Kawaskimhon Moot (Opinion Piece)
authored by our Pro Bono student volunteer Taylor Roufosse
The Kawaskimhon Aboriginal Rights Moot is a non-competitive, round-table dispute resolution style of discussion designed to incorporate Indigenous values. In teams, we were to prepare a written argument for our client’s position which was presented to the circle, the ultimate goal being consensus on the issues put forward. This year, there was representation from all law schools in Canada – English common law and French civil law included.
The topic was chosen by Robson Hall, Faculty of Law. It surrounded implementing a Crown policy for the application of Gladue in Manitoba. The number of incarcerated Indigenous people have only gone up since the decision in R v Gladue from twenty years ago, which paints a bleak picture for Canada’s criminal justice system. The principles have been reiterated time and time again and yet misapplications and discord are still prevalent. At first, it felt daunting to tackle this question which was broad in scope and had so many complicated nuances attached.
Having access to resources through the Indigenous Law Centre allowed the University of Saskatchewan team to possess a deeper understanding of what Gladue has to offer the criminal justice system. Instead of focusing only on how Gladue can apply to sentencing, we were quick to realize it was more far-reaching than that. Indigenous people face an immense number of social issues due to historical and contemporary realities. Different concerns afflict certain communities. At our specific moot table, most if not all participants shared this opinion. It was uplifting to see so many law students understand how deep-rooted the topic of overincarceration of Indigenous peoples is and have such an acute sense of what it will take to eliminate it.
In law school there is a large focus placed on the competitive, adversarial moots. They are valuable and that should not be diminished, but the Kawaskimhon Moot has something unique and beautiful to offer students. The resident Elder Norman Meade, presented the Seven Grandfather Teachings, which was sensed throughout the experience: Humility in the way the students presented themselves; Bravery in the words spoken; Honesty about the systems shortcomings; Wisdom in the ideas put forward; Truth in the unequitable reality of Indigenous people; Respect for all involved; and Love in providing recognition for our accomplishments.
The Kawaskimhon Moot brings together Indigenous and non-Indigenous students to examine intricate problems surrounding the First Peoples of Canada, therefore advocating for reconciliation. Our adversarial legal system has come alive to the fact that dispute-resolution, consensus, harmony and balance have a meaningful and effective place. It is a hope that a growing number of students will recognize the significance of this moot and the benefit of the skills learned as we move forward into our careers around Canada. We find ourselves in an extremely uncertain and ever-changing time period. To be able to reflect on experiences such as this, while considering the current state of affairs, allows one to appreciate our humanity and willingness to come together.