The concept of environmental justice (or injustice) refers generally to the inequitable distribution of the costs and benefits of environmental degradation, such that people of colour and the poor tend to bear a significantly greater portion of the costs, while receiving relatively little in terms of any benefits. In Canada, environmental (in)justice is a constant undercurrent for arguably most (if not all) environmental challenges that Indigenous peoples face. The field of environmental justice studies therefore forms a critical theoretical and applied framework for addressing key environmental issues of concern to Indigenous peoples in Canada. To date, however, research focused on Indigenous environmental justice (EJ) has not yet occurred in a substantive way in Canada. Furthermore, if EJ studies are to benefit Indigenous peoples, then they must include knowledge, principles and values already held and practiced by Indigenous peoples.
Thus, it is important to ask:
•What does environmental justice mean to Indigenous Peoples?
•When is environmental justice achieved?
•How can environmental injustice be addressed?
The Indigenous Environmental Justice Project, a 5-year SSHRC-funded initiative based out of York University, is working to answer these questions. In May 2016, we hosted a symposium in which activists, Elders, artists, youth, academics and community members met to discuss environmental justice. During the 2016/2017 academic year, we hosted a series of speaking events which intended to further explore the concept of environmental justice from the perspective of Indigenous women and youth. The outputs of these events can be explored on the proceeding pages.
Mission Statement: Our hope is that the IEJ project website will be a resource for community members, students, activists and scholars. Through the website, we intend to offer support to communities currently fighting an environmental injustice; to provide resources to teachers or schools that are interested in educating their students about the concept of environmental justice; and to create a place for inclusive dialogue on how to move toward greater justice.
Respecting the Caretakers of the Land
Over many centuries, Indigenous nations have co-existed on lands which now contain York University. These relationships, both among nations and the lands and waters that support them, continue to have importance to this day. As such, this project will acknowledge and respect the ancestors and current caretakers of these territories: The Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation, the Anishinaabek Nation; the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, the Huron-Wendat and the Metis Nation.
2016/2017 Year in Review