Our Vision? A Country Where Democracy Thrives with Honoured Indigenous Rights

RAVEN’s vision is a country where constitutional democracy is flourishing because Indigenous laws, rights and stewardship values are honoured. We are spotlighting some of our favourite programs aimed at exploring, honouring and understanding Indigenous laws in BC.

West Coast Environmental Law: Revitalizing Indigenous law for Land, Air and Water (RELAW)

“For thousands of years, Indigenous peoples have governed their territories according to their own laws – safeguarding land, air, water and communities to sustain their cultures and economies. Drawing on the lessons learned over two decades of work with Indigenous peoples on Indigenous law-based approaches to land use planning, impact assessment and other aspects of environmental governance, in 2016 West Coast launched the RELAW project (Revitalizing Indigenous Law for Land, Air and Water).

RELAW is a project of West Coast Environmental Law, supportive of and supported by the Indigenous Law Research Unit at the University of Victoria, Faculty of Law (ILRU). West Coast and the ILRU share the fundamental belief that Indigenous law is law, that Indigenous laws are part of living Indigenous legal orders, and that Indigenous law can and should be used on the ground today.

Through the RELAW project, participating Indigenous nations have access to a year of pro bono (free) legal services and co-learning opportunities for community members, focused on approaches to researching, applying and enforcing Indigenous law.

First People’s Law seeks to explain the legal and historical basis for Indigenous rights in Canada and is intended for Indigenous, non-Indigenous and academic audiences:

“Advocacy is not restricted to the courtroom. Our writing seeks to explain the legal and historical basis for Indigenous rights in Canada and is intended for Indigenous, non-Indigenous and academic audiences.”

Indigenous Law Research Unit at the University of Victoria is “a dedicated research unit at the University of Victoria’s Faculty of Law committed to the recovery and renaissance of Indigenous laws. We believe Indigenous laws need to be taken seriously as laws. We partner with and support work by Indigenous peoples and communities to ascertain and articulate their own legal principles and processes, in order to effectively respond to today’s complex challenges. The ILRU team develops and employs innovative methods for engaging with the full scope of Indigenous laws, including:

  • Social (human to human, gender and equality, fairness, violence and vulnerability, and harms and injuries),
  • Economic (Indigenous law and economies),
  • Environmental (land, water, non-human life forms), and
  • Political (governance, institution-building, inter-community and inter-societal relations, legitimacy and accountability).

We believe Indigenous legal research must be conducted with the highest standards of rigor and transparency. We want to recover Indigenous laws’ capacity to be publically applied, critically evaluated, openly debated, and adapted or changed as needed. We provide education, training, and ongoing guidance to communities and professionals engaging with Indigenous laws. We develop world-class theoretical and substantive Indigenous legal educational materials and academic resources. We bring together Indigenous law practitioners and diverse thinkers to share challenges and solutions, identify critical issues and advance best practices in accessing, understanding, and applying Indigenous laws today.

Our goal is to create sites of respectful dialogue and collaboration in order to reinvigorate communities of Indigenous legal practice locally and globally. Our vision is for Indigenous laws to be living and in use on the ground, and to be researched, taught and theorized about just as other great legal traditions of the world are. Revitalizing Indigenous laws, legal institutions, and their legal processes is essential to re-building healthy Indigenous citizenries in self-governing, lawful communities. Creating more respectful and symmetrical relationships across legal traditions is a necessary part of building and maintaining robust reconciliation within and between peoples, now and for future generations.”

And lastly, as a wonderful resource, we strongly encourage anyone interested in interior B.C. land issues or Indigenous knowledge to spend some time with the “Memorial to Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Premier of the Dominion of Canada.” This document was presented by the “Chiefs of the Shuswap, Okanagan and Couteau Tribes of British Columbia” to the Prime Minister on August 25, 1910 during Laurier’s campaign tour stop in Kamloops. The document is reproduced on the website of the Shuswap Nation Tribal Council and is prefaced by a contextual essay introducing the reader to Secwépemc (Shuswap), Nlaka’pamux (Thompson), and Syilx (Okanagan) traditional law regarding land and resource use and explaining events in the region leading up to Laurier’s visit.

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