lessons like “Learning Law from/about Water”, and “Learning Law from/about Treaties & Legal Histories” challenged the students’ habit of relying on texts for legal knowledge; over the law camp, they worked with sources of Anishinaabe law found in traditional stories, the environment, treaties, declarations, and customs. The Faculty of Law hopes to offer this opportunity again in 2019.

Law students may also register in a summer interdisciplinary Indigenous Field Studies Course (IDFC 500) that includes spending one week in Kahnawake, Mohawk territory. This field course provides an opportunity for Social Work, Law, Medicine, Anthropology, and Education students to learn about Haudenosaunee cultures and worldviews, with particular emphasis on linkages to students' practice areas. Attention is given to effects of Canadian policies on contemporary Aboriginal society.

Clinics and internships

Exchange programs / study away

Study at one of our exchange partner universities for a term in the Indigenous Peoples Law and Policies program at the University of Arizona, the Intensive Program in Aboriginal Lands, Resources and Governments at Osgoode Hall Law School, the Indigenous Legal Studies Program at Peter A. Allard School of Law, or the Option in Aboriginal Law and Indigenous Legal Traditions at the University of Ottawa.

Students may also request permission to study for one term at a law faculty with which there is no established exchange program. In order to attend another university as a "study away" student, one must have sound academic and/or personal reasons for wanting to study at that institution.

Potential courses of interest for study away include:

Minor in Indigenous studies

While studying law, students may pursue a minor in Indigenous Studies at McGill. The Minor Concentration in Indigenous Studies provides students with a broad, interdisciplinary view of key issues in the historical, social and cultural dimensions of Indigenous life in Canada. Core courses offered within the program provide interdisciplinary treatments of Indigenous life. The Program focuses on the history of Indigenous populations in Canada, Aboriginal art and culture, the experience of Indigeneity and gender, and legacies of Indigenous resistance to the Canadian state.

Moots

Each year, some McGill Law students participate in the Kawaskimhon National Aboriginal Moot. The Kawaskimhon Moot was first held at the University of Toronto in 1994, and welcomes students from nearly every law faculty across Canada each year. Kawaskimhon – a word of Cree origin roughly translated to “speaking with knowledge” – is a consensus-based, non-adversarial moot that incorporates Indigenous legal traditions alongside federal, provincial and international law. There are no winners or losers. Instead, mooters participate in roundtable negotiations on a particular topic in Indigenous law, representing their assigned party. The Moot takes place at a different Canadian University each year.

ILADA

McGill Law students lead an active and vibrant Indigenous Law Association de Droit Autochtone (ILADA). ILADA publishes monthly articles and hosts events at the Faculty with a goal of addressing issues, primarily through law, that are relevant to the relationships between settlers and Indigenous peoples on Turtle Island.

Participate in the new ILADA Blog. The ILADA Blog features contributions by Indigenous law practitioners and scholars on issues of current significance. The blog encourages more dialogue about Indigenous legal systems by suggesting relevant themes for brief articles by three Indigenous legal scholars and activists per year. The blog also features an open section for students and other contributors to comment on a broader range of issues relevant to Aboriginal and Indigenous law.

L.E.X. Outreach Program

The L.E.X. (Law-Éducation-Connexion) Outreach Program pairs small groups of law students with high school classrooms and youth groups to provide information on legal rights and issues as well as create pathways to post-secondary education and legal studies for youth facing systemic barriers. A long-time partner with Kahnawake Survival School in Kahnawake, Mohawk territory, the L.E.X. program is working to increase our reach to include more Indigenous youth. As a L.E.X. volunteer or Student Coordinator, you create ties to the community, inspire youth and develop mentorship skills, and share the valuable information you learn in your law classes.

Eagle Spirit Academy high performance camp

The Eagle Spirit Academy is a platform to support Indigenous youth in pursuing studies and careers in health and science at McGill University. The academy offers an annual Eagle Spirit Camp, hands-on workshops and learning opportunities, mentoring support and information for students, parents and educators.

The Eagle Spirit Camp is a 3-day health and science camp hosted at McGill University by the Faculty of Medicine, in partnership with the First Peoples' House of McGill. Our aim is to empower and encourage Indigenous youth to realize their full potential in the areas of education, career, health, leadership and personal development. Indigenous youth leaders (First Nation, Inuit, Métis, and Native American) between the ages of 13-17 years old are welcome to attend the annual camp.

First Peoples’ House

McGill's First Peoples' House provides a sense of community and a voice for Indigenous students who have left their communities to study at McGill. A “home away from home,” First Peoples’ House offers a mentoring program, computer facilities, guest lectures, elder visits, academic counselling, and an ever-expanding resource centre, as well as housing.

Social Equity and Diversity Education Office

The Social Equity and Diversity Education Office (SEDE) works to ensure an equitable and inclusive experience for all students, staff, and faculty. They offer an Indigenous Education Program, which includes training workshops on Indigenous Perspectives for clubs and faculty associations, advice on the development of Indigenous-focused programs and events, a connection to Indigenous organizations/groups at McGill and in Montréal, and the opportunity to tutor and mentor youth from the Kahnawa:ke Survival School.

Indigenous Student Alliance

The Indigenous Student Alliance provides integrative support for Indigenous peoples’ attending McGill University to connect and share their unique, authentic Indigenous ways of knowing with each other and with non-Indigenous peoples within the community. Their vision is to develop and maintain on-going networking and partnerships with University student groups and organizations through learning–teaching relationships that foster real and meaningful human development and community solidarity.

Student Health Service at McGill

Student Health Service provides McGill students with quality, comprehensive health care in a convenient campus location. Their services are specifically geared towards the unique health needs of students, and are delivered by caregivers sensitive to – and experienced with – their particular health concerns.

Centre for Indigenous Peoples' Nutrition and Environment

TheCentre for Indigenous Peoples' Nutrition and Environment (CINE), located on McGill University's Macdonald Campus in Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, Quebec, is an independent, multi-disciplinary research and education center created by Canada's Aboriginal leaders for participatory research and education to address their concerns about the integrity of their traditional food systems.

McGill’s Indigenous Health Interest Group

The Indigenous Health Interest Group aims to enhance the Indigenous health learning experience by understanding Indigenous world views and philosophies and by promoting student initiatives in Indigenous settings. The club strives to provide tools for students to practice medicine in a culturally safe way regarding Indigenous patients and communities.

Funding for Indigenous students

In addition the general student aid and scholarships offered to McGill students, Indigenous students may also be eligible for various other sources of financial aid.

The Faculty also supports student involvement in the Indigenous Bar Association, including financial support for Indigenous students to attend their annual conference.

Career Development

The Faculty of Law's Career Development Office (CDO) strives to connect Indigenous law students with meaningful work opportunities and to enable interested students to work with Indigenous communities and/or in the field of Aboriginal law.

Research and scholarship

Scholars

Bolstering the place of Indigenous legal research and teaching at the Faculty is one of our key priorities. As such, we are proud to have Professors Kirsten Anker, Aaron Mills, Ronald Niezen, and Mark Walters among our faculty members.

In 2017, we welcomed leading scholars in this field such as Distinguished Tomlinson Visiting Professor John Borrows and Boulton Fellow Kerry Sloan. In August 2018, Indigenous scholar Aaron Mills joined the Faculty as Assistant Professor. Furthermore, Métis scholar Kerry Sloan will be joining the Faculty as Assistant Professor in August 2019.

Conferences and events

Our faculty members and students organize conferences and events pertaining to Indigenous questions and concerns. These can be found in our Events calendar here.

Research

Students can conduct research on Aboriginal Human Rights Initiatives through the Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism; and get involved with the McGill Student Indigenous Studies Journal. Students can also work at Research Assistants for faculty members who have similar research interests.

Graduate studies

McGill offers a Master of Laws in General Law, Comparative Law, Air and Space Law, Environment, and Bioethics. Alternatively, students may also choose to pursue a one-term Graduate Certificate in Comparative Law or Air and Space Law. Finally, McGill offers a Doctor of Civil Law in Law, Comparative Law, or Air and Space Law. See our Graduate Studies Admission Guide and also find out more about Tuition and Financial Support.