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Indigenous Water Justice In Manitoba Through Engagement In Water Governance



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Globally, negative impacts on water resources from land development, pollution, and climate change demand greater attention to more effective water governance. In settler colonial countries such as Canada, these negative impacts alter Indigenous relationships with water, land, and each other, and contribute to water insecurity and water injustice for Indigenous peoples. Greater engagement of Indigenous peoples in water governance, research, management, and planning is arguably one way to address negative impacts on water resources in Indigenous communities, but not all types of engagement are as effective as others. I characterize Indigenous engagement in water governance from three geographic scales. A narrative review of the water governance literature finds that Indigenous engagement in settler-colonial nations is generally lacking in both legislation and practice, perpetuating water injustice for Indigenous people. At a regional scale engagement, I examine the degree to which Indigenous participation occurs in provincial watershed planning in Manitoba. At the community-scale, a case study documents the impacts of historic and contemporary water-related decisions as felt by members of Wuskwi Sipihk First Nation, and their efforts in response. Participant observation and interviews with key informants provides practical insight into the water-related challenges facing the community and others in the province. Globally, multiple mechanisms and pathways to water justice are evident in the review, but their efficacy is highly contingent. In Manitoba, inclusion of Indigenous peoples in watershed planning is uneven, and there is limited evidence that Aboriginal and Treaty rights influence rates or nature of participation. Provincially decisions about water are made across different government departments, and Indigenous rights are unevenly recognized and respected between them. Additionally, existing regulatory processes and institutions, while procedurally fair, are not empowered to recognize or accommodate Aboriginal and Treaty rights. In this way, water governance is de-politicized, and settler and capitalist values are privileged above Indigenous rights and values. More support is needed to enhance Indigenous participation in watershed planning and water governance to attain water justice. Enhanced coordination, alternative institutional arrangements, and greater recognition and respect of Indigenous rights are needed to ensure water justice is attainable by Indigenous communities in Manitoba.



Indigenous, engagement, water, governance, justice, watershed planning



Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Geography and Planning




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