January 14, 2016: Student Lecture
Nicole Wilson & Allison Franko

IRES Seminar Series

Time: 12:30-1:30 pm

Location: AERL Theatre (room 120), 2202 Main Mall

“More precious than gold”: Yukon First Nations and water governance in the context of modern land claims agreements

Nicole Wilson


Water governance is of critical concern to Yukon First Nations, whose health, livelihoods and cultural well being are complexly connected to the waters within their traditional territories. Increasing social and environmental pressures, induced by high rates of resource development (largely mining) and climatic change, underscore the present urgency of protecting First Nations’ socio-cultural relations to water. Modern land claims agreements uniquely shape the water governance landscape of Yukon Territory. Through a twenty-year process of treaty negotiation, First Nations agreed to retain Aboriginal rights and title to less than 10% of the lands within their traditional territory in exchange for partnership in the governance of all Yukon lands and resources. The Umbrella Final Agreement and the 11 treaties, which resulted from the negotiation, express the fundamental principle of co-governance in critical areas such as water.

Through a qualitative case study, this presentation examines the divergence between Yukon First Nation relationships to water and water governance and their ability to influence the process and outcomes of decision-making about water governance despite modern land claims. Analysis reveals that while land claims resulted in a departure from previous governance arrangements, marked most notably by the creation of several co-management boards aimed at fostering shared decision-making, First Nations continue to face regulatory injustices as they navigate a governance network and relationships characterized by asymmetries of power, authority and legitimacy. Specific challenges include a disjuncture between First Nation and ‘settler’ views on water, a high level of distrust, failures of both consultation and respect for the ‘spirit and intent’ of land claims agreements, as well as the enduring legacy of colonialism more broadly. Opportunities nonetheless exist that might be leveraged to enhance First Nations influence over decisions and so strategic realization of goals within and outside of the present system.


Nicole’s research focuses on the role of Indigenous peoples in water governance in the transboundary context of the Yukon River Basin, which spans Alaska, Yukon and British Columbia. Her work examines the socio-cultural impacts of hydrologic change and the how adaptive responses to environmental change employed by Indigenous peoples, are constrained or facilitated by the broader water governance context. Her dissertation research builds on existing partnerships with the Yukon River Inter-tribal Watershed Council – a grassroots Indigenous organization comprised of 70 Alaska Native and Canadian First Nations (partner since 2010).

Nicole is both a Vanier and Killam scholar. She is working under the supervision of Terre Satterfield and committee members including Leila Harris, Jordi Honey-Roses (SCARP) and Glen Coulthard (First Nations and Indigenous Studies/Political Science). She is a member of both the EDGES research group and Program on Water Governance. Prior to coming to UBC, she completed her Master’s of Science in Natural Resources at Cornell University. Her MS research examined the impacts of climate change on the subsistence livelihoods of the Koyukon Athapaskan people of Ruby, Alaska. She also holds a BA in Development Studies from the University of Calgary.

Nicole’s seminar will not be filmed.

Enforcement patterns and compliance outcomes in BC: Lessons learned from EAO’s pilot watchdog project

Allison Franko


How can we improve environmental management in BC?  In 2011, the Auditor General of BC reported that post-certification monitoring of approved projects was largely absent. In response, the BC Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) implemented a compliance and enforcement (C&E) task force to review newly required self-reports submitted by proponents, conduct inspections, and review inspection reports completed by other agencies on EAO’s behalf.  A total of 94 inspections on 40 projects have been conducted between August 2011 and November 2015.

This research examines the potential factors associated with enforcement patterns and compliance outcomes through an analysis of data extracted from government inspection reports; government websites, including EAO’s E-pic and the Legislative Assembly of BC (Hansard) websites; corporate company websites; and online search-engine query results. Although many regulatory theories detail factors that affect compliance, empirical evidence evaluating the effectiveness of enforcement strategies on compliance outcomes is lacking. The more empirical evidence (accompanied by expert elicitation) that can be gathered for different jurisdictions and their contexts, the more likely informed enforcement strategies will be to achieve compliance targets and environmental protection. Considering these issues, this research seeks to provide valuable insight useful for improving where necessary, and/or legitimizing the current C&E strategy based on the relative role of different factors associated with compliance outcomes (good and bad).


Allison is an MSc student working under the supervision of Dr. Hadi Dowlatabadi. Her research focuses on the effectiveness of follow-up activities for projects certified under the BC Environmental Assessment Act. Allison holds an NSERC Industrial Post-graduate Scholarship. Since receiving her BA in Environmental Geography from UBC in 2012, she has been working for a consulting firm on Canadian environmental assessments under provincial and federal jurisdictions.