The St. Lawrence: Protecting its Lives
This event brings together artists, activists, and academics to discuss protecting the St. Lawrence River and its ecosystems. How would recognizing the river as a legal person favour better management of its waters? Brazil’s Raimunda Gomes da Silva, a leader in the fight for workers’ rights and environmental conversation in the Amazon rainforest, will provide the opening remarks.
Nathalie Gravel (Québec) Moderator
Nathalie Gravel holds a BSc in geography from Université de Sherbrooke (1994), a master’s in geography (1998), and a PhD focusing on rural geography in Latin America (2003), both from Université Laval. She also did a postdoc at Yale (2003-2005), where she researched food security in rural regions of central Mexico.
Since 2005, Gravel has been professor of geography at Laval, supervising grad students in geography, agroforestry, and biogeosciences.
Her research focuses on implementing methods of qualitative analysis with the goal of facilitating participatory governance of environmental resources. She is particularly interested in questions of equitable access, diversity and empowerment of marginalized groups in the Americas, and uses her knowledge to raise awareness among policymakers around environmental co-management and decentralization of power.
She wrote the course manual Géographie de l’Amérique latine, Une culture de l’incertitude (Presses de l’Université du Québec, 2009), for which she received an excellence in teaching award from Université Laval in 2011. Gravel is member of CentrEau, and is affiliated with Université Laval’s École des Hautes études internationales. She is also very active in her community, currently as vice-president of the Canadian Association of Geographers (CAG), and as a member of the board of directors of the Fondation québécoise pour la protection du patrimoine naturel (FQPPN).
Previously, she was president of the Société de Géographie de Québec (2006-2016) and president of the Canadian Association for Latin American and Caribbean Studies (CALACS) (2013-2014). She speaks French, English, Spanish, and Portuguese, and, since 2012, has regularly accompanied student delegations from Université Laval to the Model Organization of American States (MOAS).
Yenny Vega Cárdenas (Montreal) Guest
Yenny Vega Cárdenas is a lawyer working in Quebec and Columbia. She holds a master’s in business law, and a PhD in water law.
Vega Cárdenas is currently president of the International Observatory for Nature’s Rights, works as a specialist with the UN’s Harmony with Nature organization, and is a special rapporteur at the Max Planck Institute on the rights of nature, decolonization, and legal pluralism. Vega Cárdenas is interested in the recognition of the rights of natural entities, with an eye to reinforcing ecosystem protection. In this perspective, she participated in the first declaration of legal status of a river in Canada, the Magpie/Mutehekau Shipu. At the International Observatory for Nature’s Rights, she advocates for the recognition of the legal status of the Saint Lawrence River.
She teaches legal frameworks around water governance in a course on water management at Polytechnique Montréal, and has taught international public law and comparative law in several universities in both Canada and Latin America.
As a specialist in water law and governance, Vega Cárdenas has led in-depth research projects in the areas of water law and fundamental rights to clean water. She has published numerous scholarly articles in English, French and Spanish, and is frequently asked to speak on her areas of expertise at national and international conferences.
Geneviève Dupéré (Montreal) Guest
Working between the arts and the sea, Geneviève Dupéré is director of écH2osystème, a maritime research and creation project that bridges the gap between the Saint Lawrence and the stage, and between the stage and the audience.
She has worked as an acting specialist with Cirque du Soleil (Luzia 2016, Amaluna 2019), aerial co-choreographer of two ceremonies at the Sotchi Games (Compagnia Finzi Pasca, 2014), and as creative director of Uniqqaaqtuat (7 Doigts, Artcirq, 2020). Dupéré first set sail for the Saint Lawrence by way of the performing arts in 2015, as artistic and historical content director of Avudo (Compagnia Finzi Pasca, 2017, Montreal’s 375th anniversary signature event).
Raimunda Gomes da Silva (Altamira) Guest
Raimunda Gomes da Silva was born riverine, in Pedreiras, Maranhão, on the banks of the Parnaíba, on November 30, 1959. She is secretary of the Xingu Women’s Collective, participates in the Xingu Vivo para Sempre Movement and is a member of the Xingu Riverine Council
She spent her youth on the banks of the Pindaré-Mirim River, in the lowlands of Maranhão. She married João da Silva, a dam worker, and they went to live on the banks of the Tocantins and from there to the banks of the Itacaiúnas, in Marabá, southwest of Pará. Today they live on the banks of the Xingu.
Valérie Ivy Hamelin (Gespeg) Guest
Valérie Ivy Hamelin is a member of the Mi’kmaw community of Gespeg, in the Gaspé. She is an activist and advocate for land defence, and identifies as a water carrier.
Hamelin has collaborated with numerous Indigenous communities and environmental organizations. Her many years of activism have focused on the water defence, be it rivers, the Saint Lawrence, and the ocean, particularly in the struggle against the invasion of oil and gas companies around the Gaspé peninsula.
Hamelin was panellist at the 2018 Forum Against Extractivism in Montreal, where she shared her perspectives on the violence experienced by Indigenous women who resist. She was also invited to the World Forum Against Extractivism in South Africa later that year, a conference bringing together women from over sixty countries actively involved in land defence. She sits on the board of directors of Eau Secours, gives workshops on holistic ways of understanding water with Waterlution, and works with the non-profit International Observatory for Nature’s Rights on obtaining recognition of the Saint Lawrence as a legal entity.
Hamelin is also a multidisciplinary artist, working with singing, storytelling, Indigenous drumming, flute and dance. She has performed for over 15 years, and has recorded three albums, including Sœurs Nibi, an album of Indigenous songs and prayers. Her current musical project, Mi’gmafrica, brings together Mi’gmaw and Senegalese cultures, in collaboration with Sadio Sissokho.
Her father was born in traditional Mi’gmaw territory, and grew up with the teachings passed down from his mother and grandmother, and with deep respect for Mother Earth. Hamelin inherited his love for nature, and his sacred relationship to the Earth, as well as his teachings on healing plants, bow hunting, and trapping, in a spirit of respect and gratitude.
Hamelin also manages her own production company, focused on world music, live concerts, and music and dance workshops (www.mosaicultures.com).