In the Spotlight—Robert Morales

Practice Point

In the Spotlight—Robert Morales

This month’s spotlight shines on Robert Morales – Chair, First Nations Summit Chief Negotiators Forum; Negotiator/Lawyer, Cowichan Tribes, Duncan, BC.

What convinced you to get involved with CLEBC?

The commitment by the CLEBC to increase their course material to include more Aboriginal/Indigenous content. When I started my law career 35+ years ago there was very little attention to that area of the law. It is gratifying to witness the increasing attention being given to recognition of the legitimacy of Indigenous legal orders in the legal fabric of this province and nation.

What are you currently working on (or have most recently worked on) with CLEBC?

I recently assisted in presenting at Indigenous Legal Orders Conference 2023: Standing Up Indigenous Law.

What inspired you to become a lawyer?

The realization that as an Aboriginal/Indigenous person, I could have an influence in moving the rights of my people forward best as a lawyer.

You have extensive negotiation experience with many First Nations in their dealings with both the Federal and Provincial governments. What have been the biggest rewards and challenges in your work as a negotiator?

The biggest reward in my career as a negotiator is the fact that I have been able to sharpen my personal skills and knowledge. It has been a fantastic learning experience to have participated in the Harvard Law School negotiation program under Rodger Fisher and to have studied the field of negotiation over these many years. I have participated in negotiations at many levels and have built up the confidence to advocate in any forum.

The biggest challenge has been the frustration that negotiating with government brings. The fact that we are met with negotiating styles that do not lend themselves to reaching a negotiated settlement on the very big social and human rights topics that I deal with.

You are currently the Chair of the First Nations Summit Chief Negotiators Forum. Can you tell us more about that?

The Summit Chief Negotiators Forum was established as a space for First Nations in the BC Treaty process to come together and discuss their experience and collaborate to try and find paths forward. This involves about 50+ nations currently in the BC Treaty Process.

What trends do you currently see in the area of Indigenous law?

There are real opportunities for progress as progressive governments make commitments to addressing past wrongs. There are also real potential opportunities for Indigenous participation in economic ventures. The challenge is to find creative solutions to significant issues. We need to find ways to get to yes, in the words of Rodger Fisher.

Other than law, what are you passionate about?

I am most passionate about my family. I have seven beautiful, wonderful, and talented children and seven beautiful grandchildren. My wonderful soulmate whom I have the privilege of working with and enjoying each other’s company every day.