Sustainable development for Canada's Arctic and sub-Arctic communities, a case study of Churchill, Manitoba

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Newton, Steven Timothy
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Canada's 'Oceans Act' (1997) promotes the need for the sustainable development of oceans and their resources. Coastal communities are an integral component of Canada's oceans, and therefore need to be considered under the 'Act.' Many of Canada's northern coastal communities share characteristics such as isolation, high aboriginal representation, high unemployment, and susceptibility to climate change, which will have a strong bearing on how sustainable development should be promoted. The purpose of this research was to develop a better understanding of the relationship between sustainable development and characteristics specific to northern coastal communities. Using Churchill, Manitoba as a case study, the researcher analyzed the environmental, social and economic aspects of sustainable development from the perspective of a small sub-arctic coastal community. This research was based on literature reviews, mapping and interviews with local townspeople (n = 54). A backcasting framework was used to evaluate the data, and concentric rings were developed to illustrate annual social, economic and environmental activities. The establishment of the Nunavut Settlement Region, increased tourism and Port expansion are ushering in a new set of opportunities for the Town. However, some concerns were identified with respect to the social, economic and environmental aspects of Churchill. Environmental concerns included tundra vehicle damage, and the environmental impact of former military dumps, derelict buildings and gravel pits. Key social concerns included alcohol abuse in the community and a lack of sufficient youth programs. Economic concerns included the development of shoulder seasons and the future economic viability of the Hudson Bay Port Company. In conclusion, the 'Oceans Act' and contributions from this study may help to ensure that social, economic and environmental activities in Churchill adhere to the principles of sustainable development.