If only they had accessed the data: Governmental failure to monitor pulp mill impacts on human health in Pictou Landing First Nation

Authors: Diana Lewis*, Western University
Topics: Indigenous Peoples, Environmental Justice
Keywords: Indigenous, environment, health
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/9/2021
Start / End Time: 4:40 PM / 5:55 PM
Room: Virtual 10
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


For over fifty years, Pictou Landing First Nation, a small Mi’kmaw community on the northern shore of Nova Scotia, Canada, has been told by a Joint Environmental Health Monitoring Committee (JEHMC), mandated to oversee the health of the community, that their health has not been impacted by exposure to 85 million litres of pulp mill effluent dumped every day into what was once a culturally significant body of water bordering their community. Based on lived experience, the community know otherwise, and despite countless dollars spent on government and industry-sponsored research, their concerns have not gone away. Using biopolitical theory, we explore why JEHMC never fully implemented its' mandate. Using a Mi’kmaw environmental ‘theoretical’ framework, we demonstrate that the relational epistemology and ontology has been consistently and persistently overlooked in environmental health research on this community. Indigenous connections to the air, land and water must be taken into consideration to get a full understanding of environmental health impacts. Guided by the principle of Etuaptmumk (Two-Eyed Seeing), which brings together the strengths of both western and Indigenous knowledge, and employing a community-based participatory research approach, we use data that could have been accessed by the JEHMC that might have signalled that human health studies were warranted. Using an environmental health survey developed by the community, we will discuss how an Indigenous-developed framework can guide the assessment of the the impacts of land displacement and environmental dispossession on the health of Indigenous communities.

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