Aboriginal Law

Indigenous Law Project

Through this project, participants work with West Coast lawyers and Elders and Indigenous Knowledge Holders from their community to deepen their capacity regarding identification and application of their Indigenous Environmental Laws. It is the premise of this project that Indigenous Environmental Laws can and should be used and enforced in a day-to-day way by appropriate First Nations decision-makers, regardless of whether they have been fully been recorded in written form.

One motivating force behind the Indigenous Environ-mental Law project is a massive resource development project currently being proposed: Enbridge Northern Gateway‟s double crude oil and toxic petrochemical con-densate pipelines. If constructed, these twin pipelines would run 1200 km from the Alberta tar sands through the territories of over 50 First Nations peoples. They would cross over a thousand rivers and streams in the headwaters of the Fraser, Skeena and Mackenzie Rivers, delivering oil to supertankers that will travel from Kitimat through the sensitive waters of Coastal First Nations to Asian and other markets.

An oil spill from the Enbridge pipelines into a river, or a tanker spill on the coast, could destroy fish and harm human health for hundreds of kilometres, and would be practically impossible to clean up. Toxins from oil remain on beaches and in river-beds for many years after a spill, affecting spawning for generation after generation of fish, and harming wildlife and humans. A spill threatens to destroy the liveli-hood, sustenance and culture of many First Nations peoples. Throughout 2009, there have been gatherings of First Nations from Haida Gwaii all the way to Alberta, as affected nations grapple with making decisions about the project.

By building an understanding of Indigenous law across generations, this project supports First Nations participants in strengthening their living culture and exercise their original title to the land, with the goal of sharpening traditional legal tools so that they can be applied to decisions about resource developments that may affect their health, culture and way of life today and in the future.