Dwight Newman


In this paper, which is part of a larger project on the interpretation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), I consider the implications of theory on legal interpretation as it has the potential to bear on UNDRIP.  The project arises in the context of increasing calls to implement into the domestic law of various states aspects of or the entirety of UNDRIP through legislative and/or judicial means.  UNDRIP is not a treaty, so standard principles of treaty interpretation do not necessarily apply to it.  However, to the extent that it is an international instrument subject to potential domestic implementation, it has characteristics of a legal text, albeit one situated within some particularly unique cross-cultural dimensions.  This paper considers some more general legal theory arguments on the place of text, context, intent, and purpose as they might be applied within this distinctive setting, relating them briefly to particular examples from the UNDRIP articles on land rights, consultation/consent to natural resource projects, and Indigenous religious freedom.     

About the presenter

Dwight Newman is Professor of Law & Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Rights in Constitutional and International Law at the University of Saskatchewan.  He is also Munk Senior Fellow of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute and a member of the bars of Saskatchewan and Ontario.  After his JD at Saskatchewan, he served as a law clerk at the Supreme Court of Canada and completed his BCL and DPhil at Oxford.  Since joining the Saskatchewan faculty in 2005, he has published ten books and a hundred articles or chapters on constitutional law and Indigenous rights topics.  He has been on recent visiting fellowships at Cambridge, Montréal, and Princeton, and he is on a short academic visit at the University of Western Australia in early 2018.

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