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Law Students in Action: challenging questions asked of panel

SPAC-hosted panel addressed critical fight against pipelines and other integral Indigenous legal issues

January 29, 2018 — 

The Student Pipeline Action Committee (SPAC) hosted its inaugural speaking panel event “Beyond Borders: Pipeline Resistance from Standing Rock to Manitowapow” last term that brought together an all-Indigenous panel of speakers to present on and discuss the experience of impacted and potentially impacted communities like the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota, as well as the legal, political, and social implications that arise with pipelines and resource extraction. 

Panelists included Aimée Craft, Clayton Thomas-Muller, Sadie-Phoenix Lavoie, and Dallas Goldtooth. The panel, which took place in Moot Courtroom B at Robson Hall November 2, 2017, opened up with welcoming words and a prayer by Elder Carl Stone, which set the tone for the entire event. During the panel, panelists spoke from their experiences that when it comes to the critical fight against pipelines, and how it is important to keep in mind the contrasting understanding of Indigenous relationship to land by Canada’s legal system and Indigenous peoples themselves. Panelists highlighted the need to put pressure on politicians to take a stance against pipelines and the strength of individuals of being on the front lines saying “no” to pipelines. Panelists also spoke about how Indigenous peoples action against pipelines and harmful resource extraction can happen in three ways, policy action, direct action and spiritual action.

The floor was then opened to the full room that included students from all faculties, and faculty members themselves. One student asked about the relationship between Canada’s use of the natural resource sector and the economy, essentially how can Canada pay its bills and still be environmentally friendly? The response from panelists was that Canada should be exploring and utilizing more sustainable options, and that we cannot run under the assumption that resource extraction doesn’t come without consequences.

Another question was whether panelists can speak to the trafficking of Indigenous women in resource development towns in remote communities? The response from panelists acknowledged the connection between the damage to the environment is connected to social, psychological and spiritual damage that Indigenous women face.

The last question that was asked was whether Canadian law schools are being properly educated about Indigenous law? In short, the answer generally seemed to point towards no, but there was a recognition of the efforts in different schools. It was said that Indigenous law is taught by being out on the land and making that connection between law and the natural world. It was said by panelists that here was an important role for lawyers when going forward, to be aware that Canada is based from a British Eurocentric common law system and not to be indoctrinated to think that Indigenous law less superior.

The SPAC then made closing remarks, thanking everyone for coming and announced the launching of the second “Water is Life” fundraising campaign. SPAC revealed that the proceeds from the “Water is Life” campaign would go to the Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition on their “Stop Line 3” campaign, where funds raised will go to helping in community outreach, education, frontline resistance and legal defence funds.

Please watch for more events from SPAC in 2018.

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