Boom/Bust in Canada: tempering Canadian experiences of resource-dependency

Regions: North Slave Region

Tags: social sciences, adaptation planning, socio-economics

Principal Investigator: Deacon, Leith (1)
Licence Number: 16227
Organization: University of Alberta
Licenced Year(s): 2018
Issued: Jan 25, 2018
Project Team: Jacob Papineau (PhD Candidate/Researcher, University of Alberta), Kristof Van Assche (Collaborator, University of Alberta)

Objective(s): To address what the social, environmental, economic, and policy implications of ongoing extraction dependency on resource-based communities and how the long-term resiliency of these communities can be improved.

Project Description: The broad research question that the project proposes to address is: What are the social, environmental, economic, and policy implications of ongoing extraction dependency on resource-based communities (RBCs) and how can the long-term resiliency of these communities be improved? Beginning in St. John’s, NL, Yellowknife, NT and the Yellowknives Dene First Nations (YKDFN) as ‘regional hubs’ within Eastern and Northern Canada.

The three main objectives are:
1. to investigating how an RBC experiencing rapid growth/decline is able to adapt, prepare for, and become resilient to change (e.g. decreasing commodity price);
2. to work with local communities and their residents to identify areas of concern in order to inform policy to improve the long-term resiliency of the community; and,
3. to gain experience and understanding of RBCs in order to develop an “online toolbox” of advice, experiences, and stories as a resource that is publically and freely accessible to help RBCs improve their own resiliency.

The research team have formed partnerships with the Municipal governments of St. John’s and Yellowknife as well as with Chiefs and Council of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation to 1) provide access to necessary documents and/or local expertise, 2) provide context-specific details relevant to each region and, 3) enable the findings of the project to influence policy development and decision making that are vital to the economics and long-term sustainability of two of Canada’s premiere resource-based regions (i.e. Northern and Eastern Canada). The research team also will collect data on planning, economic, and environmental dimensions of resiliency planning to conduct follow-up research.

Northern Canada (Northwest Territories (NT)): Primary resource extraction is the basis of the NT economy. Mining has become a lucrative operation and there are now four diamond mines in operation that employ more than 3,000 people. Together, the production value of these mines is more than $2 billion (CAD). While the mines are located on Dene Traditional Territory, the Municipality of Yellowknife is the largest urban centre. The project partnerships will enable the team to develop appropriate interview guides with the assistance of local community members who are attuned to the specific cultural contexts of their community and the goals of their region. The Municipality of Yellowknife has agreed to provide knowledge about current planning initiatives as well as examples of how they have attempted to temper the local cycle of boom/bust. The YKDFN have agreed to provide local expertise (i.e. traditional ecological knowledge) to enable the team to better understand the important role of traditional knowledge across Canada’s North. Additionally, the will have a community research assistant and form a community advisory committee to ensure that interview questions are appropriate and comply with ethical expectations and assist in participant recruitment.

The research team will begin by completing a document analysis with already collected relevant literature. A detailed content analysis will be completed to identify keywords and themes. Throughout this process, additional background literature will be collected from any new publications and from relevant non-Canadian research (e.g. Australian and American examples) in order to add extra breadth. Additionally, graduate research assistants will compile community ‘fact sheets’ (n=10, four from Northern Canada and six from Eastern Canada). These ‘fact sheets’ will facilitate investigation of any research sub-themes (e.g. health, education, equity, community, security) and develop a contextually and culturally-appropriate interview guide for the qualitative semi-structured interviews. Qualitative Semi-Structured Interviews: Upon completion of the document analysis and development of an interview guide, a series of face-to-face qualitative interviews (15 per community) will be conducted to better understand participants’ experiences.

Participant Selection: Participants will be chosen using purposive and snowball sampling until a level of saturation occurs. There will be four primary participant pools including community employees (e.g. planning and development), residents, community group spokespersons, and industry spokespersons. In the case of the YKDFN, an appointed community research assistant will help us to develop and build relationships with community members who are willing to provide their experience(s) with resource-dependency and its’ impacts on the local community and way of life.

The research team anticipate this project to have societal, academic, and student/professional development deliverables. For this project the team are proposing a combination of traditional academic modes of knowledge translation (e.g. journal publications, presentations, boom/bust workshop), and a novel method of dissemination, a virtual repository, an “online toolbox” of information.

The toolbox will provide information and knowledge and stories about the challenges they have faced and their experiences tempering the cycles associated with resource dependency. The toolbox will be populated by information gained from the already completed first part of the project (i.e. Western Canadian Experiences) and from information obtained from the proposed second portion of the study (i.e. Eastern and Northern Experiences). The “online toolbox” will also serve as a platform where questions can be posted in a blog-style format and responded with experiences or potential solutions gained from previous participants. Additionally, specific case examples will be highlighted in an attempt to provide as much information as possible to interested parties trying to improve their local experiences of resource dependency. This data repository will provide participants and non-participants (i.e. public from non-participating RBCs across Canada) access to collected data and publications in an attempt to increase the capacity of communities to increase their own resiliency.

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from April 16, 2018 to December 31, 2018.