RAVEN - Respecting Aboriginal Values and Environmental Needs

Harmony Environmental Essay Prize for Young Scholars


RAVEN is mandated to assist Indigenous Peoples in protecting and restoring the natural environment for the benefit of all people within Canada by developing and delivering education programs to advance knowledge and understanding of available legal rights and remedies.

In many Indigenous communities that have been deeply impacted by extractive industries, there exists a significant proportion of people who are unaware of the legal rights and remedies available that can effectively address cultural and ecological issues. An informed community that acknowledges the relationship between cultural integrity and a healthy ecology is able to act clearly and decisively to ensure its long-term viability. We work together with Harmony Foundation to present the Environmental Essay Prize annually.

The purpose of the Harmony Environmental Essay Prize is to recognize outstanding work which explores cutting edge thinking while presenting cases where traditional knowledge inspires practical action and produces meaningful results with social, cultural, environmental and/or economic benefits. Quite simply, we want to recognize students who are seeking constructive responses to important questions, such as: factors shaping Indigenous youth movements today, the social geography giving rise to Indigenous action, the struggle to save Sacred Headwaters,  attempts to incorporate Traditional Ecological Knowledge into Environmental Assessment processes, lands, rights, the role of colonialism… the list goes on.

Students of all disciplines are eigible for the Award; however, candidates actively involved with Indigenous endeavours and the conservation of the environment will be given preference. We also encourage all applicants to position themselves in relation to the issues and topics they address in their papers. Preference will be given to candidates who self-identify as Indigenous, but students from all backgrounds are encouraged to apply.


Winners announced: essays by young scholars explore Indigenous law, environmental planning

Winners announced: essays by young scholars explore Indigenous law, environmental planning

Photo by Robin Munshaw


We are thrilled to announce the winners of the 2020 Harmony Environmental Essay Prize for Young Scholars. Please meet our winners and read their carefully researched papers:
First Place –  Da Chen

Through key informant interviews, this paper explores the work of environmental planners in Toronto to enact their responsibilities to The Dish with One Spoon. In doing so, it offers some guiding principles on how environmental planning processes could better address environmental issues and engage with Indigenous people. The necessary change can be through implementing the principles embedded within The Dish with One Spoon, such as peace, equity and sustainability.

Da Chen completed his MSc. in Planning at the University of Toronto with a focus on Indigenous and environmental planning. He also holds a B.A.(Hons.) in City Studies and Political Science. He currently resides on the traditional territory of many nations, including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples. Da works for Parks Canada on its Indigenous Relations team based out of Rouge National Urban Park in Toronto. He believes that we all have a legal obligation and responsibility to live according to the principles of treaties because they reflect Indigenous laws and worldviews. As people living on this land, it is important to think about our roles as treaty people and ensure that our work and life are reflective of these values. 


Runner Up –  Oluwatosin Fatoyinbo
“Indigenous Legal Systems and the Struggle for Recognition – Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs’ Resistance and Coastal Gas Link Pipeline Ltd v. Hudson”

The paper analyses the struggles between the two legal systems, and the subjugation of Indigenous legal systems when it threatens the non-indigenous legal system, that is Canadian laws. To do this, the paper reviews the ongoing battle between the hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation and Coastal Gaslink in British Columbia. It particularly reviews the tension between elected band council and the hereditary chiefs, and how corporations like Coastal Gaslink exploits the elected band councils to further the agenda of the non-Indigenous legal system.

Oluwatosin (Tosin) is a Master of Human Rights student at the University of Manitoba. He completed his LL.B at the University of Ibadan and was called as a Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria in 2014. He holds a MA in Public Policy with concentration in conflict studies and management at the Willy Brandt of Public Policy, University of Erfurt, Germany. He is interested in research on rights of Indigenous Peoples, social justice, social repair and reconciliation, and post-conflict memory. Watching the protests and blockades in Northern BC and discussing the issues in class got me interested in researching Canada’s indifference to ‘non-threatening’ Indigenous laws  and aggression towards Indigenous laws it considers ‘threatening’. The most important takeaway from the research is the fact that Indigenous legal systems like other legal systems are capable of evolving and should be respected.





Harmony Environmental Essay Prize for Young Scholars – Formerly the Young Scholars Essay Prize

Calling all Master’s students! Do you have interests or commitments to Indigenous culture, social justice, and environmental rights? Do you have a paper due this term? Then we need to hear from you!

Sponsored by the Harmony Foundation of Canada, the essay competition will be open to ALL DISCIPLINES in the social sciences, sciences and humanities. Papers from all methodological and theoretical standpoints will be considered. DEADLINE: June 1, 2021

The award is open to ALL MASTER’S and MSC Students enrolled full-time at a Canadian University.

Our 1st PLACE PAPER will be awarded a cash prize of $1500.00. Our 2nd PLACE PAPER will receive $500.00. Winners will also receive a commemorative plaque and be inscribed on the commemorative wall in RAVEN’s office. Prizes are awarded in July. RAVEN reserves the right to use the received entries for educational and other non-commercial purposes and to reproduce them in print. The entries will not be returned.

To apply: Send questions and submissions to Max Ritts – (max.ritts@alumni.ubc.ca).

N.B. Papers MUST include a SEPARATE PDF Title Page with name, student number, institution, and email address.

NO AUTHOR IDENTIFICATION can be on the essay pages themselves. Please submit in PDF format to max.ritts@alumni.ubc.ca and include “RAVEN HARMONY YSEP” in the subject header.



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