Saint-Laurent at the United Nations

The deputy leader of the National Democratic Party, Alexandre Poliris, will defend the idea of ​​a legal status for the river at the United Nations on Friday.

Joel Dennis Belavance

The deputy leader of the New Democratic Party, Alexander Poliris, would never have believed that one day he would be invited to go to New York to discuss the legal status that should be granted to the St. Lawrence River before the four delegates. The corners of the world come together at the United Nations.

This is exactly what the member for Rosemont-La Petite-Patrie will do on Friday, accompanied by the head of the International Observatory for the Rights of Nature, Yenny Vega Cárdenas, when the idea of ​​granting rights to nature makes its way to the UN offices at once. while the climate emergency requires unprecedented mobilization to avoid the sharp rise in the planet’s temperature.

Mr. Poliris and The Cardenas – who appear before the United Nations General Assembly Trusteeship Council at the invitation of General Assembly President Abdullah Shahid – have been campaigning for months for the St. Lawrence River and its watersheds, which include also the Great Lakes region, in recognition of a legal person.

Magpie River, the first in the country

It also builds on the precedent set domestically in February 2021, when the Magpie River, a world-renowned whitewater rafting destination, became the first river in Canada to receive such status.

This status was granted to him after the Provincial Municipality of Mingani and the Inoue Council of Equinechit made decisions to this effect, which would grant him “nine legal rights”, including the right to sink, to preserve natural biodiversity and to take legal action. Such a situation could give it additional protection in the event of the development of hydroelectricity, for example.

When parliamentary work resumes on Monday, Mr. Boliris will also have to table in the House of Commons a bill specifically aimed at giving legal personality to the St. Lawrence River, as the New Democratic Party (NDP) had promised during his last election campaign. Concretely, this would give the river the legal right to assert its rights through a commission that would protect its interests and its good health in collaboration with the First Nations.

The River and the Third Link

For example, the river can be heard by the commission during environmental studies prior to the approval of new economic projects or road projects such as the third link between Quebec and Lévis recommended by the Legault government. Elsewhere in the world, similar steps have been taken in countries like New Zealand, India and Ecuador to give legal status to ecosystems.

It was impossible to know if Justin Trudeau’s Liberal party intended to support the NDP’s bill on Thursday. Recall that Justin Trudeau and the leader of the NDP, Jagmeet Singh, have entered into a parliamentary alliance that will allow the minority Liberal government to remain in place until June 2025. As part of this alliance, the Trudeau government is committed to implement some of the NDP’s proposals. priorities. In turn, the latter will support the Liberals in the vote of confidence in the budgets, for example.

Mr. Poliris and Cárdenas, the lawyer, will speak at the dialogue organized under the auspices of the United Nations on the theme “Harmony with nature” (harmony with nature), which aims to suggest ways to eliminate all practices that threaten biodiversity and various ecosystems. The event takes place on the occasion of World Earth Day, which this year focuses on the concept of the laws of nature.

“great icon”

In an interview with JournalismOn Thursday, on the eve of his speech at the United Nations, Mr. Boliris said it was time to recognize that nature has rights that must be defended.

“For the first time, we are going to talk about the future of the St. Lawrence River at the United Nations. It’s absolutely epic. I’m a little nervous. But I am also very proud to be able to talk about the river. Not only is it a wealth as an ecosystem and source of life, it is also a great symbol for Quebecers. It’s part of our collective identity and imagination, ”the NDP MP shouted over the phone.


NDP Representative Alexandre Poliris

Yenni Vega Cardenas, who was also reached on her arrival in New York on Thursday, said we need to change our models for exploiting natural resources.

“This is a great opportunity to be able to share the fruits of our labor at the United Nations. It is important to change the paradigm. In the past, we thought that we were at the top of the pyramid, and therefore we are the masters of nature and we can exploit it and even destroy it. But we must rather understand that we are part of nature.

We must make nature equal by giving it a legal personality equally worthy of respect in any enterprise we undertake.

Yenni Vega Cardenas, President of the International Observatory of Nature

“In the case of the St. Lawrence River, that would change a lot of things. We can no longer see it as a place where we dump our waste, as a landfill. We must take our responsibilities because river rights will become our responsibilities,” she said, calling on the Trudeau government to support the NDP bill.

Rights in progress Source

In the speech he intends to deliver, Mr. Boliris will affirm that humanity has made enormous progress when the fundamental rights of human beings have been recognized. Equally important progress could be made if nature rights were granted.

Since the American Revolution, since the French Revolution, we have given basic rights to all men and women. This march towards equality and democracy was a great step forward in the evolution of our human societies. But have we also given rights to nature? Not true. We still have this human-centered view that nature is there to meet our needs. interval. We can no longer maintain this position”, he will confirm in the letter he has prepared.

“In a world facing climate change, the systematic loss of animal space and the mass extinction of living species, we urgently need to change things. A radical shift towards a peaceful and harmonious coexistence with our environment. Let’s put some balance in all of this. Let’s think about giving rights to nature. “.

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