Establishing A Clean Economy or Strengthening Indigenous Sovereignty: Conflicting & Complementary Narratives for Energy Transitions

Jaffar, Atiya
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University of Guelph

Scholarship on socio-technical transitions has theorized pathways for a transition toward sustainable energy systems. This research undertakes a discourse analysis to understand different visions for sustainable energy transitions in Canada. More specifically, it assesses discourses used by environmental groups and Indigenous communities across Canada to communicate the essentiality of energy transitions. I observe that environmental groups emphasize sustainable energy as an economic growth opportunity. In contrast, Indigenous communities place greatest emphasis on sustainable energy as a means for exerting sovereignty. In Canada, the environmental movement has frequently conflicted with Indigenous self-determination movements. Though tensions persist, contemporary energy and climate politics have allowed these two spheres to establish a new relationship of reconciliation and solidarity. I conclude that both environmental and Indigenous advocates for sustainability transitions have influence on the socio-technical regime, and that an improved relationship between these spheres would improve the potential for an energy system transition in Canada.

I acknowledge with respect that the research and writing for this thesis was completed on the traditional territories of numerous Indigenous peoples including the Attowandaron/Attawandorak Neutral Peoples, Mississaugas of Credit River and the Coast Salish Peoples. As a researcher studying energy systems, I have remained consistently cognizant of the ways in which prevailing energy systems perpetuate and reinforce processes of ongoing colonialism. I have integrated this critical analysis into my work and consistently strive to build positive relationships while challenging destructive ones.
First Nations Energy Projects, Sustainable Energy, Energy Transitions, Renewable Energy, Narratives for Transitions, Environmental NGOs, Indigenous Sovereignty