Below is a summary of the research project that Roos Schepers will undertake this fall, sponsored by an ACSN research grant:
"The concept of granting legal personhood to natural entities has gained significant attention as a means to protect the environment and preserve the rights of nature. This legal recognition confers certain rights and protections to ecosystems, rivers, mountains, and other natural features, attributing them a legal status similar to that of a human. Proponents argue that this framework can provide a more comprehensive and effective means of safeguarding the environment, enabling ecosystems to be legally represented and defended in courts of law. Because of its popularity, it is essential to examine the implications of this approach, particularly for Indigenous peoples who have historically maintained deep connections with their natural surroundings.
It is also crucial to consider whether this rights-based approach aligns with Indigenous perspectives, governance systems, and customary practices of nature management. Indigenous communities in north-east British Columbia have long been custodians of their territories, implementing traditional land-use strategies that respect the interconnectedness of all life forms. The imposition of a legal personhood framework may not necessarily resonate with their ontological worldview, raising concerns about potential conflicts or the marginalization of Indigenous knowledge systems.
This research proposal aims to fill a critical gap in the current understanding of the implications of legal personhood for natural entities on Indigenous communities in north-east British Columbia. By examining the attitudes and perspectives of Indigenous peoples towards this concept, this study seeks to explore the potential for compatibility, challenges, and opportunities that arise from integrating Indigenous ways of nature management within the rights of nature framework. This research aims to stimulate a comprehensive and inclusive dialogue that ensures the rights of nature framework respects and accommodates Indigenous rights, traditions, and approaches to environmental protection."