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Indigenous Peoples and the Law

Course Code: LGST 3330
Faculty: Humanities & Social Sciences
Department: Legal Studies
Credits: 3.0
Semester: 15 Weeks
Learning Format: Lecture, Seminar
Typically Offered: TBD. Contact Department Chair for more info.
course overview

This course attends to the rapidly evolving legal landscape of Aboriginal Law in Canada. The focus is on the interaction of Canadian politics, Parliament, and codified and common law surrounding sovereignty, rights, title and treaties. This complex and often litigious subject matter is approached from historical, social and legal contexts. Specific attention will include the Canadian Criminal Justice System particularly the impact of landmark Supreme Court decisions and the influence of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Course Content

1) Aboriginal Law

  • What is the difference between Aboriginal law and Indigenous law?
  • Who are Indigenous peoples in Canada?
  • What are the sources and objectives of Aboriginal law?
  • Why are Indigenous peoples treated differently?

2) History of Aboriginal Law in Canada

  • Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples
    • Separate Worlds
    • Contact and Cooperation
    • Displacement and Assimilation 
    • Negotiation and Renewal

3) The Indian Act

  • What is the definition of "Indian" under the Act?
  • How has this definition denied Indigenous rights?
  • How does the Quebec Supreme Court decision in Descheneaux v. Canada change this definition?
  • How does the Canadian government's response (Bill S-3) impact this decision?

4) United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

  • Historical overview
  • Interpretations 
  • Past and present responses in Canada

5) Indigenous Sovereignty 

  • Self-determination 
  • Self-government
  • Role of the Crown

6) Indigenous Rights, Title and Treaties

  • Definitions
  • Charter
  • SCC Decisions
    • R. v Sparrow
    • R. v Van de Peet
    • R. v Delgamuukw
    • R. v Tsilhqot'in
    • R. v Sappier
    • R. v Calder

7) Duty to Consult, Accommodate and Obtain Consent

  • Definitions and Relationships
  • Role of Government and Courts

8) Criminal Justice System

  • Historical Overview
  • Canadian Criminal Code
    • s. 718.2(e)
  • Sentencing
    • Supreme Court Decisions
      • R. v Gladue
      • R. v Wells
      • R. v Ipeelee

Methods of Instruction



4 hours per week

Means of Assessment

Means of assessment will be in accordance with Douglas College policy. An example of a course breakdown is as follows:

Term Paper 25%

Midterm 30%

Final Exam 30%

Class Project 15%

Learning Outcomes

At the conclusion of this course, the successful student will be able to:

1) Illustrate the historical context and current realities of Indigenous rights in Canada

2) Discuss the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and its impact in Canada

3) Analyze relevant legislation such as the Indian Act and Bill S-3 

4) Illustrate the significance of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples

5) Describe Indigenous sovereignty and the responses in Parliament to these rights 

6) Analyze the significance of major common law decisions surrounding Indigenous rights and title

7) Examine the historical importance of treaties in Canada and their impact on the claims of Indigenous Peoples

8) Explain duty to consult, to accommodate and to obtain consent, and how relevant court decisions on these duties impact government

9) Explain how landmark Supreme Court decisions and related amendments in legislation have changed the Canadian Criminal Justice System

course prerequisites

CRIM 1160




Courses listed here are equivalent to this course and cannot be taken for further credit:

  • No equivalency courses

curriculum guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester/year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

course schedule and availability
course transferability

Below shows how this course and its credits transfer within the BC transfer system. 

A course is considered university-transferable (UT) if it transfers to at least one of the five research universities in British Columbia: University of British Columbia; University of British Columbia-Okanagan; Simon Fraser University; University of Victoria; and the University of Northern British Columbia.

For more information on transfer visit the BC Transfer Guide and BCCAT websites.


If your course prerequisites indicate that you need an assessment, please see our Assessment page for more information.