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Evaluating Risk, Assessing Harm: Constructions of Sustainable Futures in the Mackenzie Gas Project Environmental Assessment

Fri, April 12, 10:30am to 12:00pm, Hyatt Regency Columbus, Morrow


Institutional forms of resource governance borne out of comprehensive land claims, emerging legal jurisprudence, and more recently discourses of reconciliation between Indigenous peoples and the state, have reshaped the political and discursive fabric of the Canadian north, and provide administrative mechanisms through which the state considers and assesses Indigenous peoples concerns related to extractive industries and environmental risk. Yet, these institutional structures not only frame the material, spatial, and ontological conditions for what can be considered in the assessment of harm, but also produce particular temporalities –constructions of past, present, and future—that serve to extend colonial racial, political, and economic orders, even while recognizing ecological and social/cultural harm. This paper examines the construction and contestations of these temporalities in the regulatory assessment of the Mackenzie Gas Project, a 1,220km natural gas pipeline proposed to run from the Beaufort Sea to Northern Alberta. How did these temporal representations inform the imagination of desired futures weighed by regulators? How did hearing participants challenge them, and what kinds of alternatives did they offer in their place? And, what might these constructions suggest in terms of contemporary assessments of environmental risk associated with extractive industries more generally?