This was a bit different than your typical moot.
For one thing, it began with a smudge ceremony. For another, rather than heated debate there was non-confrontational discussion.
Third year Humber Paralegal students in the Indigenous Legal Perspectives course took on various roles to talk about the status, protection and control of Indigenous archeological heritage artifacts – and the sites at which they are found – which are significant to the culture and identity of the Mohawk people of Kanehsatà:ke.
The Moot was based on one done earlier this year by law students at McGill University. Kawaskimhon, a word of Cree origin, roughly means speaking with knowledge. It is a consensus-based moot that incorporates Indigenous legal traditions with federal, provincial and international law. There are no winners or losers in a Kawaskimhon Moot – everyone takes part in roundtable negotiations, representing a specific party.
“This Moot actually forces you to listen,” said student Stefania Trombacco. “I find in a lot of moots … you aren’t really listening. You’re paying attention for key words and phrases and mistakes they’re making. In this one you have to listen to the whole argument and you cannot interrupt.”
“When you’re able to listen to each other and understand each other’s perspective, that is how you can find a solution,” said Ashleigh Scianitti, who was in the same group as Stefania. (This is more productive) than having parties say ‘you completely disregarded me, you’ve devalued my opinion.’”
Students worked in groups representing the Mohawk Council of Kanehsatà:ke, Longhouse leadership, the federal government, Municipality of Oka, Parc National d’Oka, Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador and the Indigenous Bar Association.
“We have all mentioned in our class discussions that our elementary and high school education was lacking any Indigenous legal discussions or history in general. Coming into this class and reading a book on Indigenous perspectives provided a whole new context and way of thinking,” said Nicole Naskali.
This is the first year Humber offered the Indigenous Legal Perspectives course. It fulfills the recommendation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for all Canadian law students to study the history of Indigenous peoples' engagement with the laws of Canada.