Common ground: call for First nations involvement in land-use planning

Indigenous recognition in land-use planning has gained new ground in Ontario, Canada. But relative to Auckland, New Zealand, it still has some distance to cover. 

In ‘Getting to Common Ground: A Comparison of Ontario, Canada’s Provincial Policy Statement and the Auckland Council Regional Policy Statement with Respect to Indigenous Peoples’, McLeod et al select lessons for inclusive planning in Ontario, and recommend a shared planning approach to be built in partnership with Indigenous communities.

The study weighs Ontario’s 2014 Provincial Policy Statement (PPS) against the 1999 Auckland Council Regional Policy Statement (ACRPS). While it welcomes Ontario’s recent moves toward the recognition and support of First Nations in provincial land management, the study calls for policy to transform top-down planning regimes still largely shaped by non-Indigenous interests.   

The authors evaluate the two texts and offer policy recommendations through a framework with four elements:

  • Clarity refers to how the statements are placed within broader planning frameworks
  • Recognition looks at how these texts identify Indigenous rights, claims, concerns, and knowledge
  • Willingness refers to the Crown’s approach to consulting with Indigenous communities
  • Active reconciliation sees planning as a process of change – a system of representation aware of past injustices to Indigenous peoples

By these reference points, the study finds that the PPS needs to tackle clarity in higher-tier planning legislation, and include active reconciliation in regional planning. While the statement addresses First Nations as stakeholders, it does not offer a mandate on traditional territories or treaty rights, and limits community interest to the reserve, even though local government areas and traditional territories may overlap. However, in contrast, New Zealand’s ACRPS clearly recognizes Māori rights, knowledge, treaty, and ancestral lands, includes Māori terms and definitions of community, and acknowledges mutual partnership.       

Encouraging Ontario’s active reconfiguration of its planning framework to include First Nations as partners – and not just stakeholders – the study sees opportunities for planners and communities to improve learning and awareness as they work together.
Fraser McLeod, planner at Stantec, is a researcher in the Planning With Indigenous Peoples (PWIP) Research Group, and the School of Urban and Regional Planning (SURP), Queen’s University, Ontario, Canada. Leela Viswanathan is Associate Professor in the SURP at Queen’s University, cross-appointed to the School of Environmental Studies, and the Department of Gender Studies. She is Principal Investigator in the PWIP Research Group. Jared Macbeth is Project Review Coordinator in the Wallpole Island First Nation Heritage Centre. Graham Whitelaw is Associate Professor in the School of Environmental Studies, and the SURP.  

Header photo: Caelie Frampton/Flickr/cc  

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