Peter A Allard School of Law

Information for Students

Course Description 

The Indigenous Community Legal Clinic, Peter A. Allard School of Law (ICLC) program – Law 488/489 – is a full-term course comprised of 15 credits, 11 based on the practical component (pass/fail) and 4 based on the academic component of the program (graded).

Students commit to one full term, which they spend primarily at the ICLC’s location on Alexander Street in the downtown eastside of Vancouver. Students cannot take other courses during the term, except in special circumstances with permission.

Enrollment is currently limited to 10 students per term. Students at the ICLC are temporarily articled under the Rules of the Law Society of British Columbia. There is a weekly lecture on Thursday mornings from 9:30 am – 12:30 pm held at Allard Hall.

The practical component of the clinical term is based on pass/fail evaluation of significant practice achievements during the term. Students are expected to manage client files and the aim for the practical component of the course is to learn how to conduct client intakes and interviews, practice client management, conduct various court appearances, and negotiate and work with Crown and other lawyers in a variety of settings, among other practical components. Students are expected to conduct themselves professionally at all times.

The clinical learning environment is unique in many ways, and the pedagogy is designed to integrate experiential learning of the practice of law in a legal clinic setting with learning to apply ideas and theory about decolonization and Indigenizing law to that practice. The ICLC program is designed to explore how the legal system functions in relation to Indigenous people. It provides experiential learning to law students while providing the underserved Indigenous community with access to justice through the provision of pro-bono legal services.

The academic component of the course focuses on decolonizing and Indigenizing law. Students read and are encouraged to discuss and reflect on certain themes, some of which will be informed by current files, some of which are related to issues specific to Indigenous peoples and the law, and some of which are central or core to the experiential learning pedagogy. Students read scholarly publications, such as works examining decolonization and Indigenous legal orders, as well as studies on clinical legal education. The course incorporates Indigenous pedagogies, including story-telling and talking circles, to advance new ways of learning law.

Examples of themes we explore in the academic program include: access to justice, advocacy, antiracism, agency, argument, authority, cultural competency, cross-cultural understanding, decolonization, evidence, experience, Indigenous legal traditions, Indigenous legal theory, Indigenous feminisms, Indigenous methodologies, language, reconciliation representation, resistance, self-determination, sovereignty and trauma-informed practice.

Learning Outcomes

Focusing on decolonizing and Indigenizing law, this course seeks to advance students capacities for understanding:

  1. the history of colonial legal policies and practices in Canada;
  2. the ongoing impacts of Canadian law, legislation, policy, and the justice system on Indigenous peoples;
  3. how the Canadian legal system operates to colonize and oppress Indigenous peoples;
  4. the skills and capacities law students and legal professionals need to address how colonialism continues to impact Indigenous peoples negatively; and
  5. the value and necessity of cultural competency skills, Indigenous trauma-informed practice, and critical self-reflection in working with Indigenous peoples in their encounters with the Canadian justice system.

Students will:

  1. develop an understanding of the Canadian state’s the use of law in colonization and the continued oppression of Indigenous peoples;
  2. examine legislation, judicial decisions, and policies and processes, which exclude Indigenous legal orders, as well as how they may work as legal professionals to change this;
  3. work to build capacity for Indigenous legal problem-solving through the study of Indigenous methodology, laws, and legal orders; and
  4. develop analytic and practical skills for advancing reconciliation between Indigenous and settler peoples in Canada, including specifically skills-based training in intercultural competencies, conflict resolution, human rights, and anti-racism.

Over the course of completing all assignments, students will identify and meet the following learning objectives (all aimed at an overall goal of promoting reflective practice):

  • Analysis and Critical Thinking: Students will demonstrate an ability to assess complex legal and societal problems by identifying critical facts, the legal and policy issues, and potential options, solutions, strategies, and policy implications.
  • Communication: Students will communicate effectively and persuasively in written and oral forms, both with members of the legal profession and with the lay community in a manner that is clear, logical and persuasive.
  • Legal Research: Students will demonstrate effective use of the tools of legal research, will create and carry out an effective research plan for assessing a legal problem, and will demonstrate the ability to use appropriate citation form for advocacy and expositive legal writing. Legal research learning may be demonstrated by the incorporation of discussion and exposition of learning related to Externship assignments.
  • Professionalism and Ethics: Students will demonstrate competency in understanding the ethical standards of conduct expected of members of the legal profession, be able to recognize ethical dilemmas and resolve them appropriately, and understand the importance of pro bono service as a component of promoting justice.
  • Value Clarification: Students will clarify and assess their beliefs and values as they apply to legal practice and the role of law in its social context.

Course Structure

This course incorporates lectures, workshopping, facilitated discussions, problem-based learning, talking circles, and reflective journaling. Attendance and participation are key to engagement in the course content to support the course objectives above. Students are expected to attend class having read the assigned readings, to bring readings to class, and to be prepared to analyze and discuss the materials in class.

Orientation: Seminar hours are taught as intensive sessions throughout the Orientation period and so are included as a part of the Orientation schedule.

Orientation is mandatory and runs for 3-4 weeks at the beginning of each term. Students are required to attend scheduled Orientation activities every day from 8:30am-4:30pm (unless advised otherwise). Students are required to dress in professional attire throughout the Orientation and Monday-Wednesday for the duration of the term following Orientation.

Clinic Times: Following the Orientation period, ICLC clinical hours are as follows: 

  • Monday-Wednesday 9:00 am-4:00 pm – students are expected to attend at the ICLC or be at court working on client files/ matters, including scheduling client meetings.
  • Thursday – students are expected to attend at Allard Hall for class from 9:30am-12:30pm.
  • Friday – students are expected to attend at the ICLC for rounds from 10:00am-12:00pm. Students are expected to spend the afternoon preparing files for the upcoming week and working on client files/ matters.

Learning Activities

Self-reflective learning journals provide students with an opportunity to reflect personally and privately (only the instructor reads the journals for their section) on their reactions, thoughts, and feelings about what they have experienced. The journal provides a space to explore these responses critically and theorize about the meaning of specific aspects or broader meanings of the module and what was experienced in talking circles.

For more information on reflective thinking and writing please see here:

Educational talking circles are particularly beneficial in providing supported space for students to engage in reciprocal learning. The talking circle format is distinct. Faculty can utilize a talking stick, or another symbolic implement in the absence of a talking stick, such as a stone or cedar bough – anything that reminds us we are linked to the world outside of the intellectual space where the circle may be happening. As a supportive learning space, this pedagogical approach to talking circles utilizes three main principles: situated relatedness, respectful listening, and respectful witnessing.[1] These principles will be discussed with students before embarking on a talking circle.

Facilitated class discussions allow students to engage more deeply with the course readings and engage in reciprocal learning.

Facilitating a class discussion develops student’s critical reading and communication skills through preparation of a summary of the readings for one topic (readings assigned for that week along with any other readings or source materials the student may want to present to the group).

Final research paper with a critical reflection component develops student’s reflective thinking, critical analysis, and writing skills.

Although many Indigenous scholars write and speak about these epistemological and ontological concepts, these principles specifically reference the work of Métis social work practitioner and scholar Dr. Natalie Clark, Kwagiulth scholar Dr. Sarah Hunt, and Anishinaabe legal scholar Darlene Johnston. Clark, Hunt, and Johnston’s methodologies of listening, witnessing, and relatedness inform the basis of this pedagogical approach and understanding of these epistemological and ontological concepts grounded in Indigenous methodologies.

Application Process

For information on how to apply, students should visit the Clinics & Externships webpage

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