UVic Law team wins environmental negotiation competition with focus on Indigenous law and title

negotiation competition

Eva Streitz and Jack Welsh holding their first prize award after competing at the annual Environmental Law Negotiation Competition at UBC's Allard Law (November 18, 2022).

By Ivan Watson

First year JD/JID students Jack Welsh and Eva Streitz recently travelled to Allard Law at UBC to compete in the annual Environmental Law Negotiation Competition, open to law students from UVic, UBC and TRU. With tough competition from 15 teams, Welsh and Streitz earned first prize, cited by the judges for their articulate and passionate defense of Indigenous laws and title, and an approach rooted in strong legal principles from both Canadian Common Law and Indigenous legal orders.

“We were sent a set of facts a week in advance, and we were assigned a position in a fictional case. It was a tripartite negotiation between a First Nation, government and proponent,” explained Streitz. “The proponent was a ski resort and we were representing a First Nation. The set of facts went into great detail about the money side of the project, impact on jobs and the economy and we were given secret guidelines for what position the First Nation was anticipated to take, and what factors we were expected to give on and which ones we were expected to stay firm on.”

The scenario was constructed in a way where the government was required to consult with, accommodate and seek consent from the local First Nation, and produced a lively multi-round competition with all of the teams bringing in valuable perspectives and legal expertise.

“It was everything related to our degree and we were really interested in practising what we’ve been learning in terms of Indigenous law,” notes Streitz. “I think because of that we really got into it and that impressed the judges.”

Welsh agrees. “As Indigenous law students at UVic, I think we just felt really comfortable, because there was a component of the scenario where the First Nation had their own laws,” he notes. “We took the position that those were the laws we had to follow, because the project was on their land, and I think we were able to put some of the other teams on the back foot a little, because they weren’t able to confidently push back. Our approach validating and having confidence in Indigenous laws speaks to exactly what we are learning in the JD/JID program.”

UVic Dean of Law, Dr. Val Napoleon, is impressed with the UVic team’s success and their fluency and passion for Indigenous legal principles. “Congratulations to Jack and Eva on earning first prize in a very tough negotiation scenario,” she says. “Their understanding of, and determination to integrate Indigenous legal principles in a real-world simulation is exactly the kind of approach we are fostering through our joint degree program in Canadian common law and Indigenous legal orders. Well done!”

The annual Environmental Law Negotiation Competition at Allard Law is designed as a fun and dynamic event that involves teams of two students, each participating on an environmental or natural resource law topic. The judges were a diverse group of practicing lawyers who provided feedback and scored the teams on a variety of criteria. With the strong competition, Walsh and Streitz were humbled by their win and aim to continue to advocate for Indigenous law throughout their program and in their future careers.