Kawaskimhon: The Aboriginal Rights Moot

Picture - 2018 Kawaskimhon Moot Team, from left to right was Ryan Erwin, Erin Barnes, Darrin Mah

The Kawaskimhon ("Speaking with Knowledge") Aboriginal Rights Moot is a forum wherein issues regarding Aboriginal rights are debated by Indigenous and non-Indigenous students from across Canada. Kawaskimhon is a great opportunity for students to speak to issues of Aboriginal rights and is an integral part of the Indigenous Legal Studies Program at UBC.

A different Canadian law school hosts Kawaskimhon each year. Participants include students from most Canadian law schools (in teams of 2 to 4 students) and facilitators (elders, faculty advisors, community members) from across the country. The moot problem is assigned by the host institution in December or early January, and the position papers are due six to eight weeks after the problem is assigned. The moot itself is held in early March, over the course of three days. Depending on the traditional territory where the moot is held, formats vary, however local Indigenous legal traditions are followed and elders are always a part of the moot. The Kawaskimhon Bundle is an important part of the moot, items contributed typically are of spiritual importance to the hosts and local Indigenous community's customs.

On the first day participants present oral arguments based on submitted position paper. At the end of the first day, the host law school prepares a cultural night (which usually includes a banquet, singers and dancers, etc). Kawaskimhon participants are expected to work toward reaching consensus on the mooted problems by the end of the second day. Previous moots have addressed such issues as band membership rights, territorial overlaps, the effects of resource projects, Métis rights and aboriginal heritage.

The Kawaskimhon Moot course is 5 credits, allocated to the Spring session of the Winter term. Students are assessed a pass/fail mark based on their research, written factums and oral presentations at Kawaskimhon.

The Indigenous Legal Studies Program Academic and Associate Directors have traditionally been faculty advisors to the students, and lawyers from the firm Mandell Pinder LLP have sponsored and coached the UBC team. Professors Christie and Johnston have been Faculty advisors for this moot.

Moot information sessions are usually held in late March and applications should be submitted to Lee Schmidt, Associate Director, Indigenous Legal Studies Program. The deadline to apply is May 1st. Preference is given to students who have taken or plan to take Law 352: Aboriginal Peoples and Canadian Law. Students are selected by early to mid May for the following academic year.