Photo by Andy Holmes on Unsplash

Congratulations Magpie River for Your Legal Personhood Status in Canada

“The idea is that the river is living, that it has an existence that doesn’t depend on humans. It’s not a simple resource for humans; it becomes an entity that has a right to live, to evolve naturally, to have its natural cycles.” Pier-Olivier Boudreault

This year, on Feb. 16, the Magpie River was granted legal personhood in a bid to protect it from future threats; in other words, it has been given the same rights as a person by local officials and can sue the government in Canada.

This river is one of the last remaining wild rivers flowing fiercely through rapids, rushing down from the Quebec highlands, winding through mountains and unbroken wilderness, cutting through canyons, making it a world-renowned destination for majestic whitewater rafting.

Magpie River has been granted legal rights for special protection, including the right to flow, to maintain its biodiversity, to keep its potential as a tourism destination, honor its importance to indigenous people, to be protected from Hydro development and the right to take legal action.

In accordance with Innu customs and practices, the Alliance has granted the river nine rights:

1) the right to flow; 2) the right to respect for its cycles; 3) the right for its natural evolution to be protected and preserved; 4) the right to maintain its natural biodiversity; 5) the right to fulfil its essential functions within its ecosystem; 6) the right to maintain its integrity; 7) the right to be safe from pollution; 8) the right to regenerate and be restored; and perhaps most importantly, 9) the right to sue.

The Innu people and the regional municipality will act as “guardians” with the “the duty to act on behalf of the rights and interests of the river and ensure the protection of its fundamental rights.”

The waterway called the Muteshekau-shipuwahy is an important part of the traditional territory and culture of the Innu of Ekuanitshit. Protection means a way to reconnect to land-based customs, find healing and recognize the river’s origins for future generations. Gradually, even globally, there is growing recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ rights and their constitutional protection of their legality and legacy as stewards of their ancestral territories.

David Boyd, an environmental lawyer and United Nations special rapporteur on human rights and the environment, said the idea of the “environmental personhood” movement is a proper response to the successive governments around the world that have failed to adequately protect the environment, as well as to give growing recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ rights and their legal concepts.”

Similar efforts have been successful in countries like New Zealand, India and Ecuador.

Legal personhood for nature doesn’t exist in Canadian law, yet, and could be challenged in court because of the river’s potential for hydroelectric power. However, this river is now able to bring a lawsuit on behalf of itself to prevent a hydroelectric project from taking place. No doubt, the Innu and environmental activists may still have to continue lobbying the Quebec government to grant the river official protected status.

I offer this benediction: Dear Planet Earth and Nature, be strong, there is a growing global movement and our environmental laws are changing. Nature will no longer be an object that humans can exploit at their pleasure for their profits. We now recognize we are part of the same ecosystem and honor the rights of all its inhabitants.

Stop and think, what majestic places of Nature would you defend for their right to be primal and untouched by human industry?

Annemarie Berukoff

Index for Ecological Articles about Eco-Fiction Books

Jim Black from Pixabay

Retired teacher — wisdom of Timely Tools for Changes: self-franchise internet marketing, social media attacks, ecology

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store