Eastern Section Meeting

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Fracking and First Nations

Abstract

Hydraulic fracturing (known simply as “fracking”), is the process of injecting chemicals and fluids into the shale rock, far below the surface, to fracture the rock and release the oil or natural gas contained therein. It is an unconventional form of oil and gas extraction which enables companies to expose oil and gas at a fairly low cost and is vastly abundant onshore: it has therefore rapidly become the preferred method of extraction all across the globe, from China to Australia to Canada and the United States. However, as fracking intensifies across the globe, it has been met with varied response. In this dynamic and changing environment, the questions this paper asks are: (1) How are Indigenous peoples responding to the increasing intensity of fracking and what accounts for the variation in their response? (2) What lessons can we learn from the cases on the actual influence/power of Indigenous peoples on fracking decision making? (3) To what extent is Indigenous participation in resource extraction consistent with their self–determination aspirations? Looking at examples from across Canada this paper identifies the limits, opportunities and constraints for Indigenous communities that are presented by the fracking environment. This paper takes a “bottom-up” approach that will explore detailed internal development within Aboriginal communities. A survey of the terrain through this lens will reveal the types of changes occurring in Indigenous communities and the extent to which these changes reflect dominant trends in global politics and domestic governance. The paper hypothesizes that key changes to state legislation (e.g. Constitutional amendments, land claims and treaties and land use planning) are significant factors that have empowered Indigenous nations to both embrace and reject resource extraction.