Achieving Indigenous Environmental Justice in Canada

Author: Deborah McGregor
Volume 9, Number 1 (2018)

A commitment to mino-mnaamodzawin has the potential to reconfigure and reclaim appropriate relationships with other orders of beings. In New Zealand the Whanganui River is now officially recognized in the country’s legal system as having personhood and thus rights (© Harald Selke via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0).


This article explores the potential for advancing environmental justice (EJ) theory and practice through engaging with Indigenous intellectual traditions. When EJ is grounded in Indigenous epistemological and ontological foundations, a distinct EJ framework emerges, leading to a deeper understanding of Indigenous EJ and to a renewed vision for achieving it. I highlight the emergence of the Anishinaabe philosophy referred to as mino-mnaamodzawin (“living well” or “the good life”), common to several Indigenous epistemologies, that considers the critical importance of mutually respectful and beneficial relationships among not only peoples but all our relations (including all living things and many entities not considered by Western society as living, such as water and Earth itself). Mino-mnaamodzawin is suggested as a foundational contributor to a new ethical standard of conduct that will be required if society is to begin engaging in appropriate relationships with all of Creation, thereby establishing a sustainable and just world.

joined York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School in 2015 as a cross-appointee with the Faculty of Environmental Studies. Her research focuses on Indigenous knowledge systems and their various applications in diverse contexts including water and environmental governance, environmental justice, forest policy and management, and sustainable development. She remains actively involved in a variety of Indigenous communities, serving as an adviser and engaging in community-based research and initiatives. She coordinated an indigenous environmental justice symposium in May 2016 featuring the voices of women and youth. She also recently launched an IEJ Project website.

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