UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Mechanisms of indigenous exclusion in British Columbia's environmental assessment process Andrews, Hollis Katherine


Due to changes in Canadian case law, there is a growing focus on making space for Indigenous rights and interests in BC’s environmental assessment process. However, despite this increased attention, First Nations are continuing to report that their interests are poorly represented in evaluations of project effects. This disconnect is the focus of my research, and in this thesis, I discuss findings from a review of fifteen EA certificate applications approved by the provincial government between 2011 and 2016. I found that evaluations of the extent and significance of potential impacts on Indigenous rights and interests are now central (and required) components of every EA. However, the methods commonly used to carry out these evaluations often rely on settler-colonial assumptions that invalidate or obscure issues of critical concern to First Nations. This negation is so commonplace that my analysis revealed a consistent set of precise mechanisms through which project proponents systematically exclude Indigenous interests in such applications. In my research, I refer to these patterns as “mechanisms of exclusion”, and describe three: (1) failure to recognize long-standing interests (particularly non-consumptive interests associated with territory governance and land and resource management); (2) insufficient consideration of extra-material dimensions of value in characterizations of Aboriginal interests and related evaluations of project effects; and (3) a lack of appropriate thresholds and/or transparency in evaluations of impact significance. My objective in doing so is to underscore the need to look more critically at the assumptions embedded in ostensibly inclusive processes such as EA. In addition, I offer recommendations as to how we can better represent Indigenous interests in evaluations of adverse project effects.

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