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Policy making in confined spaces: the politics of exclusion in Canada's planning reform agenda

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In northwestern British Columbia (BC), a large number of infrastructure projects are proposed and many of them are subject to environmental impact assessment (EIA). As Canada introduces significant reforms this year to streamline EIA , this paper examines the implications of these changes for policy making in the energy sector and for BC First Nations. Planning offers some of the very few formal spaces where policy discussions take place between First Nations and the governments of Canada and BC, usually over effects of developments on Aboriginal rights. A theoretical framework is introduced to conceptualize this particular role for planning in policy-making. The framework is then used to examine one in-depth case study where the Haida Nation has used planning to regain some control over their island territory. As the Haida attempt to use planning to regain control over their ocean territory, Canada has actively resisted, leaving the EIA process as the only formal venue available to hear Haida concerns over their ocean territory. Two EIAs are proposed in the Haida ocean territory: a large offshore wind farm and an Enbridge oil pipeline and tanker project. These EIAs are examined in conjunction with the wider national discourse linking these events to the planning reform agenda. Findings suggest that planning reform is a task aimed at deepening control over policy critics and has important implications for excluding First Nations from Canadian policy-making and increasing tensions as First Nations and their allies turn to the courts and less formal venues.

This talk is part of the Political Ecology Group meetings series.

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