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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The canary in the coal mine : Arctic Indigenous peoples and the POPs regime Lasalle, Talusier Arbour


This thesis examines the particular role played by Arctic Indigenous peoples in the formation of a regime to address Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs). Starting with the premise that this non-state actor was influential enough to have its plight cited in the preamble of a global agreement on POPs, the thesis addresses the question of how and under what conditions this small group, devoid of any military, economic, or political power, could exert influence on the formation of institutions in international society. To do so, the thesis presents an argument based on regime analysis and norm dynamics that reveals the role played by norm entrepreneurs and lead states in the process of regime formation. This process is looked at in three stages: issue definition, fact-finding, and bargaining process. The thesis argues that following findings of POPs in their tissues, Canadian Arctic Indigenous peoples have voiced their concern in a way that evoked the norm of bodily harm to innocent. This allowed them to gamer the support of Canada, and led Arctic Indigenous peoples to foster the development of and participate in key scientific research programs that provided the rationale for action on POPs at the international level. Canada then used the plight of Arctic Indigenous peoples as a conveyor belt between science and policy to convince other states in various international forums. During the negotiation of a global agreement on POPs, Canadian Arctic Indigenous peoples’ organizations also used norms to frame their concern in an attempt to increase the likelihood of regime formation. The thesis does not pretend to explain the formation of a regime on POPs. Rather, using a framework for analyzing NGO influence in international environmental negotiations, it presents evidence to map out the process through which Arctic Indigenous peoples eventually managed to have the Arctic and the effect of POPs on its people and wildlife recognized in a global convention. Furthermore, at each stage of regime formation the analysis is supplemented with alternative explanations that delineate the extent to which Arctic Indigenous peoples were influential. The thesis offers a contribution to our understanding of how Indigenous peoples’ organizations manage to persuade states to take action on transboundary environmental problems.

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