February 22, 2012

Burnt Pine Caribou Graze On!

Aboriginal Law
News and Events

As legal bloggers, we appreciate the value of electronic media. However, we are still a little sceptical of the power of twitter. After all, can one make a compelling argument when one is confined to 140 characters? To find out, we agreed to sponsor the world’s first twitter moot, organized by West Coast Environmental Law.

For those of you who may not be on the cutting edge of social technology, twitter is a messaging system that allows users to publish short messages, or “tweets”. Prolific tweeters attract “followers”, who subscribe to their posts; meanwhile, users can also keep track of popular topics by searching for specific “tags”. For the purposes of the moot, WCEL created a public list (twtmoot) that is subscribed to the twitter accounts of each of the participants. This allowed spectators to follow the action as it happened, while also providing a complete record of the debate for those who missed out.

The moot took place on Tuesday, February 21st, and lasted approximately 2 hours.  Each of the five teams of mooters attempted to get all their points across in the face of minimal typing space, limited time, and real-time questions from the panel of moot court judges. The case before the court was an appeal from the the real-world case of West Moberley First Nations v. British Columbia, 2011 BCCA 247. Representatives of the first nations involved (including NAF-sponsored Team Ottawa, representing the Treaty 8 First Nations of Alberta)) argued that the Crown’s duty to consult and accommodate should act to restrain the government from allowing a mine expansion that could extirpate the Burnt Pine Caribou herd, while the respondent Province of BC argued that the duty to consult should not be informed by the prior history that was responsible for the herd’s dwindling numbers (for additional background to this case, click here).

Ultimately, the judges ruled that the West Moberly First Nation (represented by Nikki Petersen and Emilia Baack of Osgoode Hall) had prevailed, ensuring that the caribou would live to graze another day. The day was not a total loss for the Province of BC, however, as Team UVic (Matthew Nefstead and Jenn Cameron) took home the People’s Choice Award, as voted by the crowd. We wondered if that had anything to do with the mention of boy star Ashton Kutcher?

See below some highlights from the twitter-fest:

William Deverell (@BillDeverell) 21 Feb: @ybanzen #twtmoot Would a continuing danger to this herd constitute a NOVEL adverse impact? If so why?

Jenn Cameron (@cameron_jenn) 21 Feb: RT with so many people watching this #twtmoot, I feel like we have less privacy than @VicToews @vikileaks30 #Privacy

Matthew Kalkman (@MatthewKalkman) 21 Feb: Our arguments are so popular even @AshtonKutcher will be retweeting #twtmoot

Ng Ariss Fong (@NgArissFong) 21 Feb: Congratulations to all participants! Great job, @ybanzen and @kowlasarmisir – the Burnt Pine Caribou thank you. #twtmoot