Giving rights to nature : national developments entitling nature with subjective rightsReading time : < 1 minute
At least 14 countries have recognized subjective rights to nature's elements so far. This trend goes on in 2021 as natural elements in Canada were entitled with specific rights.
For the first time in Canada, the Magpie River (Quebec) was entitled with rights by the local municipality of Minganie and the Innu Council of Ekuanitshit in February 2021. Such a shift in the legal assertion of nature’s rights might pave the way for further advances. It could lead to other elements of the Canadian ecosystem to be considered as legal persons instead of objects.
Without foretelling the end of anthropocentrism in national laws, this development offers new perspectives to approach environmental governance, law-making and litigation.
This trend of granting legal personhood to natural elements is not new. In an unprecedented move, two municipalities in the Puno Region of Peru recognized subjective rights to watercourses. In the district of Orurillo, the Water Mother, Mama Yaku, was recognized to be a subject of rights. As a consequence, it recognized rights to rivers, lagoons, lakes and puquios (subterranean aqueducts). Moreover, the ordinance issued by the municipality of Melgar recognized the Llallimayo basin as a subject of rights. The aim was then “to institutionalize and generate municipal mechanisms and strategies that guarantee conservation and sustainable management for the benefit of the population and ecosystems.”
Consequently, the recognition of rights to nature can have concrete impacts on local implementation of environmental regulations and the efficiency of grassroot measures for nature’s protection. These watercourses are of key importance for indigenous peoples, holding specific cultural and spiritual value for them.