RAVEN is justice, powered by the crowd
RAVEN is honoured to be working in partnership with Wet’suwet’en Nation to fundraise for legal challenges to push back against unwanted industrial activity in their territory. Read more about the cases here: #WetsuwetenStrong Allies Toolkit
When crafting a legal strategy to push back against Coastal Gas Link and assert their rights in court, Wet’suwet’en clan and hereditary leaders reached out to RAVEN and asked for the organization’s support. After our legal advisory panel, comprised of Indigenous and non-Indigenous lawyers and legal scholars, examined the legal challenges, RAVEN signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, committing to fundraise on their behalf for two legal challenges.
As Wet’suwet’en’s partner, RAVEN engages communities to organize events, set up online crowdfunding campaigns and donate to fundraise for legal challenges. For many years, people have also supported the Unistot’en clan of the Wet’suwet’en through similar efforts: RAVEN was part of fundraising to cover costs of a Unist’ot’en injunction effort back in spring 2019. It’s important to note that the fundraising protocols set up by Unistot’en leadership are different from the agreement RAVEN now has with Wet’suwet’en. Within our current agreement, RAVEN is given 15% of funds raised so we can operate our campaign and meet the requirements of our status as a registered charity. We are proud to be transparent with our donors and our Indigenous partners about the needs for our organization to sustain itself. The small percentage of funds we retain allows us to sustain our work over the decades it often takes for legal cases to resolve.
We have a track record of raising millions of dollars for Indigenous legal challenges that have stopped one pipeline (Enbridge Northern Gateway), stalled another (TMX), pushed back against dams and open-pit mining, and protected hundreds of thousands of hectares of land and water in the Yukon’s Peel Watershed. See our Victories page for details.
RAVEN is in it for the long haul. Once we partner with an Indigenous Nation, our support is ongoing and unconditional. Once an MOU is signed, RAVEN commits for as long as it takes for cases to wind their ways through the court system. This sometimes takes years: RAVEN has been standing with Beaver Lake Cree Nation in their Tar Sands Trial and Tsilhqot’in Nation in the fight to protect Teztan Biny (Fish Lake) for more than a decade.
Having said all of that: access to the Canadian justice system is unfair. Often times strong cases don’t make it to the Supreme Court simply because Indigenous Nations lack the resources to fund legal challenges. Canada outspends Indigenous Nations by as much as $100 to $1 in court: RAVEN is trying to level the playing field for and with Indigenous partners.
Crowdfunding and distributed organizing like what #wearethestronghold is engaging in is the lifeblood of campaigns RAVEN runs on behalf of Nations who may otherwise not have the stamina or resources to endure the expense of long court challenges.
Until 1951, it was illegal for an Indigenous person to hire a lawyer. Additionally, if an Indigenous person wanted to become a lawyer, they had to give up their Indian Status. Harnessing the energy and funds of supportive non-Indigenous communities is a way to right the wrongs of the past and even up the imbalance between Indigenous Peoples pursuing justice and the well-resourced governments and corporations they are up against.