Paradoxes of power: The Lands for Life public consultations

Patricia Ballamingie
Dept. of Geography, Carleton University
August, 2006


Through the lens of critical political ecology, geopolitical struggles over access to land and resources are understood not simply as material struggles, but rather, as symbolic and discursive struggles over what are inherently socially constructed concepts. By conducting a discourse analysis and critical review of the Government of Ontario's Lands for Life public consultations, this research investigates the claims to power implicit in such a process. Specifically, it reveals the dissent and fragmentation underlying an announcement (known as Ontario's Living Legacy ) that was almost unanimously endorsed by key governmental, industry and environmental leaders. It shows how select voices were privileged while others were silenced; how certain knowledges were deemed legitimate, while other knowledges were dismissed and/or subjugated. This thesis reveals how dominant, inherently reductionist and economistic, constructions of 'nature' and 'Crown land' were privileged. It also reveals that the term 'protection' is itself contested terrain. It explores how counter-discourses of resistance were invoked (most notably, by First Nation peoples and environmental advocates), but ultimately silenced. Ultimately, power proved paradoxical. Engagement by these actors was problematic from the outset since the discourses they put forward were denied as problems worthy of being solved. This thesis also examines the potential for, and obstacles to, the formation of a political alliance between First Nation representatives and environmental non-governmental organizations (ENGOs) from the Partnership for Public Lands (a coalition including the World Wildlife Fund, the Federation of Ontario Naturalists, and the Wildlands League). Central to this investigation is a poststructural analysis of how power operates---its material functioning---and whose knowledge is privileged.