The University of Victoria is celebrating the construction of the National Centre for Indigenous Laws (NCIL). Elders, UVic faculty, staff and students, representatives of local and provincial government, the judiciary, and the Law Foundation of BC, members of the community, and team members from Two Row Architect, Teeple Architects, Low Hammond Rowe Architects, and Chandos Construction gathered at the official groundbreaking for the project on Thursday, March 9, 2023.
The National Centre for Indigenous Laws supports and embodies the University of Victoria’s groundbreaking approach toward reconciliation of divergent legal traditions under one roof. A dedicated home for the world-first JD/JID Canadian Common Law and Indigenous Legal Orders degree program, the NCIL is a direct response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada Report’s Calls to Action 27, 28 and 50. The NCIL is being constructed on the traditional territory of the Lekwungen peoples, and has been designed to honour the host Songhees, Esquimalt and W̱SÁNEĆ nations while welcoming Indigenous students, staff and community members from across the country.
Attendees of the construction ceremony were welcomed by Songhees Elder Dr. Skip Dick, who reminded the group of the great importance the NCIL on the path of reconciliation. Attendees were led on a tour of the site by Patricia Barkaskas, NCIL Strategic Advisor to the Dean, and Acting Dean of Law, Professor, and Law Foundation Chair of Indigenous Justice and Governance, Val Napoleon, and saw how the NCIL will be the new face of UVic’s Law School, signifying the importance of Indigenous legal practice, and uniting the existing Fraser Law Building and the surrounding landscape in an integrated path of learning.
The design was the result of a rich collaboration led by Two Row Architect of the Grand River First Nation and Tkaronto, in collaboration with post-secondary experts Teeple Architects, and Victoria’s Low Hammond Rowe Architects, together with a dedicated and highly engaged team representing the University of Victoria and Faculty of Law. Driven by learnings from Elders and knowledge-keepers, the design foregrounds respect for the land; the mass timber structure was sited to minimize disturbance to the existing wooded site and nearby watershed and will reuse mature trees displaced by construction as visible structural elements, making the practice of environmental stewardship part of the experience of the place.
“This physical structure represents a sanctuary where our laws, which enable us to be peoples, will be safe, and where both Indigenous and non-Indigenous students will learn about those laws, creating the foundation to a multijuridical Canada.”
― Val Napoleon, Acting Dean of Law, Professor, and Law Foundation Chair of Indigenous Justice and Governance.
“The NCIL is inspired by the ways of knowing and being, legal traditions and architecture of the Coast Salish world. In the tradition of the Coast Salish big houses, we have created the Centre as a place where Indigenous law is practiced, oral traditions are transmitted, legal issues and important decisions are deliberated over, and relationships are fostered and strengthened through visiting, feasting, singing and dancing. Our dream for the Centre builds on the enduring practices of hospitality central to the Indigenous Peoples of this territory. We look forward to hosting all our relations in the work of standing up our collective Indigenous laws and legal orders.”
― Sarah Morales (Su-taxwiye), Building Committee Member, Associate Professor, Coast Salish and member of the Cowichan Tribes
To read more about the NCIL groundbreaking click here