January 16, 2024

$2 million gift from the Krawczyk Family Foundation breathes new life into Indigenous environmental justice in Canada

Victoria, B.C. – The Krawczyk Family Foundation has made a remarkable and transformative $2 million donation to RAVEN, supporting access to justice for Indigenous Nations who are in court to protect land, air, and water for future generations.

Alex Krawczyk, daughter of the late philanthropists Honey and Dr. Barry Sherman, is honoured to be supporting environmental legal challenges led by Indigenous Peoples. “I believe it is important for Canadians to recognize the inherent rights and sovereignty of Indigenous Nations, as well as to support self-determination and long-overdue justice for Indigenous Peoples,” says Krawczyk. “I am truly proud and humbled to have made this gift, and I wish RAVEN continued success with its many important campaigns across the country.”

RAVEN, which stands for Respecting Aboriginal Values and Environmental Needs, raises funds for legal challenges brought by Indigenous communities when government or industry gets in the way of their responsibilities as stewards of their territories.
“Supporting the inherent and constitutionally protected rights of Indigenous Peoples is a powerful pathway towards reconciliation and environmental justice,” says RAVEN Executive Director Danielle Wilson, a member of the Tla-o-qui-aht Nation. “Governments and corporations have the resources to sustain lengthy court challenges, whereas chronically impoverished Indigenous Nations seldom do. While Indigenous Nations in Canada have some of the strongest environmental rights in the world, those rights are only meaningful if they can be upheld in court.”

“For 15 years, RAVEN has relied on ordinary people holding bake sales, crowdfunding online and organizing events in communities across the country, raising millions of dollars to level the playing field for our Nation partners,” says Wilson.

RAVEN-supported cases have been instrumental in quashing the Northern Gateway pipeline project, protecting hundreds of thousands of hectares of lands in Yukon’s Peel Watershed, and backing Beaver Lake Cree Nation (BLCN) at the Supreme Court where — to sustain their decades-long fight to curtail oil-sands expansion in their territory — BLCN set a precedent for the allocation of funding to sustain lengthy and expensive litigation in cases that are of national importance.

With previous donations to Partners in Health, the Humber Frontline Support Fund, and Anishnawbe Health Toronto, the Krawczyk Family Foundation is contributing to positive changes at the intersection of human and planetary health.

“RAVEN cases are vital to addressing key issues of climate justice,” says RAVEN board member Cliff Atleo Jr. A member of Nuu-chah-nulth and Tsimshian Nations, Atleo is an assistant professor of Indigenous Governance at Simon Fraser University. Atleo’s public health research shows that everyone benefits when Indigenous rights are upheld. “For many Indigenous Peoples their territories, and themselves, and their other-than-human relatives are all strongly interconnected. When Indigenous communities on the ground are fighting to protect their land and waters, those efforts are directly related to our individual and collective health.”

The leaders in the climate justice movement are very often those most directly affected by a changing climate. The Krawczyk Family Foundation’s donation will sustain strategic legal challenges currently before the courts, including a Treaty-rights challenge in Ontario’s vast peatlands that aims to protect what Indigenous plaintiffs call the Breathing Lands: an area as significant to the Earth’s cooling system as the Amazon rainforest.

RAVEN is also involved with challenging British Columbia’s mineral tenures system to bring the mineral staking process into alignment with B.C.’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, and with the coastal Heiltsuk Nation in a precedent-setting challenge claiming Aboriginal title to the ocean, to enshrine Indigenous marine stewardship values into law.

Says Wilson, “We are deeply thankful to the Krawczyk Family Foundation for their validation of years of dedicated work by Indigenous leaders, grassroots community organizers, and the many generous donors who have shared the vision of environmental justice for Indigenous communities.”

“Over the past 14 years, RAVEN has been regularly approached by Nations bringing worthy and important cases. We’ve often needed to say, “no”. Now, we’ll have the capacity to invite more Nations into our circle of support, uphold and extend the rights of Indigenous Nations, and leave a legacy of stronger environmental protection for generations to come.”

The Krawczyk Family Foundation’s gift injects new life into the growing movement to realize Indigenous rights and advance reconciliation in Canada.

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Photo Credit: RAVEN