“How we see, understand and work with indigenous law depends on what we think law is and what our expectations of it are. Law is not separate from us. It is what we do, and law’s existence depends on our serious engagement with it. Indigenous law needs to interact critically with other legal orders and it needs to do so in a way that protects the integrity of each legal order.”
– Dr. Val Napoleon, LL.B., Ph.D., Academic Lead


In 2012, the University of Victoria’s Indigenous Law Research Unit, Indigenous Bar Association, and The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada launched the “Accessing Justice and Reconciliation” project. We are very grateful to our funders at the Law Foundation of Ontario. Professor Val Napoleon is Academic Lead for the project as well as Law Foundation Professor of Aboriginal Justice and Governance at the University of Victoria, Faculty of Law.

Project Vision and Goals

The overall vision for this project was to honour the internal strengths and resiliencies present in Indigenous societies, including the resources within these societies’ own legal traditions. The goal of the AJR Project was to better recognize how Indigenous societies used their own legal traditions to successfully deal with harms and conflicts between and within groups and to identify and articulate legal principles that could be accessed and applied today to work toward healthy and strong futures for communities.

At the heart of the AJR Project was a fundamental commitment to engage with Indigenous laws seriously as laws.



This project reflected only a small illustration of the broad diversity of Indigenous societies and communities across Canada.

Seven partnerships were formalized, representing six legal traditions. Partners submitted an expression of interest. From west to east, the representative legal traditions and partner communities were as follows:

Coast Salish Snuneymuxw First Nation
Tsleil-Waututh Nation
Social Development & Family Preservation Program
North Shore Restorative Justice Society
Tsilhqot’in Tsilhqot’in National Government Culture and Customs Program
Northern Secwepemc T’ exelc Williams Lake Indian Band Holistic Wellness Program
Cree Aseniwuche Winewak Nation Mamowichihitowin Wellness Program
Anishinabek Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation #27 Maadookii Senior’s Centre, Residential School Archives
Mi’kmaq Mi’kmaq Legal Services Network, Eskasoni Mi’kmaq Legal Support Network



The AJR project began in May 2012 with an Intensive Orientation course
taught by Val Napoleon and Hadley Friedland in Victoria, BC. Here are some of the people who were part of that team in 2012 with a few continuing on into 2013 and 2014.

The purpose of the advisory committee is to provide overall project guidance and support to project lead, Val Napoleon, for the duration of the project. Specifically, the role of the advisory committee has been on a consultative managerial level concerning issues of ethics, direction and goals, community relations, public education materials, and other related issues.

Gordon Christie

Gordon Christie has an A.B. from Princeton University, a LL.B. from the University of Victoria, and a Ph.D. (in philosophy) from the University of California, Santa Barbara. His publications cover topics including the interpretation of treaties, constitutional law, colonialism, Aboriginal title, legal theory (and particularly Indigenous legal theory), duties to consult and accommodate, and Arctic sovereignty. He is Inuvialuit/Inupiat, originally from the Mackenzie River delta (NT), with family ties to the Northeast slope of Alaska.
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Kim Murray

Kimberly R. Murray is the Executive Director of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

Lee Schmidt

Lee is a Metis lawyer living and working in Vancouver, BC. She is privileged to work exclusively for indigenous individuals, organizations and governments at Peter Grant & Associates since her call to the BC Bar in 2003.

John Borrows

John Borrows is Anishinaabe and a member of the Chippewas of Nawash First Nation. He holds the Robina Chair in Law, Public Policy and Society at the University of Minnesota, Faculty of Law, and was recently awarded the Indigenous People’s Counsel designation from the Indigenous Bar Association.
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The purpose of the steering committee is to provide direct operational project guidance and support to project lead, Val Napoleon, for the duration of the project. Specifically, the steering committee will (1) be available for monthly conference calls, (2) review materials and provide feedback as needed, (3) will be concerned with the project budget, community selection, research results, material development, student hiring, national conference, and related issues as they arise.

Steering committee members:

Margaret Froh

Margaret is a Métis lawyer from the Qu’Appelle Valley in Saskatchewan, currently based in Barrie, Ontario. She recently left her position as in-house legal counsel to the Chippewas of Rama First Nation to open her own law practice and consulting business, Turquoise Buffalo.
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Paulette Regan

Paulette Regan, PhD. former Director of Research and currently Senior Researcher for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.
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Koren Lightning-Earle
IBA President

Koren Lightning-Earle is Cree and from Samson Cree Nation, Alberta. She is a sole practitioner in her home community and is a Council Member for Samson Cree Nation.
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Brock Pitawanakwat

Bio unavailable.


May 25

TRC Education Day: A Photo-Story

Author: Lindsay Borrows and Hadley Friedland | Category: Events

This is a story about truth, about law, about reconciliation. It is a story about learning, about hope, about the strength and wisdom within Indigenous communities, and the remarkable results from truly collaborative research undertaken by academics and community partners… Click here to keep reading.

Follow the link above to see the full photo-story

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May 02

Graphic novel explores Indigenous law

Author: Renee McBeth | Category: Events

A new graphic novel created by the University of Victoria’s Indigenous Law Research Unit and drawing on work with seven different legal orders across Canada will help empower Indigenous communities as well as educate and engage legal practitioners about the complexity and legitimacy of Indigenous law. In a country already grappling with violence and dysfunction, […]

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Recent Comments


    Huy ch q'u. Thank You.

    contact information

    Indigenous Law Research Unit
    Faculty of Law, University of Victoria
    Rm 216a, Fraser Building, PO Box 1700 STN CSC
    Victoria, British Columbia, Canada V8W 2Y2
    Lekwungen and W̱SÁNEĆ territory

    UVic Law
    Indigeonous Bar Association

    The Law Foundation of Ontario