When we formed RAVEN in 2009, it was because the original board recognized the need to redress an inherent imbalance. To obtain justice in the courts for Canada’s First Nations in their struggle to protect rights and lands native leaders, advocates and their legal teams almost always face overwhelming odds when going against the established interests of large corporations and the governments that support them. Governments and wealthy corporations hire large teams of lawyers and experts to bolster their arguments. Their resources appear almost limitless to cash-strapped First Nations and their dedicated legal teams that all too often work pro bono because of their belief in the cause. The background research and other costs attendant on the fight for native rights are invariably immense. Yet, without adequate research and background information, native causes are bound to fail in non-native legal systems.
Since our humble beginnings, in a donated office based in Victoria, BC with just one staff person, we have already enjoyed significant success. We were able to help mount not one but two formidable campaigns to raise the funds that enabled the Tsilhqot’in National Government to achieve success in defence of Teztan Biny (Fish Lake) and a sacred homeland. We have kept the Beaver Lake Cree Nation’s legal action alive, despite efforts to have it thrown out of court. And we have assisted other nations, such as Lake Babine First Nation, with legal actions. We also expanded, moving to a new space large enough to house our growing team.
We anticipate even greater victories in the courts of the land with the continued assistance of those who, like us, believe that our legal system should first and foremost dispense justice based on the best evidence available regardless of wealth and power imbalances. The RAVEN board has observed that the struggles worldwide for the rights of indigenous peoples are frequently closely related to the effort to prevent environmental degradation through inappropriate industrial development. By obtaining financial support for these inter-mixed native rights and environmental causes we intend to bring balance into the game.