“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
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, and where there are recent charges of systemic discrimination in the penal system following a March 7 report by the federal correctional investigator, this new publication explores how Indigenous legal orders and community resiliencies can lead to building citizenry and civility, as well as better informed processes of client representation and a more effective judicial system.
“We’re looking to demonstrate Indigenous law’s complexity in a way that is accessible, but also sophisticated enough that it’s useful,” says Prof. Val Napoleon, who led the project.
The graphic novel, a composite of true situations, is the tale of a Cree man sentenced to death by a 19th-century Alberta court after carrying out an execution ordered by his Cree community. A contingent of Indigenous lawyers travels back in time to intervene and apply aspects of Indigenous law not originally presented. The court finds the accused not guilty as he was fulfilling his legal obligations which were appropriate in that day.
The launch party for Cree Law: Mikomosis and the Wetiko takes place May 6 from 12 to 2 p.m. in UVic’s Fraser (law) building, and will feature the writing, research and illustrative team‹including noted TV screenwriter Jim Henshaw and renowned comic artist Ken Steacy‹as well as 50 copies of the new book and original artwork.
The project, led by law professor, Dr. Val Napoleon and UVic alumnae Hadley Hadley Friedland, was sponsored by the UVic clinic, the Indigenous Bar Association and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, with funding from the Ontario Law Foundation.
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