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      Decolonizing Canadian Water Policy : Lessons From Indigenous Case Studies

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            Revision notes

            Deborah Curran's review

            The primary challenge with this paper is that the federal government does not govern water. It provides the service of drinking water and sanitary sewer on reserve lands, but is almost entirely absent from the governance of water in Canada. The author either needs to reorient the focus of the paper to on-reserve water and wastewater provision, or involve the provincial and territorial governments in the discussion. In addition, the author refers interchangeably to infrastructure, governance and policy in the first paragraph. These are three distinct approaches or things that warrant different approaches in an academic paper. Clarity is needed.

            • The use of the terms infrastructure, governance and policy have been clarified in an end note. The contentious claim that the federal government does not govern water has also been addressed in a end note. 

            Because the author does not engage meaningfully with the state (colonial) structures for water governance in Canada the too brief overview of OECD principles is without context or meaning. The reader has no sense of how parties/governments/communities in Canada could realize the principles is unclear.

            • Added clarity about the OECD and its role in maintaining colonial structures in Canada has been provided.

            Two-eyed seeing is one method Indigenous communities in Canada use to acknowledge both Indigenous and western ways of knowing. However, many Indigenous communities do not choose to use that approach and practice their own knowledge holding and communication pursuant to their legal and societal norms. Advocating for adoption of two-eyed seeing across Canada incorrectly imposes a pan-Indigenous (and thus colonial) approach without respecting the self-determination of each Indigenous community to define how they choose to use their knowledge in relation to state processes.

            • Further clarification that Two-Eyed Seeing is a single research methodology has been given. However, it should be noted that this was addressed in the original version of the paper with the inclusion of co-collaboration as a separate research methodology in an end note. 

            The case studies in part 2 are exceptionally out of date such that the analysis is inaccurate.

            • This is a contentious claim - many of the initiatives and problematics in Section 2 are still being analyzed as shown with additional references. 

            The definition of Indigenous the author uses is a colonial definition. It is the definition provided in section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 that recognizes and affirms aboriginal rights. If the author examined literature by Indigenous authors and scholars, the author would find different definitions of Indigenous that do not refer to state or colonial frameworks.

            • The definition of Indigenous that I use is further clarified in an endnote. 

            What does the author mean by the term decolonizing? The OECD is composed of largely colonized/colonial states that do not necessarily acknowledge Indigenous societies.

            • Further clarification about what the term decolonizing means was provided in an endnote. 

            There are several meaningful government-to-government water policy and governance processes underway in Canada right now to which the author does not refer. See, for example the Land and Water Boards in the northern territories to start and then look at the Nicola Chiefs and Koksilah watershed planning processes in British Columbia. (as an aside - what does the author mean by nation-to-nation? Are they referring to agreements between Indigenous nations and the federal government? Given that the federal government is largely absent from water governance, is it not more appropriate to have government-to-government agreements between Indigenous communities and provincial/territorial governments as it is at the province/territorial scale that water is managed?) How does consideration of these different approaches affect the analysis in this paper?

            • I have added further contextualization of nation-to-nation water relations in the new revision. Further, I will continue to use nation-to-nation as this is - what I take to be - the dominant framework of discussing Settler/Indigenous relations. Naoimi Metallic (Chancellor's Chair in Aboriginal Law and Policy at Dalhousie Law), a member of the Listuguj Mi’gmaq First Nation describes Settler/Indigenous relations using nation-to-nation in her work. 

            Many Indigenous communities are using two-eyed seeing-type approaches in their water and environmental governance in relation to state governments at present. See, for example, the Syilx Nation water declaration, the SNS community assessment of the Ajax mine proposal, and the Bras D'or Lakes Collaborative Environmental Planning Initiative. Aimee Craft is an Indigenous scholar who writes of Indigenous community processes relating to water governance and policy/law.

            • Acknowledged the Syilx Water Declaration in the new revision. 

            Many scholars are exploring decolonizing water governance in Canada that the author does not engage. See, for example, Merrell-Ann Phare, Susanne von der Porten, Rob de Loe, Deborah Curran, Oliver Brandes, and Nicole Wilson (to a greater extent than is cited in this article) to name a few.

            • Addressed this concern by adding more citations.

            How does the role of the First Nations Health Authority in BC or the Atlantic First Nations Water Authority in the maritime provinces, which are involved in assisting with drinking water on reserves and other elements of WaSH, affect the analysis in this paper?

            • Acknowledged the Atlantic First Nations Water Authority in the revised draft. I contend that the addition of this example exemplifies the necessary recognition of First Nations rights in the Great Lakes region in a way that has not yet occured. 

            Given the amount of funding and program commitment the federal government has put towards addressing the crisis of drinking water on reserves in the past 6 years, the references for the state of on-reserve drinking water are out of date.

            • While the federal and provincial governments have put in lots of work to recognize Indigenous rights to water - it's not enough. The references/case studies used in this article are still being cited in current literature (and current literature cited in this article agrees that the issues mentioned are of the utmost importance). Therefore, I do not agree that the references are out of date - instead, they highlight that these issues are continuous and not going away unless decolonization in WaSH happens.

            The Simms article does not address WaSH. It is focused on watershed governance.

            • I contend that WaSH and watershed governance go hand-in-hand: https://www.iucn.org/news/commission-environmental-economic-and-social-policy/202003/wash-and-watershed-conservation-go-hand-hand.

            Erin O'Donnell's Review

            Page 2 – “I claim” – I suggest this should be “I argue” as this is what you are doing. You are demonstrating through the case studies that your argument is correct. Calling it a ‘claim’ suggests that you’re coming to this without evidence, which is the opposite of what you’re doing.

            • Changed to 'I argue.'

            Page 4 – two opposing ideals compared using the metric of efficiency. This is a problem of non-commensurability, which happens when you try to make two very different things measurable by the same standard, or same metric. Have a look at Tribe (1974) for more on non-commensurability, I think you’d find this a useful concept.

            • Thoroughly enjoyed reading about commensurability and integrating it into my paper.

            Page 4 – in your critique of OECD, it might be useful to examine another article that has also considered these principles from an Indigenous perspective, see Taylor et al., (2019)

            • Added more analysis of the OECD using Taylor et al., 2019.

            Page 5 – include a bit more on why you have selected Principles 2 and 4. Perhaps make the case that trust is a major issue between Indigenous Peoples and settler colonial governments, and then argue that these two principles require trust. I think you can also identify a set of assumptions that tend to underpin ‘competencies’ and ‘governance’ – these are usually interpreted solely through a whitefella/settler colonial lens, and often look very different (while being equally or more effective) in Indigenous legal and cultural frameworks. Settler colonial systems often consider Indigenous forms of governance to be inadequate in a formal sense, without considering (or understanding) the substantive outcomes.

            • Added more analysis as to why I chose to focus on Principles 4 and 9. 

            Page 5 – add a reference to your statement about the harm of current water practices. Vörösmarty et al., (2010) is a good example.

            • Added Vörösmarty et al., (2010) in an end note.

            Page 6 – I would suggest avoiding using an alphabetical list to describe your case studies. Use paragraphs and prose instead, unless you’re dot pointing. If you're short on words, you could see if you can identify key themes in each case study and convert this into a table. 

            • Switched the case studies to paragraph format - added more analysis as well.

            Case studies –

            1. Case Study 1 - include a brief factual statement about the actual problems. What are the water safety issues? What are the water quality issues? Are they causing health problems? Tell the story with just a bit more detail to really show the reader how egregious these problems are. You also need a bit more detail about why the Bills/Acts were rejected – which Treaty rights were being ignored?
            2. Case Study 2 – can you flip the first point to say that there were various settler colonial policy and legal documents establishing governance arrangements for the Great Lakes, and that the Tribes considered these inadequate because… [insert a ref for declining health of Great Lakes]. This is a good news story, by the sounds of it, so give us a little more detail on what happened. How did the Chiefs get their Declaration taken seriously by the legislature? Is that sufficient? Have their Treaty rights been respected? How is this evidence of two-eyed seeing?
            3. Case Study 3 – this is really strong and interesting, as well as having enough detail to really hook the reader in.
            • Added further clarification to the case studies.

            Page 11 – when capitalizing Oppressed and Oppressor, it would be useful to connect these terms to the specifics in your paper. If you can also reference literature that uses this terminology, that would help as well (not disputing your use of the term at all, just needing to hook it in to the literature).

            • This is a good suggestion but I ultimately changed oppressed/oppressor to Settler/Indigenous as it makes more sense with the kind of analysis I was doing. 

            Analysis of the OECD principles and case studies – This section really relies on an assumed knowledge of Treaty rights. Your paper needs to provide this information (possibly as part of the introduction, or as part of the case study section) to give your analysis the impact it needs. Your analysis is spot on, but you just need to more explicitly link it back to the Treaty content. This will enable to you to more effectively explain why these principles, of themselves, are not set up to support effective water governance in settler colonial contexts.

            • Added a reference, - Dorries, 2017 -, to give readers more insight into treaty rights in Canadian contexts.

            Page 11 – is Two-Eyed Seeing a research methodology, or a governance framework (or both?). In this instance, I think you’re using it in the governance context, because it provides a way to reform law and policy in a settler colonial context, and a way to make decisions fairly and equitably.

            • Two-Eyed Seeing is conceived of as a research methodology - yet, I do think it has merit in reforming how we conceive of law and policy in Settler/colonial contexts based on the different approaches Settler and Indigenous communities view these areas of research and the many ways each group (and groups within the groups) tackle water governance. 



            Meaningful lessons about decolonizing water infrastructure (social, economic and political) can be learned if we scrutinize existing governance principles such as the ones provided by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Principles on Water Governance (OECD, 2021). Instead of using only Western frameworks to think about policy within Indigenous spheres of water, sanitation and hygiene (WaSH), the Government of Canada can look to Indigenous ways of knowing to compliment their understanding of how to govern areas of WaSH efficiently. In this paper, the term Indigenous encompasses First Nations, Inuit and Métis populations (Hanrahan & Hudson, 2014; Blaser, 2012). I present this paper as a step out of many toward decolonizing water governance in Canada. I hope to have shown in this paper that it is necessary to make space for other voices in water governance. By highlighting the dangers in the Case Studies, three lessons are apparent in this paper: 1. There needs to be an addition of Indigenous Two-Eyed Seeing in water governance; 2. Canada must strengthen its nation-to-nation praxis with Indigenous communities; and 3. There needs to be a creation of space in WaSH that fosters Indigenous voices. This is necessary such that there can be equal participation in policy conversations to mitigate existing problems and explore new possibilities.


            Author and article information

            UCL Open: Environment Preprint
            UCL Press
            3 August 2022
            [1 ] Department of Philosophy, McMaster University
            Author notes
            Author information

            This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/, which permits unrestricted use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

            : 3 March 2022
            N/A N/A

            Data sharing not applicable to this article as no datasets were generated or analysed during the current study.
            Environmental ethics,Environmental management, Policy & Planning,Geography,Applied ethics
            Decolonization, Water, Policy, Indigenous, Ethics,Water resources,Environmental policy and practice,Environmental justice and inequality/inequity


            Date: 08 August 2022

            Handling Editor: Professor Sarah Bell

            The article has been revised, this article remains a preprint article and peer-review has not been completed. It is under consideration following submission to UCL Open: Environment for open peer review.

            2022-08-08 09:35 UTC

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