Sui Generis Litigation: Reconciling History and Law?

02/22/2007 8:00 am
02/23/2007 3:00 pm

First Nations House of Learning 1985 West Mall, University of BC

Conference Theme:

The judiciary in and have commented on the sui generis and historical nature of Aboriginal litigation, noting its’ significant for achieving the broader public policy goal of reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. The unique character of Aboriginal litigation has necessitated using unconventional techniques of fact finding and incorporating flexibility with regard to oral and ethnohistorical lines of evidence in the courtroom. Thus Aboriginal litigation pushes the epistemological and methodological boundaries of both history and law. What are the implications of Aboriginal litigation for reconciliation? How can sui generis litigation encompass reconciliation, or can it? How might aspects of history and law contribute to reconciliation discourse, both in and outside the courtroom?

The goal of this 2 day conference is to initiate informal dialogue about these issues outside the adversarial setting of the courtroom. There will be ample time for questions after each panel, and in the afternoon on Day 2, participants will take part in small discussion groups on panel discussions. The groups will report back in a final plenary session and key issues, recommendations, etc. will be collated into a final conference report to be distributed post-conference.


Day 1:
8:00-9:00: Coffee/muffins
9:00-9:30: Welcoming Ceremony and Opening Remarks

9:30-10:00: Keynote Speaker:
Chief Judge Joe Williams, Maori Land Court, Chairperson, Waitangi Tribunal,

10:00-10:15: Health Break
10:15-12:30: Session 1- History, the Laws and sui generis litigation: Current Issues.

This session will explore the epistemological and methodological issues that arise in ethnohistorical and oral history lines of evidence in the courtroom. Why is context important? What are the limitations of documentary text-based evidence in sui generis litigation? What are the problems associated with existing criteria for qualifying experts on oral history?

Confirmed speakers:
Dr. Stephen Patterson, Prof. Emeritus, History, University of New Brunswick
Dr. Arthur Ray, Prof. Emeritus, History, University of BC
Prof. Gordon Christie, Faculty of Law, University of BC
Stuart Rush, QC, Rush, Crane Guenther
S. Ronald Stevenson, Senior General Counsel, Department of Justice Canada (invited)

Moderator: (invited- Prof. June McCue, Faculty of Law, University of BC)

12:30-2:30: Lunch (on own)

2:30-4:30: Session 2- Sui Generis Litigation: Is Reconciliation Possible?

This session will explore the implications of sui generis litigation for reconciliation, focusing on approaches to settling claims that are more inclusive of Indigenous legal systems that reside in ceremonies, stories, songs and protocols. How does this affect our ideas about what constitutes legitimate historical evidence?

Confirmed Speakers:
Justice Marvyn Koenigsberg, BC Supreme Court
Dr. Bain Attwood, Monash University, Australia
Dr. J.R. Miller, Canada Research Chair in Native-Newcomer Relations, University of Saskatchewan
Prof. Val Napoleon, Faculty of Law, University of Alberta
Dr. Paulette Regan, UBC-DOJ Academic Interchange Scholar

Moderator: Dr. Graham Hingangaroa Smith, Distinguished Professor in Education, Educational Studies, University of BC

5:00-8:00: Reception (Cash Bar: Location TBA)

* confirmed speakers as of Jan. 15/07

DAY 2:
8:30-9:30: Coffee/muffins
9:30-12:00: Session 3- New Research Directions in the Academy
Building on discussion from Day 1, this session will consider the role of universities as teaching institutions with a responsibility to educate future judges, lawyers, and academics, engaging First Nations communities as full partners. How can universities create learning environments that support new research to address the reconciliation of history and law in Indigenous contexts?

Confirmed Speakers:
Prof. Richard Vedan, UBC President’s Special Advisor on Aboriginal Issues
Prof. Sakej Henderson, Native Law Centre of Canada, University of Saskatchewan
Dr. Bruce Miller, Anthropology, University of BC
Dr. Keith Carlson, History, University of Saskatchewan

Moderator: Dr. Coll Thrush, History, University of BC

12:00-1:00: Lunch (provided)

1:00-3:00: Session 4 - Wrap-up Session
Facilitator: Dr. Linc Kesler, Director, First Nations Studies, University of BC
Participants will break into small dialogue groups to discuss sessions. Final plenary for reports on key issues, recommendations, etc. These reports will be collated into a final conference report to be distributed post-conference.

For more information email Rick Ouellet at

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