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Northern B.C. law students tackle pipeline issues

A national court competition focused on Indigenous issues and the Coastal GasLink Pipeline
Tara-Lynn Wilson, Bailie Copeland, Murray Sholty, Chrystie Stewart, Rob Houle and Rosina Hamoni

Northern British Columbian residents participated in the 2023 Kawaskimhon Moot, a court competition that has participants from nearly every law school in Canada.

The competition took place earlier this month and was hosted by the University of Victoria Faculty of Law.

Kawaskimhon is a nêhiyawêwin (Cree language) word that means “speaking with knowledge.”

This moot is unique in that it centres Indigenous legal orders alongside federal, provincial, and international law.

It is consensus-based and non-adversarial and this year focused on the legal issues surrounding the Coastal GasLink (CGL) pipeline.

Thompson Rivers University’s Faculty of Law (TRU Law)’s team was comprised of members with deep connections to northern B.C.

Coach Murry Shotly is a former UNBC student from Hagwilget Village and a long-time Fort Fraser Resident and coach Chrystie Stewart is from Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc.

The four students on the team were Tara-Lynn Wilson of Haisla Nation from Kitamaat Village, Bailie Copeland who is Mètis from Rose Prairie north of Fort St. John, Rob Houle of Swan River First Nation and Rosina Hamoni from North Vancouver.

Numerous issues were raised in the moot such as does the Wet’suwet’en have land title over the lands claimed by the hereditary chiefs and what rights do Wet’suwet’en people have under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

In addition, it addressed issues around the environment, potential pipeline rerouting, First Nations equity participation, revenue sharing, employment and training, and much more.

“The negotiation competition helped me learn how to remain impartial when approaching controversial issues. Using both Aboriginal and Indigenous laws to help me advocate for a client regardless of who they are, was a valuable learning experience,” said Wilson.

“The problem we addressed was relevant to me because the pipeline runs through my hometown. Having the issue include a real-life project that directly impacts my nation made me appreciate the process and take it seriously.”

The first Kawaskimhon Moot was held at University of Toronto in 1994.

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