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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Planning a common ground for an uncommon future : indigenous people, land-use planning and sustainable development in northern Canada Sneed, Paul Gerrald


The idea of sustainable development has broad appeal and appears to be a very popular concept. Nonetheless, while being constantly told why we need development that is sustainable, we are not often advised how it can be achieved. This is especially true for northern Canada where some version of "sustainable development" has been advocated since the early 1970s. The main purpose of this thesis is to develop a conceptual framework for sustainable development and evaluate some planning tools that may help accomplish it in Canada's North. To do this, first the general literature on both sustainable and northern development is reviewed. From this examination, sustainable development is defined and a set of proposed objectives for such development is generated. Second, a study is made of a range of currently available literature on environmental and land-use planning. Using this literature review, and drawing on personal experience, a "model" planning framework is synthesized for evaluating the case studies. Third, this is utilized to evaluate the current land-use planning being done in the Northwest Territories as exemplified by the Lancaster Sound Regional Land Use Plan. Fourth, the "aboriginal alternative" to planning for sustainable development in the North is analyzed. Finally, there is a brief discussion of the implications of this research for evolving planning and political systems which will facilitate the achievement of sustainable development in northern Canada. Evaluation of the Lancaster Sound Regional Land Use Plan shows that some of the objectives or goals of northern sustainable development have been adopted. These include: 1) an attempt to involve aboriginal people in the planning; 2) an emphasis on conservation and its integration with development; 3) an emphasis on the sustainable harvesting of renewable resources as the primary use of the region; and 4) the recognition of the desirability of some local decision-making regarding land-use. On the other hand, most of the processes necessary for achieving these objectives are currently underdeveloped or non-existent. Probably the three most important deficiencies exhibited by the Lancaster Sound case are: 1) a failure to integrate economic planning, land-use planning, and environmental assessment into one regional planning system; 2) the lack of a legislated mandate to enforce adhererence to a land-use plan and guidelines; and 3) the continuing overarching centralization of final decision-making regarding land-use planning and control. The persistence of these related problems suggests that the way planning for northern development is being pursued will prevent achievement of sustainability. This thesis contends that if planning and development is to be sustainable in the North, then it is necessary that something similar to the Tungavik Federation of Nunavut (TFN) proposal for land planning and management by aboriginal governments be implemented immediately. Empowerment of indigenous peoples and their governments would become the cornerstone of planning for sustainable development in the North. It would also take all of us along the path of planning the common ground for an uncommonly sustainable society in the future.

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