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Lyn Crompton, 'Indigenous Environmental Activism and the Law'

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Lyn Crompton speaks candidly about the trauma of losing her twin sister at 4 years old, the difficult divide that event created in her family, and the long lived adversity she felt from her father for choosing to become a lawyer. Lyn discloses pivotal turning points in her first 15 years as a lawyer, opening up about the injustices and unfair treatment she witnessed in Canadian Courts towards aboriginal people and how these moments ultimately shaped her devotion to defending aboriginal people in court. She speaks of meeting George Manuel, then President of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, and how their meeting would set in motion a lifelong path of working together and being friends. Manuel had said to Lyn, of her unwavering dedication to aboriginal justice, “you have commitment”. She reveals in her testimony that George became a lifelong friend and mentor and that when he spoke to her she “really paid attention”, knowing his intelligence and insight was something to be really respected and honoured, adding “he would be visionary and could see what I could not”. Lyn’s sharp legal defense expertise was surely a motivating factor for George when he asked her to accompany him and the other national aboriginal Chiefs and delegates on the ‘Constitution Express’. The Constitution Express was a train that travelled from Vancouver, British Columbia to Ottawa, Ontario in November 1980 as a reaction to the Federal Government’s plans to Patriate the Canadian Constitution, discovering that aboriginal people would lose all of their rights should this occur. After the Canadian Constitution Express, Manuel asked Lyn to be part of the team responsible for implementing the European Constitution Express. The European Constitution Express would eventually travel to the Netherlands, Germany, France, Belgium, and then England in order to present the concerns and experiences of Aboriginal peoples across Canada to an international audience. Lyn discusses defending Robert Satiacum, Puyallup Washington’s tribal leader, against 142 charges brought by the United States Federal Government. He was eventually granted refugee status by the Canadian Immigration Appeal Board, only to be later overturned. Satiacum worked tirelessly throughout his life for aboriginal land claims and fishing rights, eventually facing federal racketeering charges back in the USA. Crompton discloses she received death threats during the period shortly after defending Satiacum and that this experience dramatically shaped how she viewed her role in Canadian and International Law.Lyn talks about taking on the role of co-counsel with Bruce Clark in 1991, defending the Lil’wat in their defense of protecting their unceded traditional territories from logging interests destroying their sacred land. Up to that point, the Lil’wat had been unsuccessful having their case of sovereignty heard in 13 Canadian courts. The case would ultimately be a cathartic process motivating Lyn to examine her life as an attorney, formally stating that aboriginal people were not able to have a fair trial in the colonialist Canadian Court system, due to a lack of judicial impartiality and the court’s sole interest in supporting and upholding government and corporate initiatives.Lyn discusses her role as counsel for Lil’wat woman, Loni Edwards, whose children were seized by the BC Ministry of Children and Family Development and placed in foster care, leading Lyn to her work with the International Human Rights Association of American Minorities, International Legal Clinic submitting a petition on behalf of Loni Edwards to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).The topic of ‘Land Code’ is defined and examined from a legal and cultural perspective for aboriginal communities. These are specific agreements between First Nations and Canada which, if ratified by the community, turn administration of reserve lands over to the First Nation’s elected Council. Land Codes set out dozens of rules and procedures to streamline and standardize their decision making about reserve lands, and those decisions are then recognized by Canadian courts as authoritative. Lyn draws specifically on her expertise and experience working closely with the Lil’wat. On March 14 2015, the Líl’wat people voted against a Land Code proposed by their elected Chief and Council.
Lyn Crompton's testimony, part 1
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