OTTAWA—Mining in Nunavut might have slowed down a bit, but what better time to talk about how communities can maximize resource deal benefits and minimize the impacts on themselves and their communities when those companies start sniffing around again.
So says a network of researchers who work with communities across Canada’s North. Members of Resources and Sustainable Development in the Arctic, or ReSDA, are meeting in Ottawa this week to discuss how community empowerment can influence the nature of resource development with the hope of influencing federal policy makers.
“We’re now in a situation, at least in the territories, where communities can say now. They have the power to make a decision,” said Chris Southcott, scientific director of ReSDA.
“But they also need information… We can look at the social and economic and cultural aspects and say okay, this is some information that can help you understand what’s the best possible situation you can have and, based on that information, you can make a decision on whether to go ahead.”
Southcott, a sociologist with expertise in community development and based at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ont., was born in Labrador, raised in northern Ontario and has worked for years in the Yukon.
He knows a bit about extractive industries and their impacts on small communities, both Indigenous and not.
Members of ReSDA, funded through a federal grant that runs from 2011 to 2018, hold annual northern workshops with the goal of directing research on community resource development to ensure it reflects what people in the North actually want.
Southcott said those workshops, held at different times in Iqaluit, Kuujjuaq and other northern locations, have evolved from first determining what kinds of questions local people had about development to undertaking studies to answer those questions and then figuring out how to share that information.
Those workshops—five so far—have brought together academics, land claim organization representatives, harvesters, community members and research institutes in an effort to form an alliance of knowledge and toolkits for northern communities.
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