Just out in Law & Society Review. On the heels of the warmest January on record, a new paper on indigenous groups' human rights claims in the face of climate change...
Realizing the Right to Be Cold? Framing Processes and Outcomes Associated with the Inuit Petition on Human Rights and Global Warming
Is protection from climate change a human right? In 2005, Inuk activist Sheila Watt-Cloutier, on behalf Inuit based in the Canadian arctic and Alaska and with the support of two American environmental NGOs, submitted a petition against the United States before the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights alleging that the United States was responsible for how climate change had undermined their human rights, culture, property, traditional land, health, life, integrity, and security, subsistence, and housing – an argument that could referred to as asserting the right to be cold.
The petition supported an influential transnational effort to build linkages between human rights and climate change. Over time, this advocacy has resulted in the integration of human rights language in multilateral climate negotiations, the adoption of decisions on climate change in the United Nations human rights system, and the initiation of rights-based climate litigation around the world. At the same time, the petition had little impact on policy-makers in the United States or Canada or among Inuit communities themselves. Despite its shortcoming as a vehicle for empowering Inuit communities, the petition may be seen as a form of Inuit storytelling, warning the world of the dangers of a rapidly changing climate. Tragically, it is a story that most governments have not yet accepted, with dire consequences for Inuit and the planet as a whole.
Sébastien Jodoin is an Assistant Professor in the McGill Faculty of Law, where he holds the Canada Research Chair in Human Rights and the Environment and is a member of the Centre for Human Rights & Legal Pluralism.
Shannon Snow holds a BCL/LLB from McGill University and is a member of the southern Inuit community of NunatuKavut, in Labrador. Her research and professional interests involve organizational law and Indigenous legal revitalization.
Arielle Corobow holds a BCL/LLB from McGill University and is currently developing a diverse civil litigation practice in Montreal, with a particular interest in human rights, administrative, constitutional matters.