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Hadley Friedland
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First, I want to say how much I have appreciated the care and effort put into this series of blog posts, which I have been following with interest. TRC Call to Action #28 reads: 28. We call upon law schools in Canada to require all law students to take a course in Aboriginal people and the law, which includes the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, Indigenous law, and Aboriginal–Crown relations. This will require skills-based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and antiracism. This call to action involves both Indigenous and non-Indigenous law students, and law professors. Applying your legal research and writing skills to better understand and explain Aboriginal law issues on this blog is a step in the right direction for U of A Faculty of Law. Thank you for your excellent work thus far. As lawyers and aspiring lawyers, we have a set of skills and a leadership role that we can constructively apply to further the goals of justice and reconciliation in Canada. We have a special responsibility. In this series of blog posts, I see you acting on that responsibility and I commend you for it. Second, I want to respectfully challenge your thinking about this particular blog post. A vital aspect of reconciliation is what the former Chief Justice of the BCCA, Lance Finch, calls, "the duty to learn." This September, our Dean, Dr. Paul Paton, quoted the former Chief Justice Finch, and urged the incoming first year class to approach Indigenous legal issues with care and humility. I often tell my students, we all have to be brave enough to risk making mistakes, and strong enough to fearlessly correct them (me as a professor included). In this spirit: 1. Can you reflect on the reasons behind the RSO's, and indeed, the Tricouncil Ethics's policies around Indigenous research? What is the history here? What are the pitfalls Indigenous writers and thinkers have identified? What are the harms that have been inflicted in the past (and present)? This is an important legal skill - what mischief do these research policies strive to address? Where did these research guidelines come from? Was this paternalistic top-down thinking, or was it responsive to wave of Indigenous scholars and activists decrying the harms inflicted in the name of research? Or a little of both? Looking into these histories more deeply is also an important skill for reconciliation and building relationships of mutual respect within our law school, our university, and our society. Did you try to interview anyone from the RSO to gain an better understanding of the policy? I sit on the Aboriginal Advisory Circle for SSHRC (as does the Dean of Native Studies at our university, Dr. Chris Anderson). I can speak to the tremendous amount of debate and discussion that went into the crafting of their new definitions and guidelines for Indigenous research. Have you looked through any of these documents or linked resources on the SSHRC website? Here is the link:http://www.sshrc-crsh.gc.ca/society-societe/community-communite/aboriginal_research-recherche_autochtone/index-eng.aspx 2. An Indigenous colleague recently reminded me - reconciliation shouldn't be an additional burden on Indigenous people to educate non-Indigenous people in Canada. They spoke of being overwhelmed by alll of the (well-intentioned) requests on their time by non-Indigenous colleagues right now. What effort did you take to seek out Indigenous voices that don't require ethics approval or more time and effort from an Indigenous individual? For example, did you look at media sources, such as CBC Indigenous, or APTN? Did you listen to our own university radio program - Acimowin? http://cjsr.com/shows/acimowin/? There are many brilliant and well-regarded Indigenous scholars in the Faculty of Native Studies and other faculties on campus. Did you read any of their published, publically available articles and books? Did you seek out any advice/reading recommendations from experts in the field right here on campus? There are highly respected Indigenous legal scholars, whose work is accessible on our legal databases, such as Westlaw or Quicklaw. Have you searched for law journal articles by John Borrows, Gordon Christie, Sakej Henderson or Val Napoleon (just to name a few)? I encourage you to look into these aspects more thoroughly, and reflect on your own conclusions in this post. However, I am not encouraging you to lose sight of this important issue - do current research ethics requirements, intended to prevent harm, in some cases, unintentionally serve to silence certain voices? If so, how do we address this and who needs to be involved in that conversation? This is a complex issue that requires more discussion, research, and thinking on all of our parts as we move forward. We do need to do so with courage, care and humility. Respectfully, Dr. Friedland
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Sep 16, 2016