Environmental justice against settler colonialism: Sakshi, ‘Denying Indigenous Environmental Justice: Experiences from Australia, Brazil, and Canada’, Fourth World Journal, 20, 2, 2021, pp. 115-130


Abstract: This paper deliberates on the nature of justice in Indigenous engagement with settler-colonial legality. I use the case law-based evidence from the three jurisdictions, Australia, Brazil, and Canada, to reflect on the abstract and material representations of Indigenous environmental justice in contemporary settler-colonial societies. There are two elements at play here. While some of the constituent elements of ‘Indigenous environmental justice’ may remain undefined in the legal system, they function as an invitation to the courts for interpreting them widely. How far has this been used, and in what manner speaks to the nature of juridical engagement with indigeneity? Second, the need for certainty and procedural integrity within the legal interpretation often belies the assumption of neutrality. This is pronounced when political and historical questions are antecedents to the legal questions to be determined by a court. Settler colonial nations illustrate this contradiction by laying bare the past and present historical injustices that accompany Indigenous rights and sovereignty. To think about ‘justice’ in these cases requires principle-led juridical innovations. I argue that courts are yet to recognize their key role in identifying and remedying the violence scripted by the law on Indigenous people. While it may be a difficult and complex task to develop a radical jurisprudence without violating the separation of power, courts continue to be the final altars of justice with a wide range of creative and untapped powers. The responsibility to articulate Indigenous environmental justice as a legal principle in the Anthropocene1 calls for deploying those powers.

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