Sharing the Story - Comprehensive Community Planning - Experiences in First Nations, Inuit and Northern Communities
PLANNING THEMES AND COMMUNITIES PROFILES
Northern Aboriginal communities share several characteristics in how they take on and carry out community planning. Most Northern communities are remote, a factor that limits access, services and resources. Winter climates can be harsh and the land on which communities are built can be rugged. These factors significantly affect the planning of community infrastructure, amenities, housing and energy systems.
Except for the Hay River Dene Reserve, Northern Aboriginal communities are not reserves under the Indian Act. They are similar to municipalities, which have their land use planning, infrastructure, education, health and housing needs met as part of the normal operations of their local and territorial governments. Reserves operate under federal statutes, while Northern communities operate under the various statutes of the Northwest Territories, Yukon and Nunavut.
Each of the 26 communities in Nunavut have elected councils and mayors. They act as municipalities under the Nunavut government. There are no bands. In the Northwest Territories and Yukon, the communities have municipal councils and mayors or band councils and Chiefs. Some have both and in some, there are also elected Métis councils. The councils work together with senior levels of government on areas of common interest, including land use planning. Each of the territories have planning acts, which allow and create processes for community planning.
Isolation, cold climate, natural environment and traditions strongly affect the planning and development of Northern communities. Most communities are not connected by year-round roads. The shipping and construction season is short. The climate is harsh and the landscape is easily damaged by human-made changes. Traditional settlement design and ways of life have to be accommodated, along with modern necessities, in planning and building Northern communities.
These communities need areas for housing, education, recreation and economic development. Each community may also set aside space for its own air strip, oil storage, dock, water supply, sewage lagoon and landfill site. Buildings and infrastructure are built to withstand the long cold winters without disturbing the permafrost. Areas are maintained for traditional activities and easy access to the hinterland.
Community Planning Process
Most Northern communities have land use plans and development regulations. These are often prepared by government planners or consultants, with input from the community. Both work closely with the local municipal and band councils, and with community members. Plans can be formal general plans and zoning bylaws, or simpler poster plans with displayed land use patterns and building regulations. Planning documents are often published in both English and the language of the First Nation and Inuit community.
Typically, Northern planning has been community-based. A local resident, who can work with the local language and traditions, is hired to help the planner gather information and set up community meetings. Large community base maps are often prepared to display the usual planning factors, such as topography, drainage and vegetation.
Using the same base maps, community members are invited to share their knowledge of the areas. They are asked to record important natural and traditional locations, their views on good and bad places to build, and their ideas for the future of their communities. Roads and spaces for future housing and other land use needs are added.
Northern communities are also affected by the strong influence of natural resources and how they are managed, both environmentally and for economic development. Whether economic development is pursued through partnerships with outside private sector entities or developed internally, the main planning challenge is to strike a balance between development and preservation. Inuit and First Nations people are in a unique and invaluable position to find this balance because of their longstanding and strong connection to the land.
This theme area shares the community planning experience of three First Nations, Inuit and Northern communities: K'atl`odeeche First Nation, N'Dilo and Dettah of the Northwest Territories, and the Hamlet of Coral Harbour in Nunavut. Figure 3 shows the location of each community.
KEYS TO SUCCESS
The Hay River Dene Reserve is north of the 60th parallel on the south shore of Great Slave Lake. It is the only reserve in the Northwest Territories. K'atl`odeeche First Nation has about 525 members, with 270 of those living on the reserve. The First Nation is across the river from Hay River, a town of 4000 people. The town has both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal residents. The First Nation was created in the early 1970s, in response to concerns of the K'atl`odeeche First Nation people about the infringement on their traditional territories. Initial development was based on the needs of the day. The First Nation then created a community plan based on input from community workshops. This was followed by the development of land use planning and zoning bylaws. One of the goals of the housing policy was to minimize the risk of flooding and reduce the cost of servicing. The First Nation has also worked on striking a balance between development and preservation. It has done so through a partnership with private industry to integrate traditional ecological knowledge with geographical information systems (GIS).
The Hay River area was used as a travel way and hunting and fishing grounds by the Dene people for centuries. It was not until the 1890s that a permanent settlement was set up. Hay River is known as an active base for commercial fishing on Great Slave Lake. This is also known as a major transportation hub for the MacKenzie Valley. In 1949, the first all-weather road linking the area to the south was built. In the 1960s, the development of a Cominco lead-zinc mine 97 kilometres to the east led to a rail line including a link to Hay River. The Coast Guard of Canada has also used Hay River as a harbour.
Cynthia James is the manager of the Naegha Zhia Corporation, Hay River First Nation's economic development corporation. As a result of her job, and being raised in the community, James is familiar with the history and patterns of growth. She is also familiar with the community planning process because of the regular interaction with the community Lands and Trusts Department. Delores Fabien, manager of the department, is responsible for community planning and the leasing of property.
James recounts how the community was developed:
In 1974, a 135 square kilometre parcel of land stretching along the east side of the Hay River became reserve land. At first, community development went ahead according to needs of the day. Then, in the early 1980s, the First Nation hired an economic development planner. According to James, "It turned out to be a very good thing. Our people said 'This is what we want' and based on their direction our consultant put pen to paper to structure the thoughts into a community plan."
The plan was developed based on community workshops. James says:
The Land Use Plan for K'atl`odeeche First Nation was prepared between 1994 and 1997. It outlines the First Nation's policies for dealing with community growth and land development on the Hay River Reserve for a 15-year period. The plan presents a picture of how the community is expected to develop, based on a study of current land uses, biophysical and ecological studies, and anticipated developments.
To complete the plan, the First Nation got help from a private sector planning firm that worked under the direction of Council and with the advice of the Northwest Territories' Department of Municipal and Community Affairs and Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. The plan's goals were to:
Land use zones were set up and supporting goals and development policies created. Permitted and discretionary land uses were also identified. The land use zones include:
Housing was spread along a main road joining new and old parts of the community. Part of the housing policy encouraged new residential development in the new area, to minimize the risk of flooding and to reduce the cost of servicing.
The band council created and passed zoning bylaws. The bylaws include administration and zoning provisions as well as enforcement processes. There are also flood risk provisions to promote public health, safety and welfare.
K'atl`odeeche First Nation is also active in planning and management activities in its traditional territory. James says, "The Buffalo Lake area is an important part of our traditional territory because historically it's been a winter hunting ground for our people. We've also done some residential and cottage development in the Sandy Creek area. We've developed a biophysical characterization of the different types of land in our territory so that we're better able to manage and make decisions."
Private Sector Partnership-Sharing Planning Knowledge
Like many Northern locations, K'atl`odeeche First Nation is defined by its remoteness, its close proximity to a major non-Aboriginal townsite and the presence of resource-based development in the area. One major planning issue for many First Nations is the challenge of preserving the environment and traditional ways within the context of modern society and economic development. The First Nation has taken positive steps to strike a balance between development and preservation.
Joining Traditional Ecological Knowledge with Western Science
Traditional knowledge plays an important part in the First Nation's planning process. It is the community's aim to find new ways of joining traditional knowledge with western science. The greater goal, however, was to improve communications and information so that economic development could co-exist with the natural and cultural environment.
From 1999 to 2002, Fabian worked from the office of an oil and gas company in Calgary through a training and development program. During that time, the company was using a proprietary GIS software tool to manage pipeline integrity. It was developed into a new package that would let First Nations superimpose planning information within its traditional territories over other information gathered by industry and government. The collaboration broke new ground for both K'atl`odeeche and the private sector company. Fabian recalls, "In the beginning, neither our First Nation nor the company knew what to expect because the process was new. One of the key things we found out was that the tool we were developing showed great promise for improving communication."
Fabian returned to his community to use the GIS tool in his community. An environmental resource and planning database was created for the Hay River Dene traditional territory. The development of the database was funded by industry and government. According to Fabian:
Building Relationship is Important in the North
James says that building relationships is very important for a Northern First Nation's planning process. "We live by different rules in the North. For many years we were the only reserve in the Northwest Territories. We are located alongside a municipality and it makes perfect sense to enhance one another rather than detract. That is our goal."
Both the town and the First Nation have their own community plans and planning processes, but share information openly. Hay River is in the First Nation's traditional territory, so communication and consultation is very important. James says the relationship is a strong one. "We have a non-voting seat on their chamber of commerce, so that helps us to keep up on things. The town consults us about the development that occurs within our traditional territory, so the relationship works well."
Cynthia James says that careful community planning has paid off for the K'atl`odeeche First Nation:
Brenda McDonald, Band Manager
Telephone: (867) 874-6701
KEYS TO SUCCESS
The Yellowknives Dene First Nation has two communities, N'Dilo and Dettah, on Great Slave Lake in the Northwest Territories. The First Nation does not have a legislated authority. This has shaped its approach to planning. It is not a reserve under federal legislation and is not a municipality under the territorial government. Nevertheless, the planning process at N'Dilo and Dettah has been in effect for some time. Plans in report format have been replaced by poster plans. These posters show a map of the community, are colour-coded and include quick notes showing land use, restrictions under designated areas and facility sites. The First Nation's long-term plans are to use the Treaty Land Entitlement Process to go after self-government.
N'Dilo means "end of the island" and takes up the end of Latham Island, within the municipal bounds of Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. It was established when the gold mines of Yellowknife were active and has grown to near capacity, with only 16 building lots remaining.
Dettah means "the burnt place" and is across the bay from Yellowknife. It is 11 kilometres from Yellowknife by winter road, 21 kilometres by summer road, and was a Dene settlement long before Yellowknife existed.
The Yellowknives' Dene First Nation has about 1100 members. The population is split up almost evenly between N'Dilo, Dettah, Yellowknife and elsewhere.
Betwixt and Between-No Legislative Authority
Yellowknives' Dene do not have a legislative authority for governance right now. They are not a reserve under the Indian Act, and the community does not have status as a municipality within the Northwest Territories. David Kravitz, Chief Executive Officer, says that the First Nation is going after self-government under the Treaty Land Entitlement Process. A Framework Agreement on Treaty Entitlement was signed in 2001.
David Kravitz is responsible for community planning at N'Dilo and Dettah. Kravitz explains that the planning process has been in effect for quite some time now:
By refining the poster plans, the First Nation can display its vision and goals, future land use plans and development standards on a page for staff, government and developers to use. These snapshots of the future are finished after running a community participation program, using local facilitators. The product is simple, but the process is just as comprehensive as more formal plans and bylaws used in larger communities in terms of community involvement and political debate. The plans are approved by Council resolution.
The poster plan has a land use plan, zoning uses and restrictions, and land use goals and principles. Zoning restrictions include:
The land use goals help determine the best use for community land within restrictions of terrain, geology, existing infrastructure, cost and community interests. The land use plan helps the communities of N'Dilo and Dettah develop in an orderly way. The plan aims to create a healthy, safe, and beautiful community for the people who live and work there. Some of the land use statements listed on the poster plan include:
Applicants for residential or other developments make submissions to the manager of Community Development for review. Proposals for land development must be consistent with the community plans. They must also show that servicing, environmental and cultural issues have been addressed. If issues are not resolved with the manager, variance applications are presented to Council for final review and approval. Council will accept the variance, reject it, or attempt to find an appropriate alternative site.
Kravitz says that the Yellowknives Dene First Nation has recently updated its community plans with help from Yellowknife-based professional planners. The community consultation process for developing the plans involves presentations and discussion sessions at the housing office. There are also door-to-door consultations and one-on-one drop-in sessions.
Yellowknives Dene First Nation has a memorandum of understanding with the City of Yellowknife to share planning and budgetary information. Meetings are held each year to talk about planning. There are also talks about a Municipal Services Agreement.
Lands and Environment
The Lands and Environment Department was established in 1994 in response to increasing demands on Yellowknives Dene lands by external users. These included mineral exploration and mining companies. The department reviews applications from prospective land users. It finds potential environmental impacts from the proposed land use and finds ways to best protect the land. The department has received about 150 to 200 proposals from many sources including Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans, Science Institute of Northwest Territories, Prince of Wales Heritage Centre, MacKenzie Valley Land and Water Board, MacKenzie Valley Environmental Assessment Review Board, mining and exploration companies, and the public. The department is sometimes involved in more major developments such as the Diavik and BHP diamond mines.
The Lands and Environment Department is also helping with research and giving guidance on land issues about the Treaty Land Entitlement Process.
Deton'Cho Corporation is the main economic development arm of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation. The corporation aims to set up profitable subsidiaries and joint ventures that create jobs and stimulate community development. Deton'Cho Corporation looks for niches in existing markets of both traditional and modern Northern economies. Collaborations with other Dene and First Nation communities are encouraged.
In 2000 to 2001, Deton'Cho invested about $350,000 in employee training. Sixty employees finished training, which included diamond cutting and polishing, safety training, fire suppression, first aid, truck driving and heavy equipment operation, finance, and administration. In addition, capital is reinvested in the community, including buildings, equipment, road development, and the construction of a diamond manufacturing facility.
Gazira Chan, CEO
KEYS TO SUCCESS
Coral Harbour is an Inuit hamlet on Southampton Island at the top of Hudson Bay. The community is governed by a mayor and council and has about 750 community members. Coral Harbour has created a community plan and bylaws to guide its development. The planning process is enhanced by a strong working relationship with the Kivalliq Inuit Association and the Nunavut Impact Review Board. One of the community's most successful economic development ventures is Canada's only commercial caribou harvest. The harvest employs about 50 people in the community and generates about $750,000 each year.
The Hamlet of Coral Harbour created a Community Planning and Zoning Bylaw to run the community development process, including land use planning to meet social, cultural, environmental and economic needs. As part of this process, a land use plan was developed and eventually became the basis for the community plan. The plan, which was updated in 1999, follows a land use and zoning bylaw system and has a 20-year scope.
Due to increasing housing development by the Nunavut Housing Corporation in Coral Harbour, the community plan will probably have to be updated sooner than the original 20-year time frame. The community plan was developed jointly by a consultant with the community and the hamlet lands administrator. The planning process started with the land use plan, with policy sections being added later based on community input. A zoning bylaw was added in 1999 to allow for plan enforcement. The community plan was prepared in a poster-board format with supporting documents.
Ronnie Ningeongan has been the Coral Harbour Community Lands Administrator for the past six years. Ningeongan explains the planning process, "We previously had a land use plan, primarily for residential and commercial uses. We upgraded that to a community plan with zoning bylaws so that we would have an enforceable plan for our growing population. This protects the best interests of our community."
The original version of the community plan was prepared in 1997, but the refinement and approval process took about two years. Ningeongan recalls:
Ningeongan explains that one of the plan's key terms is that designated areas are set aside for residential and commercial development:
Ningeongan doesn't feel that the planning process is significantly different in the North:
Community Development Corporation
At Coral Harbour, the Northern setting has had a great impact on the nature of economic development. Richard Connelly of the Community Development Corporation explains:
Ten or fifteen business development ideas were considered. Creating a commercial caribou harvesting venture emerged as one of the more prominent options.
The caribou of Coral Harbour are confined to the island, so their population is manageable. In the early 1960s, the caribou population was eliminated due to over-hunting. Twenty-four caribou were brought from Coats Island to re-establish the population. By the late 1980s, the population had grown to between 30,000 to 60,000 caribou, and hunting restrictions were gradually lifted.
The caribou herd was growing too fast and had to be controlled. In the late 1990s, the commercial caribou harvest was started and the meat was sent exclusively to a small meat processing plant in Rankin Inlet. In 1999, about 60,000 to 80,000 pounds of meat were produced by Coral Harbour. By 2003, the production level increased to about 275,000 pounds. Connelly says:
Ningeongan doesn't see any significant changes for the planning process for the community core except maybe updating the community plan. Ningeongan feels that the process is working well. "Our community plan is primarily based on the generic model of the Nunavut Planning Act. Perhaps other larger communities need to refine that model to suit their purposes, but for us it's worked well in its basic form. Next year we'll be doing our five-year review, and we'll reassess whether we need to make any refinements at that time."
Outside the community core, Richard Connelly sees big changes taking place in the planning and management of the caribou harvest:
Excerpts from Community Plan and Zoning Bylaw
The community plan and zoning bylaw documents will be used to help create a community that is safe, functional and attractive.
According to the Nunavut Planning Act, both the community plan and zoning bylaw must be reviewed and updated through a comprehensive process every five years.
A community-based plan can:
Ronnie Ningeongan, Community Lands Administrator
Telephone: (867) 925-8867