Language, Distance, Democracy: Development Decision Making and Northern Communications
The Northern Review 41 (2015): 207–240
In a country as large as Canada, connectivity—whether by road, rail, radio, or the Internet—plays an important role in economic growth, political and social development, and civic engagement. The importance of communications infrastructure especially is evident in the northern two-thirds of Canada, where radio, television, and the Internet have been instruments of democratic expression and civic participation. As pressures for resource extraction mount, northern communities must respond to economic, social, and political challenges from a position of geographical and, more significantly, “knowledge” isolation. Northern community residents need effective, community-led channels of communication. Addressing these needs will require both social and technological innovation—which can, fortunately, proceed from an existing base of experience and community expertise. In this article, we analyze two moments in northern public policy discourse in which new communications media played a pivotal role in advancing democratic dialogue in northern Canada: the 1975-7 Mackenzie Valley pipeline inquiry, and the 2012-3 hearings into the Mary River iron ore project in Nunavut. Our goal is to advance understanding of the purposeful use of communications infrastructure to support the development of local understanding, citizen engagement, and opportunities for effective community participation in development decisions. We find that technological capacity is foundational, but effective only under specific social and organizational conditions, which include the existence of appropriate institutions at the local level for citizen mobilization and response, dominance of Indigenous language use by northern citizens, appropriate levels of funding, and receptive public institutions to and through which northern citizens can speak.
Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
a. Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication, with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.
b. Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
c. The journal has the right to authorize third-party publishers & aggregators to include the Article in databases or other services (EBSCO, Proquest).
d. The journal has the right to share the Article on the Internet, through social media and other means.