Haana Edenshaw, who has grown up on the Haida Gwaii islands in B.C., is an environmental and Indigenous activist. Photo courtesy Haana Edenshaw

Teen emerges as voice for climate change action

By  Mary French, Youth Speak News
  • March 18, 2020

Making an impact in the world doesn’t have to be an accomplishment reserved for the later years of life. At 16, Haana Edenshaw has already made considerable strides towards raising environmental awareness and protecting her land.

“I don’t ever remember not being passionate about it,” she said. “It’s a reality I grew up with, and it’s sad, and I was for a little while angry that my future had been taken from me. It’s a duty to protect my land; it’s just second nature. It comes from a place of love.”

Edenshaw is a member of the Haida Nation, who resides upon the Haida Gwaii islands in British Columbia. Having been on protest lines since her youngest years, protecting her homeland and culture is of utmost importance in Edenshaw’s life since her culture thrives on the land in which she lives.

She has become an environmental and Indigenous activist, speaking at multiple institutions on the subject and becoming a member of Swiilawiid, a sustainability society that fights for energy sovereignty in the B.C. islands. Last month she was one of the panelists for a “Listening to Youth” webinar put on by Global Catholic Climate Movement Canada (GCCM).

Recently, Edenshaw, along with 14 other youth, sued the Canadian government for climate change. She hopes it inspires others to take active steps toward environmental protection.

“We are suing the government because they violated our Charter rights: the right to life, liberty and security of person,” said Edenshaw. “(They are) contributing to the climate crisis by continuing to support and promote fossil fuels. The public trust doctrine says that Canada has a legal responsibility to protect commonly held natural resources that we depend on, and they are not. We are requesting that Canada create and implement a science-based climate recovery plan.”

Edenshaw explained how it is easy to despair at the environmental situation, the effects of which she can see impacting her home. Instead, she has found courage in her supportive friends and elders, as well many activists who continue to hold on to hope. Fighting for her land, she has discovered, is enough to make an impact. She hopes that her efforts will begin to see a change in other places as well.

“You realize you aren’t just fighting for that one place, but for everywhere.”

Pope Francis published Laudato Si’ in 2015 to reflect on the growing distress over the environment in the world. This letter implores all Catholics to fulfil their role as good stewards of the Earth to preserve the planet for generations to come.

During World Youth Day 2019 in Panama City, the GCCM established a youth branch called the Laudato Si’ Generation to encourage young people to take an active role in ecological conversion and support people threatened by environmental problems.

Edenshaw said she believes defending the environment goes beyond making a better world. It is a loving, selfless decision to give back to Earth by fulfilling our role as its protectors, and loving and protecting our descendants as well.

“There seems to be pressure to assuage the guilt over my species. Not everyone can (defend the environment) perfectly all the time. Just do as well as you can at the moment. It’s a slow journey. It does make us better — it is necessary. We have a responsibility — for us and future generations.”

(French, 21, is a third-year liberal arts student at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom College in Barry’s Bay, Ont.)

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