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Building Relationships Through Agreements: the Kawaskimhon Moot Part II

Tansi Ninôtemik,

As you heard from Bex yesterday, they and I both had the honour of attending the Kawaskimhon National Aboriginal Moot last weekend, held at Thompson Rivers University, in the traditional territory of the Stk’emlúpsemc te Secwépemc Nation (SSN).

Working on the same questions stemming from the deviation of the Trans Mountain pipeline, my team represented Blueberry River First Nations (BRFN). This was an interesting party to represent, as it was not one of the parties seeking to make a governance agreement. Instead, our role was to share wisdom with the other parties, particularly in relation to cumulative environmental effects and entering into an implementation agreement. These two areas were highlighted, based on the Yahey v British Columbia case dealing with cumulative effects impacting the BRFN way of life [1] and the Blueberry River First Nations Implementation Agreement signed in 2023. [2]

Our wisdom-sharing position sought to braid together the Canadian common law, federal and provincial legislation (such as Canada’s United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act [3] and British Columbia’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (DRIPA) [4]), the Dane-zaa law of BRFN and the Secwépemc law of SSN. 

With the help of our facilitator, Judge Raymond Phillips, our table was able to come to not one, but three different agreements. The key to all of these agreements was relationship-building and relationship maintenance. The first agreement was a consent-based decision-making agreement in principle between SSN, the government of British Columbia and the government of Canada, specifically protecting the Pípsell area, the site of the deviation and an area of high ecological and spiritual importance to the people of SSN. This agreement relied heavily on s. 7 of DRIPA and was based partially on the existing agreement between the Tahltan Nation and British Columbia.

The second agreement was a more general, forward-looking agreement in principle between SSN, British Columbia and Canada focusing on governance. Both agreements relied on the “Walking on Two Legs” principle that combines Indigenous ways of knowing with western scientific knowledge to move forward in a way guided by Secwépemc stewardship laws and values. Both agreements also involved a number of working groups that would support a “leadership table” to make decisions regarding development in the territories. The governance agreement also included designating important places, like Pípsell, as “High Value 1,” giving them extra protections, as was seen in the BRFN Agreement.

The final agreement reached was a non-binding, information sharing agreement between the Indigenous groups represented at the table: SSN, BRFN and the First Nations Alliance (Ontario) (FNA), which represented Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI), Wapekeka, Neskantaga, and Asubpeeschoseewagong Anishinabek (Grassy Narrows). This agreement, called the Four Directions, was brought forward by FNA in an effort to maintain the relationship of information sharing that was created at the negotiation. This agreement allowed information to come from all four directions to reach the wisest result in future negotiations.

Reaching these agreements was a difficult, yet fulfilling task. I feel so grateful to have had the opportunity to take part in this non-adversarial moot. A huge thank you to SSN and TRU for being such gratuitous hosts and making this prairie girl feel welcome amongst the mountains.

Until next time,

The ReconciliACTION YEG team

  1. Yahey v British Columbia, 2021 BCSC 1287.

  2. Blueberry River First Nations Implementation Agreement, 18 January 2023, online (pdf): <>

  3. United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, SC 2021, c 14.

  4. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, SBC 2019, c 44.

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