A Duty to Care: The Missing Connection between Indigenous Rights and the Rights of Nature in Canada

It is hard to imagine ‘Mother Earth’ being discussed in the board rooms in the heart of oil and gas country in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. But times may be changing.  In 2019 an article discussing rights of nature and the duty to consult was published in the Journal of Energy & Natural Resources Law. Laura S. Lynes discussed the connection between Canada’s obligation for consultation of Indigenous peoples in Canada alongside the recent developments of recognizing legal nature rights in New Zealand, India, Ecuador and other areas around the world. It is a signal for a new consideration of rights.  

Canada attempts to meet the intersection of environmental and Indigenous rights via the duty to consult during the assessment process. As recent court cases have shown, that duty is failing.

A duty that extends beyond consultation is the bare minimum of what is needed. It needs to envelope the consideration for the environment along with indigenous rights in a duty akin to care – for all peoples, the future generations, and nature. It needs to be indoctrinated into a system that acknowledges and respects ecological and human rights law. 

In my essay for the International Human Rights course as part of my LLM at the University of Kent, I argue that the duty to consult is a long way from adopting nature rights and is insufficient as a means of reconciliation for Indigenous peoples in Canada. The connection between nature and indigenous rights needs to be the first step. 

See full essay: ‘A Duty to Care: The Missing Connection between Indigenous Rights and the Rights of Nature in Canada’


[1] Laura S Lynes, ‘The Rights of Nature and the Duty to Consult in Canada’ (2019) 37 Journal of Energy & Natural Resources Law 353.

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