To launch the New Year, it is common practice for people to make resolutions for the year ahead — setting goals for improvement. For 2017, Pro Bono Students Canada’s National Office has committed to fulfilling a meaningful New Year’s resolution: a “Reconciliation Resolution.”
Our commitment was made in response to the challenge issued by Amanda Carling, Indigenous Initiatives Coordinator for the University of Toronto Faculty of Law. In January 2017, she challenged every student, faculty and staff member at the Faculty to make a “Reconciliation Resolution” for the year ahead. A “Reconciliation Resolution” is a commitment to do “at least three things that you think will help our country move towards a better relationship with Indigenous people.”
The PBSC National Office accepted the challenge and committed to do the following:
1) to educate ourselves about Indigenous Peoples, Indigenous rights and colonialism;
2) to create a new national project with an Indigenous focus; and
3) to encourage our chapters to develop more projects with and for Indigenous people.
Acting on the first component of our resolution — to educate ourselves— members of PBSC’s National Office participated in the KAIROS Blanket Exercise at the Faculty of Law in January. KAIROS describes the Blanket Exercise as “an interactive learning experience that teaches the Indigenous rights history we’re rarely taught…the Blanket Exercise covers over 500 years of history in a one and a half hour participatory workshop. Blanket Exercise participants take on the roles of Indigenous peoples in Canada. Standing on blankets that represent the land, they walk through pre-contact, treaty-making, colonization and resistance… By engaging on an emotional and intellectual level, the Blanket Exercise effectively educates and increases empathy.” To learn more about the KAIROS Blanket Exercise, click here.
For the second component of our resolution — developing a new national project with an Indigenous focus — PBSC is consulting with various partners to explore meaningful opportunities. We look forward to announcing a new project as the year progresses.
For the third element of our resolution — encouraging our Chapters to explore Indigenous-focused projects — we will begin a conversation at our national training conference in May about expanding and developing projects that will improve access to justice for Indigenous individuals and communities.
Some of our current Indigenous-focused projects include:
University of Saskatchewan – PBSC student volunteers assist the Native Law Centre with its “Case Watch” blog —summarizing and providing commentary on recent judicial decisions with specific impacts on Indigenous peoples.
University of Victoria –PBSC students are partnering with the University of Victoria’s Indigenous Law Research Unit (ILRU) to develop public legal education materials to provide an introduction to Indigenous Law and its practices.
University of Manitoba – In collaboration with Ka Ni Kanichihk Inc., PBSC students are researching and drafting a legal memo exploring the legal issues with respect to HIV disclosure and the impact these issues have on Indigenous women.
University of Western Ontario – PBSC students work with the N’Amerind Friendship Centre’s Gladue Writer Program to help research and write Gladue reports in order to advocate for Indigenous people within the criminal justice system.
We invite potential partners to contact us about opportunities for impactful projects at any time.