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Sophie Thériault

This Chapter analyses, through the lens of environmental justice, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights’ jurisprudence interpreting and applying the American Convention on Human Rights and related instruments. Faced with the lack of efficient and accessible domestic legal remedies to protect themselves from the threats of environmental degradation, an increasing number of groups and individuals, in particular indigenous peoples, are turning to the Inter-American system as a potential vector of environmental rights and justice. This Chapter first analyses, in terms of environmental justice, the actual and potential strengths and shortcomings of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights’ jurisprudence pertaining to the interpretation of the right to a healthy environment, the right to life and the right to freedom of thought and expression. It then analyses the multifaceted and potentially tense relationships between environmental justice and the right to property as this right has been interpreted by the Court in the context of litigation opposing indigenous peoples and States with regard to economic development projects on their traditional lands. The Chapter shows that the Inter-American Court’s progressive interpretation of human rights and freedoms provides interesting tools for promoting environmental justice. In particular, the right to life, interpreted by the Court through the notion of human dignity, could impose on States the positive duty to adopt concrete measures to secure the environmental conditions necessary for living a decent and healthy life. Moreover, the Court, relying on the principle of the equality of legal cultures, interpreted the traditionally individualistic right to property as encompassing indigenous peoples’ customary title and jurisdiction. However, considering the significant limitations imposed by the Court on those extensively-defined rights, the Chapter concludes that in order to promote environmental justice, human rights interpretation and adjudication would have to account more fully for the interconnectedness between human communities’ health and well-being and ecological integrity.

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Sophie Theriault

Applying an environmental justice approach to the complex relationships between biodiversity conservation and Canadian Inuit food security, this article argues that the achievement of food security in the rapidly changing environment of the Arctic requires that the Inuit should have increased agency in global, national, regional and local decision-making processes related to biodiversity conservation initiatives that potentially compromise Inuit food economies. Guaranteeing the Inuit an effective voice in environmental decision-making processes would reduce the risk of adopting conservation measures ill-adapted to their food systems and, simultaneously increase local support for biodiversity conservation laws and policies, fostering, as a result, both increased flexibility in natural resources management and enhancing the capacity of the Inuit to adapt to shifting environmental conditions.