Augmenting the utility of IBAs for Northern Aboriginal Communities


February 2016 – Poster at the The Northern Planning Conference in Whitehorse, YT  Feb 15 – 18, 2016Bradshaw Poster for Northern Planning Yukon for web

Project Details:

Project Leader:  Ben Bradshaw, Associate Professor at the University of Guelph

Research Team
Caitlin Kenney, Masters Student
Jen Jones, PhD Student
Four Research Assistants, TBD

Hamlet of Baker Lake
The Naskapi Nation of Kawawachikamach, Quebec
Yellowknives Dene First Nation
Nunatsiavut Government
Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation

Impact and Benefit Agreements (IBAs) have become institutionalized in northern Canada in the sense that it is infeasible for a firm to develop a mine today without securing the support of regional Aboriginal communities in contractual form. Notwithstanding their growing use, coupled with some innovation in IBA form, there is a growing sense among analysts and communities that IBAs are failing to meet expectations. Of particular concern is: the uncertain position of IBAs in mine permitting, especially relative to regulatory processes like Environmental Assessment (EA) and the execution of the Crown’s consultation obligations; the limited use of adaptive management to address social impacts as they emerge within IBA-signatory communities; and the fear that Aboriginal community well-being is declining rather than increasing through IBA-enabled mine developments.

In the broadest sense then, applied research is needed to augment the utility of IBAs. To this end, the research proposed herein aims to assist communities that have signed IBAs to:

  1. assess their performance using a mix of assessment tools, including the use of community relevant wellness indicators;
  2. identify and realize opportunities for improved adaptive management to better manage observed social impacts;
  3. reflect upon and seek to optimize the interaction of IBA negotiations/implementation with public regulatory processes like Environmental Assessment (EA) and the execution of the Crowns consultation obligations; and
  4. mobilize co-generated knowledge from the above activities for these communities’ leaders and general membership, for other interested Aboriginal communities across northern Canada, and for the wider scholarly world.

Research Purpose
IBAs have, for some time now, been recognized as a key tool to enable northern Aboriginal communities to secure tangible benefits from mine developments within their traditional territories and augment impact mitigation. Assessing whether this is true, and working to augment IBA utility if it is not, is therefore a significant undertaking. It also fits with ReSDA’s overarching aim, which is to examine ways to ensure that a larger share of the benefits of resource development stay in the region with fewer costs to communities. This aim is especially pronounced in research, like that proposed herein, that falls under ReSDA’s Sustainable Regions and Sustainable Communities research themes.

The following stages are envisioned.

  1. Project Planning: To initiate the project, the leadership of the four partner communities will be engaged to seek their cooperation in the execution of the projects. If this is secured, in each of the communities a steering committee comprised of three respected individuals will be established to co-develop the work plans for the projects, identify suitable community research assistants (RAs), and establish a Memorandum of Understanding that reflects the work plan (e.g. with respect to communication mechanisms, confidentiality provisions, ownership of project data, etc.).
  2. Community Surveying: With guidance from the Steering Committee and organizational assistance from the community RAs, various community surveying tools, including interviews, focus groups and participant observation, will be used to solicit and document: community members’ perceptions of IBA performance over time, and the indicators that tell them their community is more or less well. Based on these indicators, existing data will be drawn upon to develop time series evidence of community well-being. These results will be compared to the community perceptions of IBA performance.
  3. Development/Testing of AM Strategies Where problematic community well-being issues are revealed, an inventory of existing and possible adaptive management strategies will be constructed. This inventory will seek to identify each strategy’s administrative agent and promote its application to enable testing of its efficacy.
  4. Knowledge Mobilization  This project adheres to the principles of integrated knowledge mobilization, which requires that researchers work with knowledge users (i.e. the four communities) to define research questions, design the research method, and, ideally, identify the research results. If this latter aspect is less effective, the researchers will return to the participating communities to discuss and review findings within small group workshops and through popular media such as radio shows and facebook. As outlined in Grimshaw et al., “interactive education sessions” have been recognized as the most effective strategy to mobilize knowledge, as compared to didactic approaches (e.g. use of pamphlets and presentations). Additionally, non-proprietary research findings will be communicated to other communities and interested parties, including governments, through synthesis reports, prepared briefing notes, and online through the Impact and Benefit research network (www.impactandbenefit.com). This includes the dissemination of findings to the academic community, which will be accomplished by targeting appropriate academic journals (e.g. Society and Natural Resources, Arctic, etc.) and presenting at appropriate conferences. Finally, knowledge mobilization for the Canadain public will be achieved through press releases, radio shows, and magazine and newspaper articles.

Fall 2014 to Winter 2017

This project is supported by ReSDA and ArcticNet

For more information contact:
Ben Bradshaw
Associate Professor
University of Guelph
Office: Hutt 120
Tel: 519-824-4120 ext. 58460
E-mail: bbradsha@uoguelph.ca