"You have to be on the land, you have to feel the pain that's there": A case study on health, place and environmental assessment in New Brunswick, Canada

Authors: Angela Day*, University of Toronto
Topics: Environmental Justice, Health and Medical, Human-Environment Geography
Keywords: impact assessment, health geography, rural geography, environmental justice, place-based frameworks, Indigenous health
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


While the relationships between environment and health are widely understood to be multidimensional, place-based, and multi-scalar, the way health is considered in environmental impact assessment in Canada is limited in scope, particularly for Indigenous communities where land-based relationships are central to health and well-being. Canada’s new Impact Assessment Act (2019) is designed to better reflect these concerns, yet much can be learned from the way health has been engaged in past assessments. This case study examined the ways that health was considered in the environmental impact assessment for the Sisson Mine project, a proposed tungsten and molybdenum mine in New Brunswick, Canada on the unceded territory of the Wolastoq nation. Building on existing scholarship in environmental justice, I analyzed the project’s environmental impact statement and all textual public submissions to interrogate how human health was considered in the assessment process. I also drew on 18 interviews with key informants. The results of this research show that the health concerns articulated by surrounding Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities were rooted in place and inadequately covered by the impact assessment processes. Furthermore, the assessment process itself bore negatively on some participants’ health. I argue that even with strengthened frameworks, Canadian impact assessments are a long way from adequately engaging with the centrality of place for health and well-being. I conclude by suggesting that assessment processes merit further attention as a subject of interrogation, particularly when considering how bodies and places are situated in the matrix of resource extraction, health geographies and environmental justice.

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