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West Coast Environmental Law’s RELAW Program

The Revitalizing Indigenous Law for Land, Air and Water (RELAW) Program of West Coast Environmental Law began in 2016. Through RELAW projects, lawyers from West Coast work collaboratively with Indigenous nations to apply their own teachings and laws to an environmental issue. Guided by the Indigenous Law Research Unit (ILRU) Methodology, RELAW amplifies the stories and the wisdom of elders to support in developing written expressions of law and strategies for implementation and enforcement.

The LFFA-RELAW Team come to this work as legal allies:

Sonny Jessica Rayanna Leah

From left to right: Leah, Jessica, Naxaxalhts’i, Albert (Sonny) McHalsie from Shxw'ōwhámel & Rayanna at Yale.

Leah Ballantyne, Mikisew Iskwew, is Nehithaw ota from Pukatawagan/Highrock in Treaty 6 Territory, northern Manitoba. She is a lawyer and the LFFA-RELAW Coordinator and lives in Sts’ailes territory at Harrison Hot Springs. Rayanna Seymour-Hourie is Anishinaabe from Anishinaabeg of Naongashiing, Treaty 3 Territory in Ontario. Both ‘relawyers’ of the RELAW Program at West Coast Environmental Law who live in Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-wautuh Territories in Vancouver.


This Summary and the accompanying 7 Volume full Legal Synthesis Report was drafted in 2020-21, and consolidates a two-year process of learning what stories, both sxxwiyám / sx̌ʷəx̌ʷəyém ‘oral histories describing the distant past / tell stories’ and sqwélqwel / sqʷelqʷəl ‘true stories/ true news/ family history/ oral stories’, as well as Elder’s knowledge teaches us about Indigenous laws related to watershed management and fisheries governance in the Lower Fraser.

The LFFA-RELAW partnership originated in the winter of 2018. The LFFA-RELAW team began researching, reading and discussing stories together on zoom from early to mid-2019. Beginning in the summer of 2019, we travelled and held ‘focus groups’ with knowledge holders of Lower Fraser First Nations to discuss stories relating to fish and water. When Covid-19 happened, this delayed further focus groups, so quote verification happened on the phone or zoom.

Moving forward, the intention is for the legal principles in this Summary and the full Legal Synthesis Report to inform processes for developing an Indigenous-led Fish Habitat Restoration Plan and Climate Adaptation Strategy (“Strategy”) for the Lower Fraser. The Strategy will be led by LFFA and its member nations, in collaboration with interested stakeholders and allies.


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