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On May 3 I arrived at the BC Court of Appeals just before 8.30 am. There were a couple of folks there already, and before long, we were joined by quite a few others.

We gathered to support two Indigenous land and water protectors appealing their recent sentences. I’d come to know them through the Salal and Cedar community.

As we waited for proceedings to begin, Tawahum, a Dene/Cree spoken word artist, offered us smudge and poetry (their debut album, “Bottled Lightning,” dropped Red Dress Day, May 5th if you’re looking for someone to support!). A few women drummed and led us in singing. We received prayer ties, and small squares of fabric containing tobacco (and prayers) which we fastened to ourselves with string or pins.

Finally, it was time to enter the courtroom. I’d done court support in other places, but never the Court of Appeals. We all commented that it looked like a movie set, with red and gold curtains, carved wooden rails, and of course the lion and the unicorn presiding over all behind the judge’s bench.

As we waited for the justices to arrive, a young man in a plaid shirt sitting behind me started to play a bansuri, a bamboo flute from India. We figured the sheriff would tell him to leave or put it away, but they allowed it to go on for some time until the judges entered. Everyone agreed it was pleasant and peaceful.

As the three judges and the appellate lawyer discussed the case, I reflected on the different levels of law we are compelled to be subject to in this country. There’s the law in whose courts I was sitting, but there are also inherited laws that many Indigenous peoples receive from their elders and traditions. For me as a religious official, there are canon laws and directives handed down from my bishop. And of course, there is also the personal moral law that I try (and regularly fail) to follow.

What do we do when we feel one law conflicts with another?

Land and water protectors who seek to respect and uphold the traditional laws they’ve received from their elders and wisdom-keepers often find these laws disrespected or ignored within the Canadian law system. I’ve found myself frustrated with canons, policies, and people within the church that protect hierarchy at the expense of the vulnerable, as has been bravely pointed out by survivors of abuse and the prophets behind the #ACCToo movement in the Anglican Church of Canada. But most of all, I’ve become frustrated and disappointed in myself when I fail to live up to my own moral code. It happens more often than I would like.

This is why Jesus’s forgiveness is so powerful and our love of him is so costly.

We need to be willing to risk much more than our time on a Sunday morning to show the world that “they will know we are Christians by our love.”