On October 10th, 2018, two members of the Indigenous Environmental Justice Project-Meagan Dellavilla and Nasreen Hussain conducted an hour long presentation at the Beaches branch in downtown, Toronto. The presentation began with a land acknowledgement honouring the ancestors of the land and an introduction of the IEJ project and each member’s involvement in it. The presentation consisted of two parts: Meagan discussed youth engagement in the environmental justice movement using arts-based research methods that include young people’s voices in the building of Indigenous-informed environmental justice framework. Nasreen’s segment discussed the Significance of water through holistic and Indigenous worldview. She discussed the motivations that informed her research such as engagement with water from a non-materialistic perspective, the connection between women and water and the difference between Indigenous and Western conceptions of water. Both Meagan and Nasreen emphasized the importance of honouring participants and communities during the research process as a way of giving back through the notion of reciprocity.
A brief tour of the website was given towards the end of the presentation as a guide for people to access, along with the resource page for students or those interested in doing their own research. A small segment of Nasreen’s film ‘The Significance of Water’ was shown, emphasizing how women need to honour the water within themselves, more specifically, their womb space in order to fully honour and respect water. Audience members were keen to ask questions regarding solutions for environmental injustices and about environmental justice that is being achieved for Indigenous communities today. Some attendees were grateful to know that some community based training and education was taking place on various traditional territories for better soil and water testing in Ontario. One person was from the Toronto Environmental Alliance (TEA) and was curious to learn more about how Indigenous voices can be better implemented in policy and decision making through collaboration. The efforts of the IEJ project were recognized and understood as a place for education and collaboration, to better inform people about environmental justice and the challenges that come with asserting Indigenous worldview and responsibilities despite pervasive colonial governance.
By: Nasreen Hussain