BRENDA L. PARLEE : Undermining subsistence: Barren-ground caribou in a “tragedy of open access”


Sustaining arctic/subarctic ecosystems and the livelihoods of northern Indigenous peoples is an immense challenge amid increasing resource development. The paper describes a “tragedy of open access” occurring in Canada’s north as governments open up new areas of sensitive barren-ground caribou habitat to mineral resource development. Once numbering in the millions, barren-ground caribou populations (Rangifer tarandus groenlandicus/Rangifer tarandus granti) have declined over 70% in northern Canada over the last two decades in a cycle well understood by northern Indigenous peoples and scientists. However, as some herds reach critically low population levels, the impacts of human disturbance have become a major focus of debate in the north and elsewhere. A growing body of science and traditional knowledge research points to the adverse impacts of resource development; however, management efforts have been almost exclusively focused on controlling the subsistence harvest of northern Indigenous peoples. These efforts to control Indigenous harvesting parallel management practices during previous periods of caribou population decline (for example, 1950s) during which time governments also lacked evidence and appeared motivated by other values and interests in northern lands and resources. As mineral resource development advances in northern Canada and elsewhere, addressing this “science-policy gap” problem is critical to the sustainability of both caribou and people.

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Other submissions under other jurisdictions

Ontario 2008

Quebec 2009:

BC 2010 to 2017:

To Federal Government & All Provinces 2015-2017:



see full media release here


November 14, 2017

Website Promotes Informed Input into GNWT Mineral Resources Act Consultations

A coalition of NWT and national advocacy groups have created a website to promote informed input into the territorial government consultation on a new Mineral Resources Act.

The website was created as a result of a review of the proposed Act by the groups.  It contains resources including mining practices and revenue options research, pertinent media coverage and video resources. 

The website resource will provide informed best practices to build a world class mineral strategy for the NWT that will: reflect current requirements to respect the inherent, constitutional and international rights of Indigenous Peoples with co-management authority over land and resources; maximize revenue generation; ensure ample infrastructure and legacy funds are built into a mining strategy; and provide regulations for companies to operate on the highest levels of safety and environmental accountability. In their input to the consultation, the groups saw the need to provide information and resources for those wanting to participate, but lacking expert knowledge of issues and policy alternatives.

The website contains a link to the Government of the Northwest Territories survey and to the consultation discussion paper.  Written submission can also be contributed to the consultations.   

December 1 is the deadline for submissions to the Mineral Resources Act consultations.

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William Gagnon
Ecology North
867 873 6019

Ugo Lapointe
Mining Watch Canada
514 708 0134