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2023 law school exercise discusses Coastal GasLink pipeline

Kawaskimhom Moot is one of the top Indigenous law events for Canadian universities
The TRU Law team at this year’s Kawaskimhon Moot in Victoria March 11 and 12 2023. Left to right: students Tara-Lynn Wilson and Bailie Copeland, coaches Murray Sholty and Chrystie Stewart, and students Rob Houle and Rosina Hamoni. Photo courtesy of Murray Sholty.

The Kawaskimhom Moot is one of the top Indigenous law events for Canadian universities.

This year’s topic focused on an issue that hits close to home, the Coastal Gaslink pipeline.

A moot is a consensus-based and non-adversarial form of sharing facts and crafting legal arguments similar to a mock trial.

The 2023 Moot took place on March 11 and 12 at the University of Victoria. Thompson River University’s (TRU) team was made up of four second-year law students.

Tara-Lynn Wilson, a law student from Haisla Nation and Kitamaat Village was among the representatives of Thompson River University.

“The Kawaskimhon negotiation moot competition helped me learn how to remain impartial when approaching controversial issues,” said Wilson.

“I was able to hone my legal researching and writing skills and learn the process of negotiations. The problem we addressed was relevant to me because the pipeline runs through my hometown.

“Having the issue include a real-life project that directly impacts my nation made me appreciate the process and take it seriously. The entire experience was fun and informative.”

The other members of the team were Bailie Copeland from the Mètis Nation of British Columbia, Rose Prairie; Rob Houle of Swan River First Nation; and Rosina Hamoni of North Vancouver.

The team’s two coaches were Murray Sholty of Hagwilget Village and long-time resident of Fort Fraser and Chrystie Stewart of Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc.

“My moot partner Bailie Copeland, whose hometown is at the opposite end of the pipeline route, was amazing and made this whole process more enjoyable,” Wilson continued.

“I’m glad we were paired together for this negotiation.”

Wilson also expressed gratitude for coaches Sholty and Stewart, and for being chosen as a representative for TRU law school.

“Kawaskimhon is a nêhiyawêwin (Cree language) word that means “speaking with knowledge,” A TRU press release on the annual event explained.

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

“The moot uses a talking circle style in an effort to facilitate consensus building,” said Stewart, one of the TRU Law’s coaches and a TRU Law alum.

Sholty, the second TRU coach wrote: “The Kawaskimhon Moot encourages students to tackle a topic through an Indigenous perspective”

Some of the questions discussed were:Do the Wet’suwet’en people have title over the lands claimed by the hereditary chiefs?;

What rights do Wet’suwet’en people have under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples?;

Were prior consultations with band councils sufficient for the purpose of discharging the duty to consult?; and

Did the Office of the Wet’suwet’en act properly within the scope of Wet’suwet’en law in stripping hereditary chiefs of their titles?”

Other discussions surrounded the environmental impacts of the project, potential pipeline rerouting,

First Nations equity participation, revenue sharing, employment, training, and more.

In 2024, the 30th anniversary of the Kawaskimhom Moot will be held at Thompson River University in Kamloops.

It will also be the 10th anniversary of TRU Law’s first graduating class. The event is also particularly special to the coaches.

A decade ago, as students, both Sholty and Stewart attended the 2013 Kawaskimhon Moot at Western University in London Ontario.

“To be a part of TRU Law as a student and now as a coach is an honour and privilege,” Sholty said.