Indigenous Environmental Justice Knowledge Sharing Symposium
The Indigenous Environmental Justice Knowledge Sharing Symposium, held on May 26, 2016 at York University, was a forum for sharing ideas, knowledge and experiences to help us understand what Indigenous Environmental Justice (IEJ) means. This symposium brought together activists, youth, women, artists, Elders, scholars, environmental practitioners, advocates and community members. The dialogue advanced the theory and practice of environmental justice scholarship by engaging with Indigenous peoples to more fully develop the concept of ‘justice’ and the policies and laws necessary to enable just relations. Nearly 100 people attended in person, with an additional 339 people from 10 countries attending through the livestream option. All presentations were recorded and are now available via the IEJ Project’s website.
During the symposium, two questions were put to the speakers:
• What does environmental justice mean in Canada, in an Indigenous context and from an Indigenous perspective?
• What is currently known about IEJ in Canada?
The symposium encompassed teachings shared by Elders/Grandmothers, women and youth. Knowledge was shared via panel discussions, roundtables, formal presentations and creative expression. Some of the speakers included: Lieutenant Governor's Ontario Heritage Award winner, , Josephine Mandamin, who has walked the equivalent of half the earth's circumference to build awareness about pollution, laws, fracking, and the selling of the water, and Potawatomi scholar, Kyle Whyte, whose work examines the effects of climate change on Indigenous communities. Further, activist Annie Clair shared her memorable experience protesting the pipelines, and a number of youth discussed what it is like to be a young person with a strong interest in environmental justice in today’s society. Student led video projects were created in support of the symposium. The short videos looked at concepts of environmental justice through the lens of panelists and participants, focusing on their knowledge, reflections and relations with environment, water justice, decolonization, responsibilities and language.
The symposium brought a wide range of Indigenous peoples under one roof to give voice to the many environmental justice issues they face on a daily basis. It took what is often viewed as an academic concept out of academia, and into the hands of grandmothers, storytellers, artists and youth, giving insight into both the struggles and the hope for change.
“You’re seeing report after report actually talking about how native people are going to be hit hardest by climate change and how there’s all sorts of things impacting native people everywhere that are of the most serious nature. In fact, it’s so serious that I argue that climate change impacts... our capacity to adapt and to flourish as a society...Once the climate scientist finally catch on to what’s going on, time is running out.” - Kyle Whyte
"...getting kids out into the bush and having them experience the connection that you feel and how being out there makes you feel, and how feeling the water makes you feel. I think that’s really important when it comes to any type of environment-related problem.” -Jacey Chiblow
Chi Miigwetch to all attendees, panelists, collaborators, and sponsors, including York University, Osgoode Hall Law School, Faculty of Environmental Studies, Institute for Feminist Legal Studies, Centre for Feminist Studies, Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies, and Faculty of Communications, Art & Design, Seneca College. We’d also like to acknowledge the following York University students for their contributions to the event – Anupama Aery, Nasreen Husain, Michael Joseph, Salisha Purushuttam, Peter Mangaly, Kelly King, Morgan Johnson, and Oonagh Butterfield.