The rules of engagement? : negotiated agreements and environmental assessment in the Northwest Territories, Canada
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Increasingly in the Canadian North, developers engage in two parallel processes with no formal connection: the preparation of environmental assessments for public regulatory review; and the establishment of private negotiated agreements with Aboriginal communities. This uncoordinated system frustrates developers, communities, and regulators. While some assert that the public has no right to be concerned with private agreements, environmental assessments are conducted assuming these agreements will be signed. Indeed, overlap exists and some of it is problematic. For instance, some decision-makers interpret signed negotiated agreements as landowner ‘consent’ and look for signed agreements before issuing approvals. Opportunities, however, exist to improve this situation through use of integrative and iterative processes (whereby outputs from one inform the other) featuring more flexible timing and greater government involvement in the determination of select benefits. While such a system may maximise the public good, it is unclear if it will satisfy industry and Aboriginal stakeholders.
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