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10(c) from the perspective of Northern Canada [#370]
I live in a relatively remote area of Canada that has a sensitive and sometimes harsh climate here in the North.  Many of our indigenous communities have benefited from the certainty of our negotiated land claims.  This has allowed for some certainty with respect to jurisdictions, land use and governance of resources.  In my view, we have made some significant advancement is environmental assessment that seems to lend itself to the issues that are underlying the issues of Act 10(c).  As a result of our land claims, we have jointly developed and environmental assessment process that attempts to implement balance and support inclusion of both indigenous and non-indigenous perspectives .  It has incorporated the legislated requirement for TK within assessments as well as the requirement for representation by indigenous communities within the assessment processes.  This has allowed for a balance of perspectives in the assessment of development is the traditional territories of Indigenous communities.    Specifically, it allows the community to assess and weigh the benefits and the impacts of development.  Often this assessment considers the sustainability of development and land use, as well as the socio-economic impacts that the development has on the community and region.  The socio-economic factors include traditional use, cultural significance, employment, population change, economic sustainability  and other factors. 

Some of the challenges that these ILC face within the process are:

-          Capacity: human, institutional and legislative.  Often many of the communities do not have the human capacity to effectively engage and advocate their positions  within the assessment process.  As well, many of the indigenous governance institutions do not have the capacity to support the assessment work, things like ineffective information management systems and databases that allow for efficiencies in assessment processes  which manifests themselves in missed submission deadlines or significant gaps in submissions.  As well, often the data submitted by a proponent is technical and highly scientific based.  May communities do not have the capacity to assess this type of information or to corroborate this information with their own tests.  Those that are effective are able to break the data down and to analysis the data as compared with their TK.  I a number of cases this has shown flaws in the Sci. data.  Finally, many communities do not have effective laws the support or allow for clear exercising of authorities within the jurisdiction.  This can significantly limits the full effectiveness of their authority.

-          Codification of Traditional laws – this has been a discussion of the international forums for sometime.  The balancing of customs and western legal principles.  A couple of ILC in the north have undertaken a pilot projects with an effort to assessing the scope of their traditional laws.  Part of this assessment is to look at the policy objectives of the traditional law to assess the laws relevance in a evolving social structure. 

-          In an effort to reduce land use conflict, many ILC have attempted to collaborate with local government to develop regional land use plans that will give guidance to the assessment processes.  These have been challenging but when they have been completed they help to reduce ad hoc decisions and reactions to development and allow proponents of development to better understand local values.

At the end of the day, it is my view that sustainable use of biological resources can only be achieved if there are assessments that properly assess the impact at the local level.  Assessments need to accommodate the different value bases that are assessing the activity, development and impacts.  This involves the full participation of ILC in the assessment of sustainable use, which allows their values and customs to be incorporated into decision making process.
posted on 2009-02-26 16:30 UTC by Krittika Zutshi, Symbiosis International University