Samantha Darling, Aynslie Ogden & Gordon M. Hickey

Northern ‘capacity’ has long been identified as a priority area for public policy in Canada and recognized as a major constraint to regional social and economic development. The concepts of capacity and sustainability often meet in impact assessment (IA) processes in Canada, which include environmental, social and economic aspects of development and where there has been an important evolution in the role of both communities and science in the process. In Yukon, the Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment Board (YESAB) is the legislated mechanism for impact assessments. The establishment of YESAB provided sites for the inclusion of local perspectives and traditional knowledge in assessments; however, calls for enhanced northern research capacity to inform impact assessment and associated decision-making remain prominent. This paper explores the concept of ‘capacity’ in its various forms and considers its core relevance to ensuring effective IA processes associated with northern development. Through a literature review, we identify that ambiguity surrounding the concept of capacity requires careful policy attention to fully appreciate conditions that prompt appeals for increased northern research capacity and help minimize confusion amongst different actors and institutions working to build northern capacity.

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