Indigenous Water Co-Governance: Emerging Models of Distributed Water Governance in British Columbia and Alberta
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The emphasis on Indigenous law is of pressing importance given that evolving legal frameworks have created expanded approaches to Indigenous title, rights, and traditional territories and hence expanded roles for Indigenous peoples in resource governance. This creates a challenge for all levels of government (including Indigenous governments), as new models of governance (and stakeholder relationships) are being debated and indeed created. This challenge has inter-related economic, policy and governance dimensions. Indigenous communities in Canada are currently grappling with a range of water-related issues, including access to safe drinking water, environmental water quality, and associated health and livelihoods issues. In some regions, particularly Western and Northern Canada, these issues are exacerbated by development pressures associated with resource extraction (e.g. oil and gas development, forestry, hydro-electricity). In this context, there are number of challenges that stem from legal and regulatory frameworks, including inadequate consultation, lack of community capacity to participate in engagement and consultation processes, insufficient transparency, and outdated regulations (e.g. with respect to new pollutants) and perceived regulatory capture. In the absence of effective responses to these challenges, there are a number of potential consequences, including expensive and protracted litigation, higher appeals to (and thus increased caseloads for) regulatory oversight bodies, and political mobilization and protest.
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