The Current

Aboriginal lawyers hopeful about the future of indigenous law in Canada

When it comes to indigenous people in Canada, the new prime minister has promised a new beginning. We convene a panel of up-and-coming aboriginal Canadian lawyers who are pushing for change to ask how optimistic they are about a new relationship and if indigenous law is at a turning point.
Liberal LeaderJustin Trudeau hugs Elder Evelyn Commanda-Dewache, a residential school survivor, during the closing ceremony of the Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission, at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on Wednesday, June 3, 2015. (The Canadian Press/Sean Kilpatrick)
No relationship is more important to me and to Canada than the one with First Nations, the Métis and Inuit peoples.- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

When it comes to Canada's First Nations and the courts, there are a few signs to suggest this is the beginning of a new era. Take for instance, the milestone 2014 Supreme Court Tsilhqot'in ruling, affirming aboriginal title to traditional territory in B.C. – a case that's sure to have ripple effects across the country.  

And then there's the appointment of Jody Wilson-Raybould as Canada's first ever aboriginal Justice Minister and Attorney General.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, centre, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett, left, and Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, in Ottawa as the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation commission is released, Tuesday Dec. 15, 2015. (Adrian Wyld/CP)

It's all part of the Trudeau Liberal government's promise to forge a nation-to-nation relationship with First Nations.

Today, we're asking whether there is in fact cause for optimism. And we convened three aboriginal lawyers, who are themselves at the forefront of pushing for change.

  • Karen Drake is a citizen of the Metis nation and an assistant professor at Lakehead University's Bora Laskin Faculty of Law in Thunder Bay, Ontario.
  • Promise Holmes Skinner is Anishnaabe, and a senior manager with Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto. She's also the Aboriginal Law Program Coordinator at the University of Toronto.
  • Kris Statnyk is chʼichyàa from the Gwich'in community of Old Crow, Yukon, and an Associate with the Mandell Pinder law firm in Vancouver. 


This segment was produced by The Current's Idella Sturino.