Land use planning policy in the Far North Region of Ontario: Conservation targets, politics of scale, and the role of civil society organizations in Aboriginal–state relations

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Burlando, Catie
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Aboriginal communities in Canada are increasingly involved in land use planning initiatives to promote community-led economic renewal and advance self-determination. As analyzed by political ecologists elsewhere, international and national civil society organizations are also increasingly important actors in environmental governance in Canada. However, nascent conflicts due to the role of civil society organizations in influencing planning policy development, and its effects on Aboriginal–state relationships, have not yet been explored. Through community-based fieldwork with Pikangikum First Nation, interviews with Provincial Ministries and conservation organizations, and in-depth document analysis, this thesis analyzes the roots of contentious politics for land use planning in the Far North Region of Ontario. Specifically, it analyzes 1) the evolution of land use planning policy development between 1975 and 2010 in the region; 2) the role and strategies of civil society organizations in influencing planning policy development, and 3) the impacts that different planning approaches have for enabling Aboriginal decision-making authority in their territories. Results show that during four different planning processes held between 1975 and 2010, Aboriginal communities and organizations in the Far North actively resisted state-led land use planning and resource allocation, and developed partnerships with the Ontario Government to enable community-led planning in their traditional territories. Since 2008, Aboriginal organizations have condemned new comprehensive legislation for opening the Far North Region to development and setting a restrictive conservation target, without clarifying substantive issues of jurisdictional authority, sharing of resources, and consultation protocols. These changes were the result of international and national civil society organizations's actions to strategically mobilize public and political support. The planning approaches that emerged from different planning policies were found to directly influence how Aboriginal–state relations are developed; who sits at the decision-making table; how resources are distributed; and how knowledge systems are balanced. Without careful attention to how power is distributed across levels of governance and where accountability lies, multi-level governance—and the bridging role that is promoted for civil society organizations—may lead to patterns of scale dominance, and become a way to justify continued control by the state, corporations, and international civil society organizations on Aboriginal territories.
land use planning, Aboriginal, political ecology, scale, boreal, conservation, Pikangikum First Nation, political process