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Resistance as governance: Transformative strategies forged on the frontlines of extractivism in Canada

By Jen Gobby, Leah Temper, Matthew Burket and Nicolas von Ellenrieder.

From the journal The Extractive Industries and Society, 2021.

Article based on the analysis of cases from the EJAtlas.


Attempts in Canada to include citizens in decision-making around extractive processes have been tokenistic at best and generally fail to meaningfully include the voices, opinions, and rights of people on whose land a given project is being planned. Therefore, informal avenues for influencing decision-making are being taken by communities, often Indigenous communities and often in the form of resistance. In this article we argue that resistance, in the form of blockades, occupations and other strategies are powerfully shaping outcomes in Canada, and indeed constitute a form of governance in and of themselves, helping drive the urgently needed transformative change that formal governance systems continue to fail to bring about. Our argument is based on the quantitative and qualitative analysis of 57 cases of environmental conflict in Canada, accessed through the Global Environmental Justice Atlas. These cases provide concrete examples of this bottom-up, land-based governance through resistance led by communities on the front lines of extractivism. These diverse and inspiring cases ground our theorizing and raise important insights and lessons for understanding resistance as transformative governance.

Here are the highlights of the article:


  • Resistance to extractive projects in Canada is having significant impact on resource decision-making.
  • There are 6 key resistance strategies that appear to be driving successful outcomes of environmental conflicts in Canada, and success if more likely under certain conditions than others.
  • Resistance to extractivism in Canada is being led by indigenous communities, who are facing violence and criminalization for defending lands and waters.
  • Transformative governance requires explicit focus on resistance.

Read the full article in the journal The Extractive Industries and Society, 2021.

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