In this presentation, I will talk about the Wahkohtowin class, an interdisciplinary, community-based class that I co-facilitated in Saskatoon.
The class brought together several groups of students, including law students and former gang members, to learn together about justice and injustice. Indigenous students made up the majority of the members of the class (and of the four facilitators two were Indigenous and two were settlers). One of our key activities in the class was reading legal texts together, and taking them up in light of the lived experiences of students in the class. Legal texts that we considered included the Supreme Court of
Canada’s decision in R v Gladue, and the federal Corrections and
Conditional Release Act’s section on administrative segregation/ solitary confinement. The process of reading legal texts outside the “usual” contexts where law is read and discussed, and with people who are rarely members of law’s interpretive community (yet have intimate, embodied understanding of the impact of legal texts), was a powerful one for everyone in the class. I propose that where and with whom we read legal texts matters, and that the Wahkohtowin class provided a critical vantage point from which to critique the dominant legal reading and interpretive practices in law school and the profession. This sparks reflection on the boundaries of law’s interpretative community/ies and the ways that legal texts can be taken up in new and critical ways outside of the usual bounds.