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Environment and Risk in Northern Resource Frontiers

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

Session Submission Type: Panel


Northern Canada has long been considered a natural resource frontier. As such, the North has undergone many resource developments as entrepreneurs aimed to exploit non-renewable resources. These developments did not occur within a vacuum, nor were they without risks. New schemes to develop the North’s resources and transport them southward put the region’s primarily Indigenous populations and their existing land use patterns at risk. By the 1970s, as Indigenous land claims were being negotiated across northern Canada, histories pertaining to Indigenous land use were deployed as means of mitigating the risks of development. Emerging land claim settlements continued to exert an influence over the northern development and assessments of environmental risk. Finally, the reshaping of the northern environment to extract resources posed health risks to the labour force. In each of these cases, as resource developments were undertaken, adjustments were necessary to mitigate the risks to the environment and human populations.

In “Dust to Dust,” John Sandlos examines how the mining industry in Timmons, Ontario worked to develop a quick fix for silicosis. Sandlos utilizes the methodologies of environmental, health, and labour histories to analyse the mining industry’s apparent efforts to address health risks to miners. In “Traplines, Pipelines, and Storylines,” Glenn Iceton examines the emergence of registered trapline registration in the British Columbia-Yukon borderlands and how traplines were invoked to mitigate the risks posed by pipeline construction during the 1970s. Finally, in “Evaluating Risk, Assessing Harm,” Carly Dokis analyses how comprehensive land claims and contemporary assessments of environmental risks produce constructions of the past, present, and future. These changing temporalities are considered by examining the Mackenzie Gas Project. Northern resource development was accompanied by a diversity of associated risks. Each of these papers highlight these various risks and the efforts undertaken to confront their effects.

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