Hank Shelley

Column: Can land be recognized as a legal person?

David Boyd, an environmental lawyer, UBC professor, and author of nine books, including, The Rights of Nature, recently wrote a article, pertaining to a possible solution on the land claims issue.

David Boyd, an environmental lawyer, UBC professor, and author of nine books, including, The Rights of Nature, recently wrote a article, pertaining to a possible solution on the land claims issue.

Many Aboriginal people in Canada have strong ties to the land, on /off reserves, including hunting and fishing. However could there be a solution?

The government of New Zealand and the Maori have come to a understanding. The Maori have a distinctive view, in that people are deeply intertwined with nature. According to Maori cosmology, humans are not only related to their ancestors, but also the animals, plants, mountains, rivers, and forests where they live. This radical understanding of our place in the comsos is reflected in two new New Zealand laws. One of those pertains to Te Urewera National Park.

The park was created in 1950, on land that was illegally taken from the Maori. The Maori consistently pressed for recognition of the region. expressed as (rangatiratanga) authority, and (whanaungatanga), kinship. (kaitiakitanga) stewardship. The government acknowledged the wrongs of the past, but was unwilling to transfer title over the lands to the Maori. A surprising compromise emerged.

A law passed in 2014 recognized the land as a legal person! Title was transferred from the Crown to Urewera itself. In other words, the land now owns the land.

Earlier this year, New Zealand passed a similar law recognizing the Whanganui river, as a legal person. The law defines the river in Maori terms as compromising both the physical and metaphysical elements of the watershed.

In B.C., and across Canada, there are fruitless ongoing negotiations with First Nations over land title. In B.C., courts have ruled, some claims have legitimate basis.

Could B.C. and Canada emulate what has taken place in New Zealand? This innovative approach would enable all Canadians to reflect on our relationship with the places we call home.

Recognizing that Nature has rights could help us transcend the destructive perception that humans are separate from our environment,and superior to other creatures. In fact we are part of the incredible community of life, on Earth, the air, water, soil,plants, wildlife, and even the spirit of this place, make us who we are which sustains us, physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Be sure and get your tickets for the upcoming Fish and Game banquet, come Feb. 10. It’s sure to be a great time for all.

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