Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date


Source Publication

Human Rights and the Environment : Legality, Indivisibility, Dignity and Geography. Edward Elgar Pub., 2019.


Environmental law; environmental justice; rights; pollution; activism; Indigenous communities; toxics; social movements; environmental racism; intersectionality; vulnerability; community based participatory research


This chapter explores some of the tensions inherent in employing ‘rights strategies’ in environmental justice movements. Using the example of a judicial review application brought by Indigenous environmental justice activists in Canada demonstrates the symbolic power of using rights-based language for environmental justice, but also underscores the serious procedural, logistical and resource barriers that frustrate these groups in their attempts to deploy litigation tactics. Legal scholars need to think critically about ‘rights-talk’ and confront the hard questions about its utility for advancing environmental justice. In working with communities, we must learn to listen to what communities want before we default to ‘rights’ and other legal tools often ill-fitted to the task.

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