Wetsuwet’en appeal to pursue Charter Challenge linking Indigenous rights and climate impacts
Wet’suwet’en were in court mid-February, appealing a Federal Court decision to strike their groundbreaking case challenging the constitutionality of Canada’s failure to safeguard Peace, Order, and Good Government through their inaction on climate change. Because the current trajectory of GHG emissions will push Canada past its temperature targets under the Paris Agreement, the Likhts’amisyu Clan’s hereditary leaders argue that the federal government is violating Canada’s Charter Rights to a safe environment. That specifically affects First Nations as their lives, liberties, and security of persons are particularly impacted; if they should have to migrate due to climate change, they would face devastating cultural losses.
In their appeal, Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs are arguing that they are already affected by climate change: to use just one example, they have suspended their salmon fishery because warming water temperatures have, in part, brought about a collapse in sockeye returns.
In addition to setting a powerful precedent linking Indigenous rights with the right to a safe climate, the case also brings before the court important arguments establishing that climate change is a threat to the existence of humanity. Those are shoulders other litigants will be able to stand on, particularly Indigenous Peoples who are the ones facing the biggest threats, and bearing witness to the devastation that must be stopped.
The court decision could take anywhere between two months and a year to make. If successful, pending an appeal by Canada, Wet’suwet’en’s case will go to trial. We’ll be watching — and we’ll keep you updated about this paradigm shifting Charter challenge.
One way or another, one party or the other will seek leave to Appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.
photo by Michael Toledano