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RESOURCES: ARTICLE

A new era for nature's rights

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BY BRIGITTE PELLERIN 31 JAN 2024

Around the world, environmental activists are advocating for giving legal personhood to mountains, rivers and forests. A new documentary for CBC's The Nature of Things, I am the Magpie River, illustrates how this can happen in Canada.

The Magpie (Muteshekau Shipu), located on Quebec's north shore near Havre-Saint-Pierre, spans 300 kilometres and runs through the ancestral territory of the Innu of Ekuanitshit. National Geographic named it one of the top 10 white-water rafting rivers in the world. 

After the nearby Romaine River had four hydroelectric power stations built on it, local communities and environmental groups came together to discuss ways to safeguard the majestic Magpie from a similar fate. 

In February 2021, each of the Innu Council of Ekuanitshit and the Minganie regional municipality adopted a resolution granting legal personhood to the river. They bestowed upon it nine legal rights: the right to flow, to have its cycles respected, for its natural evolution to be protected and preserved, to maintain its natural biodiversity, to fulfil its essential functions within its ecosystem, to maintain its integrity, to be safe from pollution, to regenerate and be restored, as well as the right to sue. Guardians have been appointed to act on behalf of the river to ensure its rights are respected.

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