It’s not very often you receive a letter from a law firm that brings on tears of joy. But that’s how we reacted when we opened a letter from lawyers representing First Nations against Enbridge.
We know, in our heads, that RAVEN’s approach is strategic and effective. We know from past campaigns that when our donors and supporters dig in their heels, we can beat seemingly impossible odds.
What we never expected was to have a bunch of lawyers send us the pdf equivalent of a bouquet of roses, thanking us deeply, from their hearts, for our work.
So — this Valentine’s Day, we want to share a pretty special lawyer’s love letter with the people who make what we do so fulfilling: YOU.
First, the back story….
As most of us are painfully aware, the Northern Gateway pipeline and tankers project was approved against the explicit opposition of a majority of British Columbians. After being sidelined and ignored in the process, First Nations understood that launching a judicial review of the process was going to be their only opportunity to access the justice they were denied during the NEB hearings.
A lot of allies around the province were counting on First Nations to step up and assert their constitutional rights. First Nations wield mighty legal power in this province as the last—and hopefully inviolable—line of defense against reckless industrial development in B.C. But it’s tough—and financially depleting— to keep on fighting, year after year.
Despite being wildly out-resourced by the oil giant, First Nations very bravely did stand up against Enbridge. They launched court challenges to protect their traditional territories, and for all of us who love this province. But financial constraints meant that the Heiltsuk and Kitasoo/Xai’xais First Nations, who were the first to launch judicial reviews, could only afford to pursue the narrowest of legal claims. The nations just didn’t have the resources to take on a robust legal attack.
Enter RAVEN. With a track record of fundraising over $900K for the Beaver Lake Cree, and the stamina to support the incredibly lengthy—and ultimately victorious—Tsilhqot’in challenge against Taseko’s New Prosperity mine, RAVEN’s involvement in the legal challenges to Enbridge was a game-changer. Suddenly First Nations could go forward in pressing their cases without compromise. And allies like you, who understand the importance of providing tangible, material support for First Nations legal challenges, were given a means by which to do so.
Five Nations joined forces and launched a series of court challenges, confident that with RAVEN at their backs they could fully flex their legal muscles. Together with Sierra Club BC we launched the Pull Together campaign, setting an ambitious goal to raise $250,000. We would not have set our sights so high if we didn’t know what you—our donors and friends—were capable of. We had a hunch — which you loudly affirmed — that Pull Together was just the kind of audacious, groundbreaking campaign that would change the course of history.
… now…. bring on the love:
Attorney Lisa Fong, in her letter to RAVEN, writes:
“When the Northern Gateway Enbridge Regulatory Review was announced, our clients and many other Coastal Nations shuddered at the notion of how they were going to be able to meaningfully participate. The majority of Nations along the Central Coast did not participate (in the Northern Gateway pipeline project review process) or participated so little that their voices were not meaningfully heard.“
“When it became clear that RAVEN was so successful in fundraising,” Fong continues, “we were able to expand the parameters of our work so that now we are able to address the legal issues more fully.”
That expanded scope means it’s game on for Heiltsuk and Kitasoo/Xai’xais Nations in terms of pursuing the Enbridge judicial review. As Fong explains,
“To continue to follow up and hold their feet to the fire, is a long and expensive process.”
We at RAVEN believe that Canadians are entitled to the level of transparency First Nations are pressing for in court. We can all be thankful to First Nations for pursuing this claim so that all of our rights are protected. And we can be thankful to you, supporters of RAVEN Trust, for stepping up to the challenge, hitting it out of the park by raising an astounding $350,000 so far for the Pull Together campaign. Because of the efforts of RAVEN, Sierra Club BC and hundreds of donors across the country, six First Nations in the direct path of Enbridge’s pipeline and tankers project are getting the best legal support money can buy. With it—we all hope— they’ll also get the justice they deserve.
Sharing the love keeps us grounded in why we do what we do. We want to echo Lisa Fong’s sentiments back to all of you who believe in and support RAVEN and Pull Together:
“We thank you deeply from our hearts for all your good work.”