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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Indigenous-led impact assessment : approaches, requirements, and degrees of control Nishima-Miller, Jeffrey


Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is a government designed approval process for large-scale natural resource activities and development projects. Throughout Canadian jurisdictions, EIA has been criticized for limiting Indigenous involvement, and failing to adequately address the concerns of project impacts on Indigenous rights and title. To overcome these difficulties, Indigenous-led impact assessment (ILIA) has emerged as a process that provides Indigenous Nations/groups with meaningful input and an increased degree of control over project assessments. This research was designed to help meet objectives defined by the Tsilhqot’in National Government (TNG), who are currently exploring how they will implement a Tsilhqot’in-specific assessment process. The Supreme Court of Canada’s landmark Tsilhqot’in title decision (William decision) has created a range of immediate management and planning needs, and new opportunities for Tsilhqot’in communities. This coincides with the 2018/2019 updates to British Columbia’s and Canada’s EIA laws, both of which provide opportunities for Indigenous Nations/groups to conduct part or all of an EIA review, which will be recognized by BC or Canada. The objectives of this research are a) identify the various ways in which Indigenous Nations/groups have chosen to implement their own assessment processes that reflect their unique locations, histories, natural resource issues and governance approaches; b) determine the information, data management and administrative support requirements, communication and decision-making tools, and funding mechanisms or needs of ILIA; and c) describe the variable degrees of control achieved through ILIA. These objectives were achieved through a literature review exploring the evolution of Indigenous participation in EIA and the emergence, opportunities, and obstacles of ILIA; and through the composition of five case studies outlining why and how select Indigenous Nations/groups in Western Canada have implemented ILIA. The recommendations outline a number of approaches that can be taken by Indigenous Nations/groups as they work to design and implement an ILIA process. Recommendations include establishing consistent approaches to working with proponents and/or the Crown; building internal capacity among internal staff, community members, and leadership; facilitate accessibility of existing data sources; and explore legally-binding cooperative or joint management agreements that provide leverage when working with proponents and/or the Crown.

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