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Centre for the North Blogs

Constructive steps towards Indigenizing professional engineering by Jane Cooper, Senior Research Associate, The Conference Board of Canada | October 2020

You look at mining companies, or any natural resource extraction … and one of the primary types of conflicts that they have is with Indigenous people. That is happening because there is this massive cultural and knowledge gap between the science people and Indigenous people. In engineering, we would hugely benefit from a class on treaties. Because no matter where you go, you're going to deal with project management that has to do with Indigenous land, or Indigenous people, or Indigenous treaties.

Health emergencies in Indigenous communities in Canada: Then and now

Pandemics and diseases loom large in the history of Indigenous groups in Canada. Past outbreaks have had devastating outcomes, fueled by colonial policies and persistent inequalities.

Today, Indigenous communities are both receiving and giving support to counter COVID-19. But it is important that the current public health response acknowledges their history. By examining past pandemics, we can better understand how Indigenous communities are experiencing the current crisis.

Inclusive growth is more than jobs and GDP by Oana Spinu, Senior Research Associate and Adam Fiser, Associate Director at The Conference Board of Canada | June 2020

It is about dignity and quality of life through self-determination and sustainable livelihoods.

In a world shaken by the pandemic crisis and social inequality, many voices are now calling for measures to build a more inclusive society and economy. In Canada’s North, Inuit have been developing their own vision of inclusive growth, one where they share the same quality of life as all Canadians. Inclusive growth is more than jobs and GDP. It is about dignity and quality of life through self-determination and sustainable livelihoods.

Responding to COVID-19—Indigenous communities can’t be expected to do more with less by Stefan Fournier, Director, Indigenous and Northern Communities, The Conference Board of Canada | May 2020

When Canada’s rural and remote Indigenous communities face emergencies, they often lack the resources and supports common to most Canadian towns and cities. But despite being at a comparative disadvantage, these communities generally manage to respond. They do this by using their strengths—by relying on informal practices, traditional knowledge, local skills, and on each other.

It is remarkable what First Nation, Inuit, and Métis communities can do with little to work with. Many communities are again looking to their strengths and ingenuity, as they face the threat of COVID-19. But should we be expecting these communities to do more with less? Does this produce optimal outcomes?

Fast-Tracked Innovations: Could COVID-19 Accelerate Health Technologies in Canada’s North?
by Ken Coates, Professor and Canada Research Chair in Regional Innovation and Carin Holroyd, Associate Professor, University of Saskatchewan and Joelena Leader, Research Facilitator, Edwards School of Business, University of Saskatchewan | April 2020

The coronavirus crisis of 2020 has exposed the strengths and weaknesses of the Canadian health care system. This is particularly true in Canada’s North, where isolated Indigenous communities face the prospects of widespread infection with great anxiety. The remoteness of Northern settlements—coupled with serious housing shortages, overcrowded homes, and limited health care services—heighten the dangers of the pandemic.

Addressing the causes of Indigenous vulnerability to pandemics—not just the symptoms
by Oana Spinu, Senior Research Associate I, The Conference Board of Canada and Jordan Wapass, Principal Research Associate, The Conference Board of Canada | March 2020

Many have rightfully called for decisive government action to ensure that Indigenous communities have essential resources to respond to COVID-19. In response to the immediate needs of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities, the federal government announced $305 million for a distinctions-based Indigenous Communities Support Fund. Only time will tell how effective the fund will be in empowering communities to deal with the crisis.

Balancing Act: Major Resource Projects in the North

Oct 12, 2011

By Dr. Siomonn Pulla, Senior Research Associate, Centre for the North

Strong global demand for commodities—including gold, silver, copper, zinc, and diamonds-provides a unique opportunity for Canada’s North to stimulate development and expand infrastructure. Northern communities are poised to benefit greatly from major resource projects-which by their nature are large, location-specific, capital intensive and of finite duration. Success, however, must be measured by more than simply the number of jobs created and the degree of economic growth. Long-term sustainable prosperity in the North requires balancing profit-driven objectives of corporations and the economic growth of the region with respect for the people, the environment, and the quality of life that defines a northern lifestyle.

Efforts are being made to balance the needs of industry, government and northern communities in ways that enhance the benefits of major project developments while mitigating potential negative impacts. Major resource projects support the North’s unique mixed economy, enabling Northerners to cope with the high cost of living while allowing them to participate in traditional economic pursuits such as hunting, fishing and trapping. Corporations associated with the non-renewable resource industry in the North are aware of the importance of conducting environmentally and socially responsible industrial operations. These projects enhance community resilience through increased investments in communication, clean energy, and sustainable transportation infrastructure.

The resolution of various land claims in the North is building investor confidence across the country. These agreements continue to be a positive force that enables industry, government and Aboriginal communities to work together. Aboriginal peoples and communities are interested in more than jobs. They want to be, and increasingly are, sitting as members on the Boards of large resource development projects. At the same time, Aboriginal leaders and entrepreneurs face the challenges of balancing the social and environmental concerns of their communities with the benefits of many major development projects.

A recent Survey of Northerners’ Needs and Wants conducted for the Conference Board’s Centre for the North found that job creation was the number one priority for increasing quality of life in northern communities. The results indicate that there is “near unanimous support for further economic development across the North.” Northerners however, are skeptical about the extent to which economic development leads to job creation. They also are concerned that economic development is placing undue strain on the North’s fragile environment; encouraging unsustainable population growth in small towns and undeveloped areas, and resulting in a loss of their traditional ways of life.

Consultation processes and regulatory frameworks are seeking to balance the perspectives and interests of industry, Aboriginal Peoples, and various government departments across multiple jurisdictions. These practices, however, often lack consistency and clarity. Furthermore, not all organizations have the capacity to fulfill the mandates set out for them. New initiatives such as the federal government’s Major Projects Management Office and Northern Major Projects Management Office are intended to improve these regulatory processes, but issues of duplication and overlap remain to be addressed.

The Centre for the North will soon release a report, Balancing Act: The Impact of Major Resource Projects in the North. This briefing will provide a lens and background for the Centre for North’s detailed upcoming studies:

  • The Future of Mining in Canada’s North;
  • Lessons Learned: Achieving Positive Educational Outcomes in Northern Communities;
  • Building Labour Force Capacity in Canada’s North; and
  • Northern Assets: The Costs and Benefits of Transportation Infrastructure in Remote Communities.

The impact of major resource projects in the North is one of the first topics for discussion at Canada’s North Beyond 2011, hosted by The Conference Board of Canada in Edmonton, Alberta. The forum will be held from October 11th through the 13th, 2011. 



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