UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Activists or active threats? : how the state securitization of critical infrastructure impacts environmental and Indigenous activists in Canada and the United States Plotnikoff, Elena


Environmental and Indigenous activists in Canada and the United States opposing extraction projects such as pipelines are being targeted by states and corporations. The securitization of critical infrastructure in Canada and the United States has enabled the use of security measures against these activists. The post-9/11 security environment facilitated a broad recognition of threats and permitted the use of a range of security measures. In this environment, policies emerged securitizing critical infrastructure, meaning that it was discursively constructed as a valued object under threat thus necessitating the use of exceptional measures to protect it. While public discourse establishes the securitization of critical infrastructure, private documents reveal the intentions and specific targets of these policies. In practice, the Canadian and American governments target environmental and Indigenous activists because they impede extractive critical infrastructure which operate in states’ and corporations’ economic interests. The use of security measures and their focus on environmental and Indigenous activists can be seen during confrontations like those in Standing Rock and Wet’suwet’en. Policies and actions in Canada and the United States have been influenced by their past treatment of environmental and Indigenous activists, government interests in extractivism, and the post-9/11 security environment. These historical, political, and economic factors shape the nature of the security policies, the actors executing the security measures, and which activists are targeted using particular measures. Though this research charts differences between Canada and the United States, it finds that, ultimately, the consequences of critical infrastructure securitization are similar in the two countries. There are global implications for the use of securitization to justify the repression of environmental and Indigenous activists related to environmental politics and the replication of this process in other countries. This research offers further evidence for the intertwined interests of governments and corporations in extraction and the lengths that they are willing to go to advance them. Environmental and Indigenous activists are an important voice in protecting the environment, biodiversity, and self-determination; without them, governments and corporations will have even greater power to pillage and pollute.

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International