Finding Common Ground: Building Equitable Planning Futures with First Nations in Ontario, Canada

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McLeod, Fraser
First Nations , land use and resource management policies , Provincial Policy Statement , Aboriginal and treaty rights , Ontario , planning theory and practice , New Zealand
This thesis analyzes selective land use and resource management policies in the province of Ontario, Canada and their relative capacity at recognizing and supporting First Nations. Written in a manuscript format, this thesis addresses the three following questions: 1. How have land use and resource management legislation and policies in Ontario recognized and supported First Nations’ rights and notions of honouring past Crown-First Nation relationships? 2. How are First Nations recognized and supported in the current and past versions of the Provincial Policy Statement in the province of Ontario? 3. How can top-down territorial planning policies in Ontario take a fundamental shift towards promoting new types of relationships and mutual understanding between municipalities and Indigenous peoples by learning from the Aotearoa New Zealand planning context? The common approach to address these research questions is content analysis of policy documents through two separate analytical frameworks. The first manuscript addresses questions one and provides a baseline review of 337 provincial texts and their relative capacity at recognizing First Nations and Aboriginal and treaty rights, and embodying past Crown-First Nations relationships. The second manuscript then addresses the remaining questions by engaging in a comparative between the Ontario Provincial Policy Statement (PPS) (2014) and the Auckland Council Regional Policy Statement (ACRPS) (1999) from the Aotearoa New Zealand planning context. The results highlight the relative limits of Ontario’s current approach and practical areas of improvement. From a theoretical standpoint, this thesis proposes a return to and the development of spaces of common ground to ensure that equitable and constructive planning relations between communities become the standard. In contrast to previous works that narrowly focus on collaborative approaches and on-the-ground relations, this thesis concludes that provincial land use and resource management policies that shape the everyday deserve greater attention and that strategic-level amendments can enhance recognition and support of First Nations in planning processes. Other changes, including cultural changes will be required to move towards common ground, but we must remain optimistic that the process and a sustained commitment to fundamental change will leave planning in Ontario with First Nations in a better state than where it is today.
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