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West Coast Environmental Law reflects on reconciliACTION for July 1st

Friday, June 30, 2017

Fifty years ago, on the centennial of confederation, Chief Dan George of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation said:

"Oh Canada, how can I celebrate with you this centenary, this hundred years?"

As lawyers working for sustainability and justice, we struggle with the same question 50 years later. Standing with the Tsleil-Waututh and other Indigenous peoples facing the Kinder Morgan tankers and pipeline project, and other destructive development projects being forced upon them contrary to their laws, and without their consent, it can sometimes feel that little has changed.

Thus, West Coast Environmental Law endorses the following Idle No More calls to action:

  1. A new open truly Nation-to-Nation recognition process that begins by fully recognizing collective Indigenous rights and Title, and Indigenous peoples' decision-making power throughout their territories.

  2. Full implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Calls for Action, including rejecting the colonial doctrines of discovery and recognizing Indigenous self-determination.

  3. Full implementation of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples on the ground.

For West Coast Environmental Law, upholding the calls to action means acting from a place of recognition and deep respect for the Indigenous territories where we work and live. It means engaging with Indigenous law as law, and upholding Indigenous governance and decision-making rights in everything we do. It means working to transform environmental decision-making in Canada through collaborative legal strategies that bridge Indigenous and Canadian law.

Indigenous law is written on the land and flows in the waters around us. Each unique Indigenous legal tradition holds essential teachings for caring well for the people and all beings that share that territory. At a time when Canada and the world are grappling with climate change, environmental degradation, and the unsettling reality of poverty in many communities, we would do well to listen.

Upholding the calls to action requires us to actively engage in addressing uncomfortable realities: the ongoing dispossession of Indigenous peoples from their land, the horrors of residential schools, and the uncertain legal footing of asserted Canadian sovereignty.

Canada has a long journey ahead. #Resistance150 both challenges and inspires us to do our part.