Creating an Indigenous Legal Community




Borrows, John

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McGill Law Journal


In this lecture, the author challenges us to move beyond the cases and statutes that preoccupy lawyers generally and to reach, in the spirit of legal pluralism, for law expressed elsewhere—in oral histories and everyday lives. By weaving indigenous oral and Western scholarly traditions together, he demonstrates the existence of a pluralistic indigenous legal community and argues that conceiving of Canada as a bijuridical country is inherently limiting. Only through a pluralistic, multijuridical framework can we fully respect the place of indigenous legal thinking. It is also essential to recognize that the scope of indigenous law is not limited to Aboriginal communities. Indigenous law is more than just private or Aboriginal community law: it is a part of Canada’s constitutional structure. In fact, both indigenous and non-indigenous peoples benefit from treaty rights. As such, failing to recognize the significance of indigenous law will result in the impoverishment of our understanding of Canadian laws and legal processes. The author builds on this argument to suggest that we can create an even stronger indigenous legal community in Canada. He underscores the importance of committing to John C. Tait’s notion of “dialogue” in building a strong sense of community. By moving in this direction, Canada can be a world leader by recognizing the central role of indigenous law in private law, community law, and—perhaps most importantly—constitutional law.




Borrows, John. 2005, "Creating an Indigenous Legal Community." McGill Law Journal. Vol. 50 Issue 1, pp. 153-179