Common Law Section Organizes Blanket Exercise for Incoming Students

Posted on Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Faculty of Law, Common Law Section Logo

Incoming first-year students at the Faculty of Law, Common Law Section, had the opportunity to participate in KAIROS Blanket Exercises as part of their orientation program.


The KAIROS Blanket Exercise is a unique, participatory history lesson, which tells the history of Indigenous people in Canada and the impacts of colonization. The exercise was developed in collaboration with Indigenous Elders, knowledge keepers and educators, and seeks to foster “truth, understanding, respect and reconciliation among Indigenous and non-indigenous peoples.”


The Faculty hosted six Indigenous knowledge keepers, who conducted six separate workshops at the University on Wednesday, September 5.


Denise Anne Boissoneau

Knowledge Keeper and Common Law Alumna Denise Anne Boissoneau (LL.B. 1998)


“This marks the first time the law school has offered the KAIROS Blanket Exercise to incoming students, and I see it as part of our broader commitment towards reconciliation,” said Dean Adam Dodek. “It is a powerful, experiential learning activity that is made all the more poignant by the Indigenous knowledge keepers who facilitate the exercise.


“It can be a difficult exercise to sit through, but students will gain a deeper understanding of the hardships Indigenous peoples in Canada have faced, and what needs to occur for the healing process to continue.”


Ontario Bar Association


The Common Law Section recognizes the generous support received from the Ontario Bar Association, which helped us host these workshops on campus.


“Lawyers carry a heavy responsibility to ensure that Canada’s justice system serves everyone – that no one is left out. We were very proud to support the Kairos Blanket exercise for the class of 2021. The opportunity it gave them to witness, firsthand, the importance of being informed and educated about the shared history of indigenous and non-indigenous people in Canada and how crucial it is to be respectful and impartial, is one that is going to serve them well in their chosen career path.”

- Lynne Vicars, President, Ontario Bar Association


KAIROS Blanket Exercise

The blankets represent land in Canada prior to the arrival of European settlers.


John Henri Commanda

Knowledge Keeper John Henri Commanda addresses students during the exercise. Earlier in the day, John Henri's son, Julien Commanda was present. This was particularly powerful since he talked about the impact of intergenerational effects of his father being a Sixties Scoop child.


KAIROS Blanket Exercise

Millions of First Nations People (represented by student participants) lived in thousands of distinct societies at the time of first European contact.


KAIROS Blanket Exercise

The impacts of colonization are felt throughout the exercise. Students are asked to stand closer together when land is appropriated, or to leave the blankets completely when large swaths of First Nations people succumb to disease, starvation, and displacement.


KAIROS Blanket Exercise

By the end of the exercise, the floor is nearly bare. It is meant to show that today, Aboriginal lands south of the 60th parallel make up less than one-half of one per cent of the Canadian land mass.


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