Natural Resource Exploration and Extraction in Northern Canada: Intersections with Community Cohesion and Social Welfare


  • Prescott C. Ensign Wilfrid Laurier University
  • Audrey Giles University of Ottawa
  • Jackie Oncescu University of Manitoba


This paper examines the role that the search for and removal of non-renewable fossil fuels plays in northern, often Aboriginal, communities in Canada. Such settlements at the social, political, and geographic "periphery" or "frontier" of Canada are often characterized by transient populations and social welfare challenges. While the economic boom brought about by oil and gas development is undeniable, it is unevenly spread. Further, communities that would otherwise be facing sizable challenges now must address even greater and more urgent struggles. These rural and remote settlements have drawn strength from their social cohesion, but presently, the strain is heightened. Insiders may be at odds with outsiders; one generation may be divided against the generation before and after it. Environmental concerns and traditional culture may be displaced by competing interests. In this paper we provide an overview of the existing and proposed extraction of non-renewable natural resources in several parts of northern Canada and examine their economic impact, but also their social impact. In particular, we focus on their ramifications in terms of community cohesion in general and on Aboriginal communities more specifically. Keywords: Canada, north, Aboriginal, community cohesion, social welfare, economic development