Rivers, Rights & Reconciliation in British Columbia: Lessons Learned from New Zealand's Whanganui River Agreement

20 Pages Posted: 4 Jan 2014 Last revised: 30 Mar 2017

Jennifer L. Archer

Jennifer L. Archer Consulting

Date Written: December 3, 2013

Abstract

British Columbia’s rivers, lakes and coastal waters are at the front lines of a growing conflict between First Nations and the Canadian Government. Moving beyond conflict requires a concerted effort to identify viable policy and legal alternatives which foster reconciliation, renewed dialogue and cooperation with respect to waterways. New Zealand’s Whanganui River Agreement between the Whanganui Iwi (Maori) and the Crown offers a unique example of reconciliation through recognition of the rights of nature.

Under the Whanganui River Agreement, the parties agreed that the whole of the Whanganui River will be granted legal personhood, with recognized values and rights of its own, as well as ownership over those parts of the riverbed that currently vest with the Crown. The parties further agreed to appoint guardians who will give voice to the river and make decisions in the best interests of the river. This historic legal initiative warrants further consideration for the role that granting rights to rivers could play in finding a path to meaningful legal reconciliation between First Nations and the Crown with respect to waterways in British Columbia.

Keywords: Water Law, Rivers, Rights of Nature, Reconciliation, Whanganui River, British Columbia, First Nations, Aboriginal, Indigenous peoples

JEL Classification: Q25, Q28

Suggested Citation

Archer, Jennifer L., Rivers, Rights & Reconciliation in British Columbia: Lessons Learned from New Zealand's Whanganui River Agreement (December 3, 2013). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2374454 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2374454

Jennifer L. Archer (Contact Author)

Jennifer L. Archer Consulting ( email )

Vancouver, British Columbia
Canada

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