For graduate students, the course number is LAW3001HF.

Aboriginal people are significantly and tragically overrepresented in Canada's prisons and criminal courts. This is the result of numerous factors, some of which are intrinsic to Canada's criminal justice system, and some of which are extrinsic to that system. This course will examine the substantive law and historical and cultural context for Canadian criminal law, as it applies to Aboriginal people. Throughout the course, the instructors will discuss advocacy and ethical issues that arise for counsel who represent Aboriginal clients in any litigation proceedings, criminal or otherwise.

The first half of this course will provide students with a historical, theoretical, policy and legal background for the current relationship between Aboriginal people and the criminal justice system. This will include some examples of the Indigenous laws that were supplanted by Canadian criminal law, and the processes through which these laws were and are disregarded by Canadian colonial and contemporary governments. The resulting cultural and legal dissonance continues to play out in courtrooms across the country. That dissonance, combined with crushing poverty, racism, legacy of residential schools, and other factors, results in a profoundly disproportionate over involvement of Aboriginal people in the criminal justice system.

The second half of the course will examine each stage of the criminal justice process, including policing, arrest, judicial interim release, trial, sentencing, and parole. The jurisprudence and scholarly commentary concerning the experience of Aboriginal peoples at each of these stages will be discussed, with a focus on those issues that are particular to Aboriginal people, whether from a Canadian or an Indigenous perspective.

Students will be encouraged, through class discussions and assignments, to critically apply the considerations and analysis covered in the first half of the course to the more concrete elements of the criminal justice process, as they are covered in the second half of the course. Through their coursework and assignments, students will be encouraged to critically examine their own and the criminal justice system's assumptions about Aboriginal peoples and Indigenous laws, as well as the destructive role the criminal justice system has played and continues to play in the lives of many Aboriginal people.

Students will be asked to submit one short paper of no more than 1,250 words in length (for 25%) and one longer paper of no more than 5000 words in length (for 50%), as well as participate in several in-class group discussions, which will result in one group presentation (for 25%). The shorter papers will relate to the group presentation topics. The group presentations will involve groups of students leading the classroom discussion portion of the class. This is an eligible course for credit towards the Aboriginal Legal Studies Certificate.

At a Glance

First Term



18 JD


W: 4:10 - 6:00