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Title: The criminogenic potential of 'sustainable development' : on the production and reproduction of indigenous environmental victimisation in the Canadian oil sands
Author: Heydon, James
ISNI:       0000 0004 6349 0924
Awarding Body: University of Sheffield
Current Institution: University of Sheffield
Date of Award: 2017
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The First Nations of northern Alberta, Canada, have been opposing expansion of the nearby oil sands industry for almost two decades. With the ecological disorganisation generated by this extractives activity inhibiting their ability to hunt, fish and trap on the land, the First Nations are experiencing a very specific form of environmental victimisation known as 'cultural loss'. Existing explanations for this harm have almost exclusively focused on the national and international drivers of oil sands expansion, neglecting to account for the provincial regulatory process responsible for controlling its harmful rate of growth. In making an original contribution to the literature, this thesis explores how, and to what extent, the provincial regulatory process prioritises economic production of the oil sands over the land-based cultural interests of First Nations. More specifically, it considers the environmental philosophy being operationalised by this regulatory process under the rubric of 'sustainable development'. Understanding what this term means in practice is important because, from the standpoint of the First Nations, this pattern of 'development' is anything but 'sustainable'. Indeed, the First Nations have legally protected Treaty rights to hunt, fish and trap on the land, meaning that any strategy advocating 'sustainable development' should avoid infringing these rights. In reality this is not happening, as evidenced by the reports of 'cultural loss'. However, there also exists little detailed research into how this has been enabled by the provincial regulatory process. As a form of up-system research, the study deploys a qualitative-driven multi-methods approach to examine how and why this environmental victimisation is occurring. This includes the thematic analysis of provincial government policy and strategy documents from 1997 onwards, and hearing documents recording the deliberations underpinning regulatory approvals of all major oil sands projects over the same period. This is accompanied by a thematic analysis of interview transcripts from 33 First Nation, government and industry personnel linked with the regulatory process. Based on the findings, this thesis shows that operationalisation of eco-modernist philosophy has underpinned government efforts at 'sustainable development' since the mid-1990s. This has allowed the regulatory process to place an unfounded faith in techno-scientific techniques for the mitigation of environmental risk, enabling it to prioritise economic production over the First Nations' land-based cultural interests for almost 20 years. This operates alongside a process where First Nation input at the levels of resource policy and regulatory practice is systematically marginalised. Creating a space in which characteristics tied to Alberta's status as a settler-colonial province exert influence within the regulatory mechanism, this ensures that the expansionary agenda of eco-modernist 'sustainable development' proceeds uninterrupted by legal protections afforded by First Nation Treaty rights. This thesis builds upon existing literature, a significant portion of which is rooted in green criminological scholarship, to highlight some of the issues serving to produce environmental harm and cultural loss in northern Alberta. As such, it aims to both increase the understanding of how this form of environmental victimisation is being produced in this specific location, while also contributing to the development of green criminology more broadly.
Supervisor: Hall, Matthew Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available