Volume 8, Number 11 February 16, 2001

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Native Law Centre fosters international programs of value to Aboriginal people

By Wanda D. McCaslin

Native Law Centre

The Native Law Centre of Canada, a multi-faceted institution at the U of S that works to promote development and empowerment strategies for Aboriginal Peoples, has a number of on-going international, national and provincial initiatives.

In the international sphere, the Centre has developed co-operative linkages with like-minded international organizations that help foster the empowerment of Aboriginal Peoples. These linkages are further strengthened by the Youth International Internship Program (YIIP). This is a joint program for young people which is run in partnership with the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

Under YIIP, the Native Law Centre provides training, co-ordination and supervisory support for internships with institutions and organizations in other countries that serve the needs of Indigenous peoples. This international experience provides the interns with new challenges for refining and applying their skills, by bringing them into working contact with international agencies. For example, with the cooperation of U of S International, two former students from the U of S are currently serving as interns with the Organization of American States in Washington, DC. In addition to working on various initiatives with host organizations, the interns design and fulfil a research task, through which they gain a broader vision for meeting the development concerns of Aboriginal peoples.

One goal, then, is to help foster the development of a number of Indigenous professionals to begin filling the need at the international level for expertise in Indigenous development. Secondly, the interns will eventually return to their own communities with heightened awareness of options and strategies and an appreciation of the strengths and opportunities of their own cultures.

Robert Woods, a former student of the U of S College of Commerce/CIBA program, who is currently on an internship in Auckland, New Zealand notes that, since his appointment in New Zealand, he has "been fortunate to be able to gain first-hand work experience, in an international setting." He adds, "My placement has enabled me to work collaboratively, with some very influential and world-renowned Indigenous academics. This has renewed and strengthened my own cultural identity and aspirations. I would recommend this program to any undergraduate student looking to develop international networks, as well as friendships."

The rights of Indigenous peoples in international law is another area the Centre develops as part of its mandate. Projects include the collection of international legal materials within the Centre as well as preparation of research papers.

More recently, the Research Director, Sakej Henderson, has been appointed to the National Advisory Committee for Canada’s Preparations for the UN World Conference Against Racism, to be held in South Africa in late August, 2001. He will help to prepare the Canadian position for meetings leading up to and including the World Conference. Since 1996, he has also served on the Advisory Council for the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

As Canada’s principal research program for Aboriginal law and lawyers, the Centre’s activities of research, organization and analysis of the structures of rules and court decisions are directed toward Aboriginal peoples. The Centre seeks to assist in the development of the law and legal system in ways that provide assistance to aspirations of Aboriginal people and make the law more accessible to them by assisting in admission to law schools.

The Centre’s initiatives of teaching, research, publication and library services was recognized when it received the Lieutenant-Governor’s Medal for Outstanding Public Service in Saskatchewan.

For more information, contact communications.office@usask.ca

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