Biodiversity and Indigenous Peoples

The Inuit throughout the Circumpolar North are already experiencing the impacts of climate change on their ways of life. Biodiversity loss, and changes in the distribution of plants and wildlife, exert considerable pressure on their traditional hunting, fishing and gathering activities, as well as on their food security. In turn, the pressure of climate change and of historical and contemporary industrial activities on the Arctic’s biodiversity has led Canada and other States to adopt conservation measures that may restrict the capacity of Inuit people to access their traditional foods.

 Image credit: Rémy Marion. Image source: Science Poles, <http://www.sciencepoles.org/article/examining-indigenous-sea-ice-knowledge-and-use>.

Image credit: Rémy Marion. Image source: Science Poles, <http://www.sciencepoles.org/article/examining-indigenous-sea-ice-knowledge-and-use>.

Using the perspectives of environmental and food justice, this case study will look at the decision-making processes and the outcomes of legal regimes regulating biodiversity protection in the Canadian Arctic in order to better understand their impact on Inuit rights and livelihoods. Among other questions, it will ask the following: how are the Inuit in Northern Canada affected by biodiversity conservation measures? To which extent and in which capacities can the Inuit participate in decision-making processes that may threaten their capacity to access their traditional food sources? Which role could Inuit law play in protecting biodiversity while also enhancing food security? How could governance arrangements and processes be designed to protect biodiversity without thwarting environmental and food justice for the Inuit?