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Local law student tackles pipeline issues

Bailie Copeland of Rose Prairie one of four students to take part in a national court competition focused on Indigenous issues and the Coastal GasLink Pipeline
From left: Bailie Copeland, Tara-lynn Wilson, and Murray Sholty

Northern B.C. residents recently participated in the 2023 Kawaskimhon Moot, a court competition that has participants from nearly every law school in Canada.

The competition took place earlier this month and was hosted by the University of Victoria Faculty of Law.

Kawaskimhon is a nêhiyawêwin (Cree language) word that means “speaking with knowledge.”

This moot is unique in that it centres Indigenous legal orders alongside federal, provincial, and international law.

It is consensus-based and non-adversarial and this year focused on the legal issues surrounding the Coastal GasLink pipeline.

Thompson Rivers University’s Faculty of Law’s team was comprised of members with deep connections to northern B.C.

Coach Murray Shotly is a former UNBC student from Hagwilget Village and a long-time Fort Fraser Resident, and coach Chrystie Stewart is from Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc.

The four students on the team were Tara-Lynn Wilson of Haisla Nation from Kitamaat Village, Bailie Copeland, who is Mètis from Rose Prairie north of Fort St. John, Rob Houle of Swan River First Nation, and Rosina Hamoni from North Vancouver.

Numerous issues were raised in the moot such as, does the Wet’suwet’en have land title over the lands claimed by the hereditary chiefs? And what rights do Wet’suwet’en people have under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples?

In addition, it addressed issues around the environment, potential pipeline rerouting, First Nations equity participation, revenue sharing, employment and training, and whether the Office of the Wet’suwet’en acted properly within the scope of Wet’suwet’en law in stripping Tait, George, and Glaim of their hereditary chief titles.

"The moot challenged me to step outside my comfort zone and speak on a controversial topic where common law and Indigenous law are both present in the issue at hand," said Copeland.

"My teammate Tara-Lynn Wilson and I come from very different backgrounds and from physically opposite sides of the Coastal GasLink project. We worked collaboratively, using each of our strengths to ensure that we kept our parties' best interests in mind at all times," Copeland said. "Tara-Lynn was a tenacious and supportive partner and our negotiation was very successful.

"We were blessed to have Murray Sholty and Chrystie Stewart as our coaches throughout the process. Their mentorship helped us to develop our negotiation and advocacy skills and to grow as law students."

The first Kawaskimhon Moot was held at University of Toronto in 1994.

— with file from Alaska Highway News

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