Resource Management and Reconciliation: Co-management for conflict reduction
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In North Bay, Ontario, Lake Nipissing walleye exist in a state of crisis. Walleye are a popular target for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people alike; the Nipissing First Nation (NFN) exercise their treaty right to commercially fish in Lake Nipissing, alongside non-Indigenous fishers regulated by Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF). Over the past several decades, conflict has developed between these groups over unequal access to the declining common resource, and resource management challenges have arisen where the number of fish taken from the population is unknown. Northern Ontario moose are in a strikingly similar position. In this paper, I explore the complex interaction of socio-cultural, political, and legal factors implicated in conflicts between Indigenous and non-Indigenous interest groups over declining common resources in northern Ontario. In Part I, I consider and reject the current approach to resource management comprised of MNRF regulation and colonial jurisprudential understanding of treaty rights and reconciliation. Next, I discuss in detail the socio-cultural manifestations of local and regional conflicts over Lake Nipissing walleye and northern Ontario moose. As a foundation for my proposal of an improved approach to resource management, in Part III, I establish Indigenous jurisdiction over environmental matters as a function of Indigenous law – explicitly rejecting Canadian law as a basis for this jurisdiction. Moreover, I recast the notion of “reconciliation” as an exercise in understanding Indigenous interests with reference to Indigenous philosophical traditions and disrupting assertions of Crown sovereignty to recognize Indigenous self-governance. Finally, in Part IV, I propose a set of recommendations for an improved approach to resource management, based on an adaptive co-management model.