Wet’suwet’en House Chiefs launch legal challenge over climate impacts of fossil fuel projects on their territories. Constitutional challenge alleges infringement of Charter rights of future generations of House members due to Canada’s failure to act to prevent spiraling climate crisis
Wet’suwet’en territory/Vancouver, Feb 12 – Two Wet’suwet’en Houses through their Hereditary Chiefs have launched a sweeping legal challenge asking the Federal Court to declare that Canada has a constitutional duty to keep the country’s greenhouse gas emissions well within the Paris Agreement limit of 2 ̊C above pre-industrial levels.
“The climate crisis is already hitting our House territories hard. You only have to look at the shrinking Hudson Bay Mountain glacier and count the salmon. If Canada is allowed to continue approving infrastructure for fracked gas projects on a 40-year timeline, our territories will become a wasteland before the project licenses expire”, said Dini Ze’ Lho’imggin (Alphonse Gagnon).
“As House Chief it is my responsibility to protect our House territory. We’re asking the Court to get Canada to act before it is too late.”
If successful, the lawsuit could lead to far-reaching changes to Canada’s environmental legislation. It would enable the federal cabinet to cancel approvals previously given to fossil fuel projects such as the LNG export facilities and pipelines proposed for Wet’suwet’en Territories and the northwest B.C. region. The cancellations would kick in if it becomes clear that Canada will fail to meet its Paris global warming commitment.
“Since colonization, the feverish pace of industrialization has created a climate crisis because Indigenous people were pushed aside from protecting the lands from which they came. It’s time for Indigenous people to assume our traditional forms of government, to begin that process of healing the biosphere,” said Dini Ze’ Smogilhgim (Warner Naziel).
Dini Ze’ Lho’imggin (Alphonse Gagnon) and Dini Ze’ Smogilhgim (Warner Naziel) represent the two Houses of the Likhts’amisyu (Fireweed) Clan. Under Wet’suwet’en law, House Chiefs, whose legitimacy is established through public Feasts, are responsible for protecting the House territories for the benefit of all House members. Wet’suwet’en traditional governance has been recognized in Canadian law, based on the Supreme Court of Canada judgment in the Delgamuukw case. The Likhts’amisyu Houses, however, are basing their current case on the Charter and other constitutional provisions and not on their s. 35 aboriginal rights and title.
The Wet’suwet’en and other Canadians are already experiencing significant impacts from climate change, as Canada is warming at twice the global rate. In particular, the Lithts’amisyu Clan House members are experiencing forest fires and salmon population declines. Anticipated future effects include reduced forest cover and reduced animal and fish populations, as well as adverse physical and mental health effects on Likhts’amisyu members, both present and future generations.
As the only charitable organization in Canada solely dedicated to fundraising for Indigenous Nation’s access to justice, we are honoured to fundraise on behalf of Wet’suwet’en. It’s time to stand with Indigenous peoples whose visionary legal action is carving out a way forward in the midst of a climate and human rights crisis. Donate to support the legal fund.