Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Environmental Studies (MES)

Department

Geography & Environmental Studies

Faculty/School

Faculty of Arts

First Advisor

D. Scott Slocombe

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor

Abstract

The Northern regions of Canada, as a result of landscape characteristics and political and cultural dynamics, present unique challenges and opportunities for meeting sustainability goals through environmental assessment (EA) processes. In order to understand the significance of the EA process in the North and its applicability to fulfilling sustainability goals, the past and present EA regimes of the Yukon are evaluated adopting a sustainability-focused framework. Unique changes to the Yukon EA process, as a result of land claim agreements and devolution have created innovative structures and processes, reflective of the environmental, socio-economic, cultural and political circumstances of the region. The evaluative framework was derived from EA and sustainability literature and supplemented by northern environmental management and sustainability considerations. Data collection methods included document reviews and 21 semi-structured interviews with informants familiar with past and present EA regimes of the Yukon. The findings highlight improvements to the Yukon’s EA regime over time, in terms of increased levels of accountability, greater consideration of northern sociocultural and ecological values, improved opportunities for participation and access to information and a greater recognition of First Nations values and role as decision makers. Yet weaknesses remain, such as the level of transparency at the decision making stage, the duplication of effort and lack of integration with other processes, and the failure to incorporate socio-economic mitigation measures. Considering that the Yukon’s EA system is one of the most recent EA processes in the country as well as in the north, its evaluation provides valuable insights into the initiatives and processes required for achieving sustainability within Northern EA regimes.

Convocation Year

2008