Settlers need water and land: Michele-Lee Moore, Suzanne von den Porten, Heather Castleden, ‘Consultation is not consent: hydraulic fracturing and water governance on Indigenous lands in Canada’, WIREs, 2016


Abstract: The rapid increase in private sector proposals and permit applications to use water for the purpose of hydraulic fracturing has led to significant concerns in nearly every jurisdiction in the world where shale gas development has been explored. In addition to concerns about risks to water quantity and quality, in Canada, shale gas development has highlighted how the Crown (federal and provincial governments) continues to struggle in its approach to honor, respect, and uphold Nation-to-Nation relationships with Indigenous peoples. But moving beyond the criticism, we argue that these circumstances have provided a renewed opportunity to explore alternative governance approaches. Existing water governance challenges are exacerbated by historical injustices generated by resource management approaches that have exposed Indigenous nations to disproportionate environmental risks. Furthermore, the inadequacy of current water governance approaches to recognizing Indigenous rights, self-determination, ways of knowing, and values has been well established in literature relating to environmental governance and Indigenous peoples. Given these circumstances, if water is allocated to hydraulic fracturing in Canada with continued disregard for Indigenous rights and risks, we contend that this only further intensifies unjust environmental and cultural harm to Indigenous peoples. In the quest for solutions, we discuss the challenges to alternative models (co-management, collaborative governance, and impact benefit agreements) that are frequently cited in environment-Indigenous literature. We conclude with recommendations to address the unresolved challenges inherent in these governance models, in the interest of improving water decision-making.

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