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Achieving Indigenous Environmental Justice in Canada

Achieving Indigenous Environmental Justice in Canada

What does it mean to “live well” with the Earth in the face of climate/ecological crisis? What does a self-determined climate future look like for Indigenous communities and peoples? This is Canada Research Chair (CRC) Deborah McGregor’s core research agenda that aims to shape “Indigenous climate change futures” focusing on Indigenous knowledge systems and their various applications in environmental justice, water and environmental governance, forest policy and management, and sustainable development.

As CRC Tier 2, cross-appointed with Osgoode Hall Law School and the Faculty of Environmental Studies, Professor McGregor has been at the forefront of Indigenous Environmental Justice since 2015. Over the years, she has achieved international recognition through her creative and innovative approach using digital and social media to reach Indigenous communities and the public. She has also gained international prominence through various presentations and publications of original works drawing on the intersection of the concepts of Indigenous justice, legal orders and traditions, knowledge systems and research methodologies. She is part of a UKRI International Collaboration Initiative on Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Research Partnerships on knowledge production and use of creative resources that promote effective and impactful collaboration between Indigenous ad Non-Indigenous researchers.

Aside from her CRC, Professor McGregor, who is Anishinaabe from Whitefish River First Nation, Birch Island, Ontario, is Project Investigator in three other SSHRC projects on Indigenous Knowledge Systems, Reconciliation, and Environmental Governance; Indigenous Environmental (In)justice; and Indigenizing First Nations Land Management Regime. She is also a co-investigator in several other research projects on sustainable water governance, Indigenous law, extraction in Ontario’s ring of fire, Indigenous knowledge transfer, as well as conservation through reconciliation.

Following the conclusion of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in 2015 and the resulting calls for action towards reconciliation and Indigenous environmental justice in Canada, Professor McGregor believes that there remains considerable discussion as to what form reconciliation should take and for what end.

“Reconciliation processes must involve Indigenous peoples from the outset and should be founded on Indigenous intellectual and legal traditions. Indigenous concepts of reconciliation extend discussions beyond human dimensions to encompass reconciliation with the natural world as a path forward to achieve justice,” she underscores. “The Anishinaabe concept of Mino-bimaatisiwin the ‘good life’, or living well) offers guidance for ensuring that balanced relationships among all beings of Creation are maintained. Concepts such as these could provide significant guidance as we work towards achieving a more sustainable and just society through reconciliation efforts,” she adds.

Professor McGregor’s reputation as a world-class expert in IEJ has grown tremendously demonstrated by an overwhelming number of speaking engagements and invitations she has received from academics, community groups, and policy makers. With well over 160 presentations since her CRC, she delivered a keynote address at the First National Gender Equality and Water Security Public Forum in June 2019 in Lima, Peru. During the same period, she delivered a talk on Indigenous Environmental Justice, Knowledge and Law at the Annual Katherine A.H. Graham Lecture on Indigenous Policy at Carleton University. Further, she along with FES PhD candidate Sue Chiblow and other York University representatives, submitted their Comments on the Government of Canada’s Indigenous Knowledge Policy Framework.

Extremely productive through her CRC, Professor McGregor has co-edited a book on Indigenous Research: Theories, Practices and Relationships (Canadian Scholars Press, 2018) and a number of peer-reviewed book chapters and journal articles on Indigenous knowledge systems and environmental justice, research methods, climate change and reconciliation, land management, collaborative water governance, Indigenous rights, environmental policy development in Canada, among other topics.

As a leading researcher in the field, Professor McGregor will continue to play an important role and provide a strong leadership in helping York achieve the Indigenous Framework goals while further building relationships and sustaining engagement with Indigenous communities towards achieving environmental and climate justice in Canada.