Reimagining Rivers (2022)

Rethinking & Reframing Relationship 
with the Environment


Legal rights govern how we interact with each other and with the world around us. Various jurisdictions for example, are now granting legal rights to aspects of the environment such as rivers. This webinar series, jointly organized by the Centre for Constitutional Studies and the Environmental Law Centre, provides opportunities to learn from expert speakers about jurisdictional hurdles that impact thriving of the environment as well as innovative approaches to rethinking relationship with it. The series will culminate in a Symposium on June 10, 2022.

Webinar 1: Magpie River as Person – Thursday, June 03, 2021

The Magpie River was recently granted legal personhood by the Innu Council of Ekuanitshit and the Minganie Regional County Municipality in Quebec. Our speaker, Yenny Vega Cárdenas, will describe how this process unfolded and what ‘personhood’ means for the Magpie River.


Yenny Vega Cárdenas, President of the Observatoire international des droits de la nature/ International Observatory of Nature Rights

Webinar 2: Indigenous Law and the Environment – Thursday, June 10, 2021

Professor Darcy Lindberg and lawyer Terri-Lynn Williams-Davidson will discuss Indigenous jurisdiction and the environment – particularly from the perspectives of Nêhiyaw (Plains Cree) and Haida laws – and some of the ways these laws may inform Canada’s constitution, treaty relationships, and federalism as they relate to the environment.


Professor Darcy Lindberg
Lawyer Terri-Lynn Williams-Davidson

Webinar 3: Animals as Legal Beings: Contesting Anthropocentric Legal Orders – October 29, 2021

Professor Maneesha Deckha (UVic) and Assistant Professor Jessica Eisen (UAlberta) will examine legal categorizations of animals: should animals be considered property, persons, or something else? And what do these categorizations mean for visions of justice and the health and well-being of animals, humans, and our overall environment?


Professor Maneesha Deckha
Assistant Professor Jessica Eisen

Webinar 4: Law’s Relationship with the North Saskatchewan River – February 16, 2022

In this presentation, Professor Jefferies will critique ‘sustainable development’ as an objective of environmental law and will instead present ‘ecological sustainability’ and ‘intergenerational stewardship’ as alternative and preferable perspectives for re-imagining a legal relationship with the North Saskatchewan River.


Assistant Professor Cameron Jefferies

Symposium: June 10, 2022.

The Symposium is planned as a one day, in-person event, where a group of academics, municipal and other politicians, and members of civil society groups will gather to examine the ways in which constitutional jurisdiction and legal rights impact the flourishing of the environment.  We will explore the legal, and governance opportunities and challenges emerging as we examine our relationship with the environment, and innovative approaches for law reform. How do Indigenous Law and municipal, provincial, and federal jurisdictions converge with respect to the environment? What jurisdictional hurdles prevent thriving of the environment? We will visit the North Saskatchewan River to explore different conceptions of the river – as legal person, as agent, as relation – and hear from elders and scholars about ways to reimagine relationship with it. We will then gather to make recommendations for change that can be used to further dialogue, as well as legal and policy recommendations for governments.

This Symposium is the culmination of a year-long webinar series which has explored jurisdictional hurdles that impact the thriving of our environment, as well as innovative approaches to rethinking relationship with it. The series has explored granting legal rights to rivers, Indigenous jurisdiction and the environment, and animals as legal beings: contesting anthropocentric legal orders.


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Centre for Constitutional Studies
448D Law Centre
University of Alberta
Edmonton, AB T6G 2H5
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