the state and indigenous legal cultures: law in search of legitimacy

Jean-François Gaudreault-Desbiens appointed Dean of the Faculty of Law of the Université de Montréal

Published on:04 May at 06:00PM

Mr. Jean-François Gaudreault-Desbiens has been appointed Dean of the Faculty of Law of the Université de Montréal.

Tribute to the Deputy Chair Person of the National House of Traditional Leaders Kgoshi Makgeru

Author: Canada Research Chair on Indigenous Peoples and Legal Diversity
Published on:07 November at 10:00AM

 The Legitimus team learned with great sadness the passing of the Deputy Chairperson of the National House of Traditional Leaders (NHTL), Kgoshi Sefogole Frans Makgeru.

Hadley Friedland receives the 2013 SSHRC Talent Award

Author:Canada Research Chair on Legal Diversity and Aboriginal Peoples
Published on:30 June at 11:09AM

Hadley Friedland, PhD student currently working on the project The State and Indigenous Legal Cultures received the 2013 Talent Award from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) for her outstanding achievement and clear potential to be a future leader within and outside the academic sector. The Talent Award is given to individuals who hold a SSHRC doctoral or postdoctoral fellowship or scholarship and who maintain academic excellence.

Hadley’s research focuses on the identification and application of indigenous legal principles to the issue of endemic intimate violence in aboriginal communities. Based on her master’s thesis on Wetiko legal principles (Cree law), Hadley’s objective is to develop a method of articulating indigenous law and developing ways to learn and teach these methods. She would also like to expand her research to more areas of the law and examine the feasibility of establishing a Cree court.

“My ultimate goal is to put aboriginal legal traditions on similar footing as other traditions in Canada in order to have a more symmetrical conversation between two complex systems of governance” said Hadley.

By shifting the questions about Indigenous laws from questions about values to questions about legal principles, and identifying and analyzing the legal principles within Indigenous stories, Hadley has demonstrated excellence and innovation as a legal scholar. When she received her award, at the World Social Science Forum in Montreal last October, she shared that social sciences were crucial for moving forward “in a way where we bring all our imagination and the full capacity of our society to bear on all the really difficult issues we’re all facing right now”.

We congratulate Hadley and wish her all the best in her research!


(Pictures courtesy of the University of Alberta/Hadley Friedland)

Aseniwuche Winewak Youth Council

The Kanak Charter: A novel approach in indigenous law and an expression of legal pluralism in New Caledonia

Author:Canada Research Chair on Legal Diversity and Aboriginal Peoples
Published on:25 June at 12:09PM

As a result of a partnership with the National Congress of the aboriginal people of Kanaky/New Caledonia, researchers and partners of the project The State and Indigenous Legal Cultures have been following the developments of the work of the Kanak people regarding indigenous law and legal pluralism. New Caledonia's Customary Senate recently proclaimed a Charter of the Kanak people therefore highlighting the importance of their work.

Adopted on April 12th, 2014 by the chiefs of the eight customary regions and proclaimed on April 26th, 2014 during a ceremony in Nouméa, the Kanak Charter reiterates the foundations of the Kanak people’s culture and provides a “superior legal framework, embracing an historic reality and guaranteeing unity and the expression of their inherent sovereignty”.

Although New Caledonia has been colonised for 161 years, the Kanak people have preserved their values and founding principles. In this 30-page charter, eighteen founding principles are affirmed. Amongst them are human life, connection to the land, the role of the spoken word, the importance of the Kanak name, the symbolic and legal importance of the igname, customary forgiveness, and the systematic search for consensus.

According to François Féral, law professor at the University of Perpignan and co-researcher of the project The State and Indigenous Legal Cultures, “this is truly a novel approach for an indigenous people”. He also added that this charter has legal value because it is internationally recognized by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Colonised by the French Republic since 1853, New Caledonia is currently following a path of decolonisation. From a political perspective, the proclamation of this charter ties in with the provincial elections that took place last May, therefore ending the last mandate of the Nouméa Accord of 1998, which provides that a referendum on self-determination must be organised before 2018.

Professor Féral adds that even though this charter has not been adopted by the State, it demonstrates the need for collaboration and legal cooperation with the State. Raphael Mapo, a Kanak leader, doctoral candidate and collaborator of the project The State and Indigenous Legal Cultures, says “there is no intention to undermine western institutions but there is a wish that Kanak customs be taken into account in public policy”.

In taking this line of action, the Kanak people are going forward with their legal emancipation. The Senate president, Paul Vakie, says that the Charter represents the Kanaks' articulation of their basic legal system and the need for its full recognition which will not happen in his opinion, until there is what he calls a balanced legal pluralism.

Download the Kanak Charter here:


(source: Kanak Customary Senate)


Edith Cloutier appointed Member of the Order of Canada

Author:Canada Research Chair on Legal Diversity and Aboriginal Peoples
Published on:16 June at 04:47PM

Edith Cloutier, president of the Regroupement des Centres d’amitié autochtones du Québec (RCAAQ), director of the Centre d’amitié autochtone of Val-d’Or and member of the advisory committee of the project The State and Indigenous Legal Cultures, was awarded with the Order of Canada,Canada's highest civilian honour.

Edith was appointed during an official ceremony presided by The Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada on May 7th, 2014. This recognition is the continuation of a journey filled with achievements. In particular, Edith received the Ordre national du Québec in 2006 and the National Aboriginal Achievement Award Public services category in 2010.

Edith believes that her achievements are the result of a collective effort. “I don’t consider that I deserve this honour more than anyone else because I meet people on a daily basis who shine and contribute to the reconciliation of Aboriginal peoples and I want to share this honour with them” said Edith. Dynamic and resourceful, Edith’s approach is based on the search for practical solutions in order to reach out to members of her community.

Member of the Anishnabe First Nation, Edith is celebrating her 25th anniversary as the director of the Centre d’amitié autochtone of Val d’Or. However, she considers that her role in this movement goes beyond simple management. Her objective is to improve the quality of life of Aboriginal people. In her efforts to do so, she believes that being on the advisory committee of the project The State and Indigenous Legal Cultures will contribute to her objectives. “I joined the advisory committee of this project because we opened a door to a voice that is not normally present in this kind of research infrastructure. Although I am not a researcher, I am confidant that I can be useful and that I can bring a direct perspective, both provincially and on the field” highlighted Edith with pride.

We congratulate Edith and hope that she will continue to devote herself to the cause of Aboriginal people.



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