Addressing Historical Impacts Through Impact and Benefit Agreements and Health Impact Assessment: Why it Matters for Indigenous Well-Being
The Northern Review 41 (2015): 81–109
Environmental Assessment and related permitting processes have long struggled to identify and mitigate health and well-being impacts associated with resource development, especially in northern, largely Indigenous, jurisdictions. An opportunity to address this governance deficit has seemingly been provided through the growing use of mechanisms such as Impact and Benefit Agreements (IBAs) and Health Impact Assessments (HIA). Their emergence has coincided with a growth in social determinants of health research that recognizes diverse concepts and complex drivers of Indigenous well-being; it is increasingly common for researchers to speak of the ”good life” and to recognize health disparities that are based in experiences of poverty, stress, trauma, cultural erosion, and environmental dispossession. Unfortunately, little of this research has come to influence contemporary HIA practices and the content or implementation of IBAs. Missing from these novel governance mechanisms is recognition that present-day resource development is complicated by legacies of colonialism and assimilation policies, which impact Indigenous well-being. In short, what matters to Indigenous communities and what is captured in an IBA or HIA seldom coincide. This argument is supported by evidence of Indigenous participation in the Wishbone Hill HIA in Alaska and the IBA signed in support of the Meadowbank Mine in Nunavut. Given this evidence, this article calls for refinement of governance mechanisms such as IBAs and HIAs in order to better understand and respond to the complexities that inform Indigenous well-being.
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