What's Next for Natural Resource Management in Canada's North?

When it comes to managing natural resources, word on the street is that Canada’s north is doing it right. While there is always room for improvement, generally, investors are finding relative certainty and efficiency in regulatory processes; there is consideration of public interest objectives; communities are being engaged in a meaningful way; and, Indigenous peoples’ knowledge and perspectives are being integrated into governance and decision-making.

In the fall of 2016, Stratos was hired by a federal department to take stock of what has been working in the north and to identify opportunities for further improvement.

What Stratos found through its research were unique systems that are: 

  • Grounded in legislation that provide clarity around who should govern, who should benefit, and what types of land uses can take place and where (i.e., land claim agreements, self-government agreements, and land use plans, respectively)
  • Operating through co-management bodies that consist of Government and Indigenous groups, who come together to share in the management of natural resources and the environment
  • Promoting not only public participation, consultation and accommodation but collaboration, partnership and broader recognition Indigenous peoples’ rights
  • Providing benefits for those impacted by development through such mechanisms as government resource revenue sharing and impact benefit agreements
  • Broad in scope and scale, taking into consideration socio-economic impacts and benefits alongside biophysical effects, and attempting to do so at a more regional, cumulative level
  • Continually adapting and evolving over time

What Stratos identified as actions for further improvement of these systems include, but are not limited to:

  • Completing outstanding land claims and land use plans and doing so in an integrated manner
  • Improving funding for co-management bodies to allow the recruitment of a wider range of board members, to ensure board members have sufficient time to conduct meaningful reviews, and further enabling participant engagement
  • Reconsidering and extending the power afforded to co-management bodies to make final decisions
  • Continuing to ensure federal Duty to Consult is satisfied and not subsumed as part of the proponent’s public engagement and consultation process
  • Continuing to work to ensure that cumulative effects, socio-economic effects, and traditional knowledge are adequately considered and that the necessary tools, practices and capacities are in place to implement effectively
  • Creating new partnerships / strengthening those that already exist and taking a “whole of government” approach to addressing outstanding management issues through horizontal and vertical collaboration

The relevance of this work is clear – especially when considered in the context of the federal government’s recent expert panel review of environmental assessments and regulatory processes in Canada, and subsequent discussion paper – which outline recommendations for federal lands very consistent with the northern systems.

The continual improvement of these regimes present meaningful opportunities for collaboration on the development of policy, legislation and regulations, project decision-making and implementation.  When resourced and supported appropriately, the design of the northern regimes enables impacted parties to engage in developing and evolving a shared set of expectations, norms and definitions of public interest in reconciliation of our different world views. 

For more information on Stratos’ work on northern governance, contact Jennifer Davis (Stratos Director).