Karine Millaire: working for reconciliation

A member of the Wendat nation of Wendake, Karine Millaire grew up in Quebec. The first of her family on university benches, she has always sought to recognize and correct injustices, and to understand the legal systems in which we live in order to improve them. “From a very young age, I was sensitive to issues of social justice and the importance of equal opportunity. I observed the injustices and tried to act,” she recalls MI Millaire, who also specialized in human rights and freedoms more broadly.

“It’s a long journey and getting this position fills me with pride,” says the new professor of constitutional law and indigenous legal systems at the Université de Montréal School of Law, who completed her doctorate at the University of Ottawa during the pandemic in 2020.

From lawyer to researcher

After graduating with a law degree from Laval University, Karine Millaire worked for the first time in the litigators’ office of the Quebec Ministry of Justice. “It allowed me to touch on all sorts of public law issues, but from the state’s perspective,” she says. So, after five years, she decided to pursue an academic career. “The two go together; I like the contact with the countryside, but I wanted to distance myself from the State. When you’re a researcher, you can take a critical view of the state and other stakeholders,” she continues.

It is therefore starting a master’s degree in fundamental and collective rights and a doctorate in the issue of free and informed consent and autonomy. During her doctoral studies, she taught at the Faculty of Continuing Education at the University of Montreal and at the Faculty of Law, Section of Civil Law, at the University of Ottawa. She will complete a postdoctoral fellowship at Queen’s University in 2021.

The law as an instrument of reconciliation

The hiring of Karine Millaire is also linked to the establishment of mandatory training for all UdeM Law students and is part of the implementation of the Place aux Premiers Peuples institutional action plan, which makes program managers aware of the importance of integrating various elements relating to aboriginal realities. The teacher’s course, developed in collaboration with a team of teachers, will introduce indigenous legal systems and require a different reflection on the foundations of law. “It is with the aim of decolonizing education because we have long taught the fundamentals of the legal system from the point of view of the colonizing state”, explains Ms.I Millaire, who had already begun in his course to review the way he taught constitutional law. “We have to tell the story differently and make room for other ways of looking at what our normative frameworks and our rules are,” he adds.

This course, which will be offered for the first time next winter, is a direct response to the call to action noh 28 of the Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission report, which called on law schools across the country to “require all their students to take a course on indigenous peoples and law.” The accredited course will enable the acquisition of intercultural skills and will bring students into the field to meet the people who hold the knowledge of the communities. “Law faculties play a key role in reconciliation: it starts with education in indigenous legal and governance traditions, so that future jurists can act in a positive and informed way,” concludes Karine Millaire.

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