Day 2 – Colonial and Toxic Afterlives in the North

For Keynote Talk abstracts for Day 2 please see here

“Remediation, Reconciliation and Redress: Repairing mining landscapes and healing relationships”

Arn Keeling, Geography, Memorial University

Indigenous law scholar Rebecca Tsosie argues that an ethics of remediation of environmental damage from mineral development must also account for the injustices suffered by Indigenous communities whose lands and bodies were damaged by historic mining. Collaborative community research into the toxic legacies of gold mining at Giant Mine in Yellowknife, NWT, provides similar critical insights into how remediation planning – typically understood as a technical exercise around waste engineering, environmental reclamation, and risk assessment – can incorporate Indigenous community values, knowledge, and experience. The Giant case also points to the critical importance of both acknowledging and redressing the historical injustices associated with mineral development as a precursor to community healing and reconciliation.


“Indelible: Tracing the toxic legacies of the state”

Laura Pitkanen

Drawing on case studies of communities affected by chronic contamination, I consider ways in which toxic contamination is a form of dispossession in everyday life that is inextricable from the state. I also reflect on my professional experience working with Indigenous communities in northern Canada to think about intersections with community-based work and critical geography.


“‘Ground-truthing’ the colonial afterlives of the Canol Road”

Sinead Earley, University of Northern British Columbia, Geography Program, Prince George, British Columbia

This presentation showcases the Canol Doc Project – a documentary venture taken by a group of female cyclists through the Sahtu Mountain Dene / Mackenzie Mountain region of northwest Canada. They follow the abandoned Canol Road, built in 1943-44 to service the Canadian Oil pipeline from the oilfields of Norman Wells, NWT, to Whitehorse, YT, and is one of the most under-documented examples of wartime industrialization in the “North”. Despite enormous investment, the pipeline was abandoned after only fifteen months in operation. Old machinery, trucks, and worker barracks still litter the subarctic landscape – an illustration of the social, environmental and toxic legacies of ephemeral resource infrastructures in the Canadian North (Keeling and Sandlos, 2016). Imagery and stories from the Canol Doc Project, and Sahtu Dene accounts of industrial incursions as key ‘structures’ of colonialism, will be accompanied by critical commentary on the Canol and associated colonial ‘afterlives’ of resource development.