Update on Community Rights San Juan Islands

The group, Community Rights San Juan Islands, met with islanders in December on Lopez, Orcas and San Juan islands to discuss the possibility of a Rights of the Salish Sea (RoSS) initiative in 2019. Following is a summary of the meetings, goals, and information on how to join the group.

The idea of rights of nature resonated with most of the people we interacted with and support for broader protections for the Salish Sea was nearly universal. Our group remains committed to pursuing the Rights of the Salish Sea but we have decided that we will aim for the 2020 ballot.

We circulated the RoSS draft initiative among some former council members and people with experience in county and marine policy. Again, there is strong support for what we're doing but questions arose about the specifics of the draft. We recognize that the processes for implementation and enforcement of rights of nature laws are a work in progress and that we need more time to create an initiative that reflects the concerns and inclinations of our county.

We also met with students with the University of Victoria's new Joint Common Law and Indigenous Law program. The group is well engaged in indigenous communities and are hoping to build on our meeting toward cross border efforts. Additionally, we realized the need to become familiar with the varied meanings and implications of 'rights,' specifically, in this case, in indigenous communities. Again, the message was to slow down, something that is hard to do, given the urgent need to protect our region, our waters.

We are inspired by the turn-out and by the questions asked at the December events, and we look forward to building on that in whatever way we can.


Our core group on Lopez continues to meet regularly. We are looking for people in San Juan Island and in Orcas to form core groups too. If you are on another island and want to meet with us on Lopez, please let us know -- we can arrange pick up/drop off at ferries and try to accommodate meeting timings for the ferry whenever possible. And if you want to participate by phone or Skype we can arrange that too.

Please follow us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CommunityRightsSJI/ and visit our website: http://crsji.org

We have identified several areas for further research and education, so if you'd like to get more deeply involved, please let us know and we can assign specific tasks. And if you have ideas for how you want to help, please let us know.


Education: Further educate ourselves about other Salish Sea groups, indigenous law, and rights of nature efforts in the region and around the world.

Speakers: Bring speakers to the county to inspire and educate us, and help spread the word about rights of nature.

Outreach: Establish core groups on Orcas and San Juan Island that meet regularly and have committed leaders who will work with us to get the word out about rights of nature for the Salish Sea.

Fundraising: Continue fundraising to support the group's efforts to cover basic expenses (website, outreach, travel, speakers, etc).


A group based in Gig Harbor and coordinating with us and other efforts around the Salish Sea have created a petition declaring rights of the Southern Residents. If you are interested, you can read the petition here and sign if you so desire. The effort aligns with ours, but asks specifically for rights for the SRKWs: http://legalrightsforthesalishsea.org/petition/

Interest in strengthening cross-border efforts on behalf of the Salish Sea is manifesting in the development of a conference in late May on Pender Island, British Columbia.The purpose of this conference is to gather First Nations, municipalities and other interested parties together to create a legal framework for the protection of the Salish Sea based in Indigenous legal orders and the rights of nature.


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