The Place of Private Property in Land Use Law: A Relational Examination of Ontario's Quarry Conflicts
Wagner, Estair Suarez Van
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Land use law structures the way we make decisions about how we live together and with the world around us. In doing so, it shapes our relationships not only with the people around us, but with the places we inhabit and encounter. This dissertation examines how land use law structures the relations between people and the more-than-human world to uphold the ownership model of property relations and to privilege particular forms of land use. Through documentary and interview-based qualitative research, it presents an eco-relational examination of one of the most contentious land uses in Ontario aggregate mineral extraction. The primacy of private ownership in land use decision-making has particular spatial, temporal, social and ecological consequences for the places and communities involved in land use conflicts. As certain forms of land use are privileged through law and legal process, other relations with place fall outside the boundaries of the ownership model of property relations and are deemed less legally significant. Nevertheless, land use conflicts continue to arise because people routinely assert forms of interest in land and resources they do not own. These more-than-ownership relations challenge the presumptive detachment of people from the places they live in, work with, and love. By examining how such relations are imagined, articulated and asserted through a place-based relational framework, this dissertation demonstrates their potential to disrupt the power of private ownership to determine whether and how land should be used. Realizing environmentally just land use decision-making requires a transformative shift in legal property relations to de-centre private ownership and foreground a much broader range of people-place relations. This includes reconceptualizing ownership to incorporate notions of reciprocity and responsibility to the broader set of ecological, physical and material networks of relation that make up a particular place. By changing the way we think about ownership we can change the way we make decisions about land use. In doing so, we have the opportunity to reshape our relations with the places we inhabit, and with each other.