We are rooted in an ethic that comes from a belief in fairness. We build partnerships, not empires. We hope for a day when our vision is realized and our services are no longer needed because constitutional democracy is flourishing. But until then, we do our best to level the playing field. Because we also see that what is at stake for First Nations is at stake for all of us – the expectation that we will always have water to drink, land to grow healthy food on, and sustainable ecosystems for all life.
RAVEN is the only non-profit charitable organization in Canada doing this work. We are unique, and we are having a direct impact on the litigation processes of these important cases. We are based in Victoria, British Columbia. Our diverse team of board members, staff and volunteers are passionate, dedicated and committed to social change. This is a lean, efficient and hard-working organization that will stretch itself to achieve our goals: realizing a vision of a country that embraces the values of the First Nations.
RAVEN raises money to help First Nations tackle the big issues of treaty rights and protecting traditional land and ways of life from the relentless reach of non-sustainable industrial expansion. We stand shoulder to shoulder in support of their rights, so that we can achieve parity for the people on whose land we live.
RAVEN sees the inequity in accessing the justice system. The playing field is way out of balance, now and for hundreds of years of colonization. One of the key barriers to justice is the high cost of the Canadian legal system.
With the June 26, 2014 Tsilhqot’in declaration of Aboriginal title, First Nations in Canada have a viable legal path to victory in stopping unsustainable resource extraction. RAVEN is a key charitable organization for assisting First Nations in establishing their Aboriginal title and regaining control of their land base for sustainable purposes.
The environmental challenges that face many First Nations in Canada are really challenges for the entire world. For example, the scale of potential environmental devastation in the Alberta oil sands is comparable to the destruction of the rain forests of Brazil. These issues affect everyone, not only the First Nations communities who are feeling the impacts now. These are global issues that are being fought in Canadian courtrooms. To ignore these injustices would be tantamount to condoning them.
Fundamentally, we believe these are issues of human rights and climate change – we are seeking environmental justice for all. The constitutional rights of First Nations groups are the strongest environmental laws in Canada (and possibly the world), especially now that the Canadian government has gutted national environmental protection legislation. The law is clearly on the side of First Nations, and their victories will help to protect us all.
Unfortunately, there is an inherent imbalance for Canada’s First Nations in their struggle to protect their rights and lands in our legal system. 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 are able to hire large teams of lawyers and experts to bolster their arguments. Their resources appear almost limitless in comparison to First Nations groups and their dedicated legal teams, who often work pro-bono simply because of their belief in the cause. The background research and other costs involved in winning legal cases are invariably immense. Yet, without adequate research and background information, native causes are likely to fail in non-native legal systems.
RAVEN was formed to redress this imbalance and provide tangible, financial resources to the First Nations communities who assert their right to maintain their land, their communities and ultimately their way of life, in the face of “big oil,” mining or other industrial interests.
RAVEN is also committed to assisting First Nations by developing and delivering education to advance knowledge and understanding of available legal rights and remedies.
Programs include: RAVEN in the Classroom, Artist in Residence and Community Strategist, Young Scholars Essay Prize, and Participatory Arts Based Inquiry projects in First Nations communities (Witness: This Act of Courage, Transformation in Earth & Stone). Learn more.