Indigenous Legal Methodologies and Water Governance In Canada

Author: Laura Grace MacLean

Canada has a firmly established bijuridical system, which formally recognizes two distinct legal systems and demands adherence to these laws by individuals, organizations and institutions within its jurisdictions. In recent years, however, there has been emerging scholarship that details the Indigenous legal orders that have existed and continue to exist in Indigenous communities across the country. The legacy of colonial oppression has attempted to erode and delegitimize these legal orders, but many of the deeply embedded laws and legal traditions have been passed down through generations and continue to be relevant and respected in communities. Indigenous legal scholars and community practitioners who write and practice Indigenous law have called for an acknowledgement, revitalization and respect for these laws both within their communities and also by the broader Canadian political and legal landscape. It has only been recently that colonial governments have begun to express interest in bringing these laws into the fold of the Canadian legal system, and most recently the Ontario government has put out a call for proposals to Indigenous communities to begin the process of revitalizing and codifying their laws. This paper will attempt to help communities responding to this call by examining several of the methodologies that currently exist for uncovering and understanding Indigenous laws in Canada and will analyze some applications along with the similarities and differences between them. It will place these methodologies within the context of existing Anishinaabe knowledge on water laws as well as the current frameworks of policy and legislation that exist for water issues in Canada. This paper will then conclude with some recommendations for going forward with the work of revitalizing Indigenous Law in Canada.

A link to her Major Research Paper can be found at: