On June 21, 2017 ( the newly renamed “Indigenous Peoples Day”), at a newly renamed space at York University “Skennen’kó:wa Gamig (House of Great Peace),” Osgoode Hall Law School launched its Reconciliation Fund. The Reconciliation Fund, with an initial investment of $300K, commits Osgoode to specific actions to advance goals of Reconciliation, and respond to the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. Osgoode’s enhanced commitment to Reconciliation, which has been identified as a top priority in the Law School’s 2017-2020 Access Osgoode Strategic Plan, represents an important next chapter in the history of the Law School.
The Osgoode Hall Law School Reconciliation Fund will provide support for a range of Indigenous initiatives at Osgoode:
· Three years of annual funding for the Anishinaabe Law Camp held each September at Neyaashiinigmiing (Cape Croker) in collaboration with the Chippewas of Nawash and the Debwewin Summer Internship program in collaboration with the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General.
· Establishment of Osgoode’s first Office of Indigenous and Reconciliation Initiatives.
· Strengthening and deepening ties with Indigenous communities by bringing Elders in Residence to Osgoode, as well as other experts and guests from Indigenous communities for Osgoode events, courses and programs.
· Programming in Skennen’kó:wa Gamig (formerly Hart House) as a centre for Indigenous community life at York University and other pan-University collaborations.
· Augmenting available funding sources for Osgoode Indigenous students.
· Enhancing the Indigenization of Osgoode’s curriculum, as well as research projects, exhibits and collaborations that enrich study and knowledge about Indigenous law and legal issues. (This builds on the success of Osgoode’s Intensive Program in Aboriginal Lands, Resources & Governments as one of North America’s premier experiential programs exploring legal issues relating to Indigenous peoples and Indigenous rights. The program celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2014.)
This commitment to Reconciliation builds upon Osgoode’s past initiatives and reflects our shared goal for the Law School to play a leadership role among Canadian law schools in engaging with Indigenous communities, students and scholars and ensuring that our curriculum reflects Indigenous legal traditions and Indigenous justice issues. Some of this background has been covered in a 2015 blog post responding to the TRC Report.
Following the announcement of the Reconciliation Fund, on June 23rd, Osgoode held its Honour Ceremony for graduating Indigenous students at Skennen’kó:wa Gamig with special guests Justice Harry LaForme and Cindy Blackstock on hand. Justice LaForme, a graduate of Osgoode, became Canada’s first Indigenous appellate judge in 2004. Cindy Blackstock, a Gitxsan activist for child welfare and Executive Director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, was awarded an honorary degree at Osgoode Convocation later that day (and Spirit Bear, her constant companion throughout her advocacy for Indigenous children, received an honorary “Bearrister” designation).
Dr. Blackstock spoke of the need to bring together love and justice in the search for Reconciliation, and reminded Osgoode’s Class of ’17 on the important work that remains to be done, both for the Indigenous children who are being left behind, and to change our culture, our attitudes and our realities. This reminder of the urgent and vital work left to do could not have been more timely. As we come to terms with the past, our hope is that the Osgoode community can do justice to this hope for the future.