University of Saskachewan

Bethany Haalboom

Post-Doctoral Fellow, Indigenous Land Management Institute

Research Interests

 Indigenous rights, protected areas, and mining; community-based conservation; transnational social movements; identity politics; political ecology and conservation; environmental hazards and the social construction of risk

Current Research

My current research takes a critical approach to examining emerging forms of social and environmental governance of large-scale extractive industries in both developed and developing countries, including the Canadian North and Amazon regions. More specifically, I look at how uneven relationships of power amongst different actors are expressed through governance, and the implications this has for how Indigenous peoples participate in and influence environmental governance processes. I approach this research by considering Indigenous peoples not as passive observers, but as central agents with the potential to make important contributions to environmental protection as well as the safeguarding of Indigenous rights and community interests in and concerns about large-scale development. My other research project involves deconstructing the concept of 'vulnerability' as it is being applied to Indigenous communities in the Arctic. While it is a useful concept on some levels, there is also the potential for its application to result in adverse outcomes for Indigenous communities in relation to resource management and identity construction.

Current Project:

1) Exploring the Interface of Science, Local Knowledge, and Participation in Environmental Governance of Uranium Mining in Saskatchewan

This project examines how community representatives respond to the circulation of scientific information in the Northern Saskatchewan Environmental Quality Committee (NSEQC). This institution is unique in Canada (and possibly the world), and was designed to enable 32 Northern communities to make recommendations to policy makers regarding how environmental impacts of uranium mining can be managed. I am exploring how representatives socially construct risk and express local knowledge that challenges and/or supports the environmental information being circulated. I am also examining how 'risk assessment and management' serves as a powerful framework that renders non-development alternatives as unimaginable.

Dissertation Research:

1) Corporate Social Responsibility Encounters Indigenous Rights: Examining Neoliberal Governance of a Proposed Mining Project in Suriname

This research explored how Indigenous groups challenged and engaged with a multinational mining company in order to gain benefits and participate in environmental and social planning. Indigenous rights and international development organizations held the company accountable to a set of international Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) guidelines to ensure communities were properly consulted and informed about bauxite mining development. Overall, the company made a limited committment to CSR in relation to the concerns, interests, and local knowledge of Indigenous groups, contributing to important questions about the effectiveness of CSR in addressing human rights and the role of the corporation as a governance actor in developing country contexts.

2) Indigenous Peoples’ Networks, Strategies, and Challenges to Protected Areas in Suriname

Located in the Amazon watershed, Suriname attracts conservation organizations from all over the world interested in preserving its rich biodiversity through the establishment of protected areas. However, protected areas can also limit control and access to resources for Indigenous groups. This research examined how three Indigenous communities went about rejecting the establishment of a proposed protected area through Indigenous rights networks and discursive strategies.