Webinar Summary: More Promise Than Practice

The Live Work Well Research Centre is committed to nourishing families, livelihoods and living environments. The Centre works in five intersecting research clusters that shape the way we look at work, family, and well-being. We seek to participate and respond to the changing needs of family, work and well-being in diverse forms through our teaching, knowledge sharing, policy, community-engaged activities, and research, such as our More Promise than Practice report.

This report showcases that, in Canada, there is limited documentation of practices and resource development related to gendered and intersectional impact assessments involving the experiences of individuals living at the intersections of other social locations, such as Indigeneity, dis/ability, and sexuality. The lived experiences of these individuals are most likely to remain invisible and excluded during impact assessment processes creating significant gaps. This research aimed to fill the gaps by turning to international literature and examples of promising practices for addressing gendered and intersectional impacts of resource extraction and development, to identify gaps and knowledge practices and to share research findings such as through this webinar.

We would like to thank the panelists for their excellent and invigorating comments and insights. We would also like to thank everyone who joined us and brought their insightful questions to the discussion.

The panelists of this webinar included:

  • Sandra Gosling a junior researcher at the Firelight Group and a professional Human Ecologist/Home Economist
  • Jacqueline Hansen the Major Campaigns and Women’s Rights Campaigner at Amnesty International Canada
  • Bonnie Brayton the National Executive Director of the DisAbled Women’s Network (DAWN) Canada

Deborah Stienstra, a Professor of Political Science and the Director of the Live Work Well Research Centre at the University of Guelph, served as moderator. 

Discussion Summary

Intersectionality as described in the More Promise than Practice report: We use the term intersectional to capture the “plus” in GBA+. The term comes from critical black feminist scholarship and considers how systems of power and peoples’ diverse identities interact to create experiences of privilege and exclusion. Intersectional scholarship interrogates inequality, relationality, power, social context, complexity and social justice.


1. Please share one key take-away from the More Promise than Practice report: a key learning that can have a wide benefit for people and/or for the groups discussed in the report

A key finding identified by Sandra was the effect of resource extraction companies on communities and their members. When industries move into communities, the benefits they promise, such as job prospects, are not always followed through on. 

A clear key takeaway identified by Bonnie was that discrimination equals disability. Yet, there is not nearly enough information about disability in the findings of impact assessment. Extraction industries often have negative effects on local communities, resulting in loss of accessibility, loss of spiritual/heritage aspects, and create dangerous environments.

Jacqueline’s key takeaway was on how far we’ve come in terms of impact assessment. There has been more emerging community practice, more discussions from the media and governments, and more calls for justice. However, there are still gaps between knowledge of intersectional analysis and its implementation.


2. The 2019 Impact Assessment Act (Bill C-69) marked the first time the Canadian government included consideration of “sex, gender and other identity factors” in impact assessment guidelines. How do you see Bill C-69 and especially this new clause, being effectively implemented (or not)? What do you think needs to happen for it to be effectively implemented?

Bonnie believes one of the biggest challenges with this Bill is that intersectionality is still not applied fully; discussions often leave out disability even though about one quarter of the population identifies as having a disability. Going forward there needs to be a push on the issue of why intersectional analysis doesn't center on disability.

Jacqueline believes it is important to realize how critical sex, gender, and identity factors are in the legislation. Advocates had to fight very hard to ensure these terms were included in the Bill in order to address all human rights and thus must be respected when doing an intersectional analysis. Going forward, people involved in impact assessment must start rethinking how assessments are conducted, how they are being funded, how to meaningfully implement these terms, and provide training for those conducting assessments to truly conduct an intersectional analysis.

Going forward, Sandra believes it's important to have strong and clear guidance and direct conversations between industries and community members on how to conduct an intersectional impact assessment. Without guidance, what the industries think and what the communities think in terms of regulations will continue to be different, leading to conflict.


3. Can you give an example of a good practice you would like to see implemented in impact assessment in Canada? What are particular considerations to implementing good practices in the context of COVID-19?

Jacqueline believes the single most important thing that can be done is to support and fund community led assessments. Communities need the time, space, and funding very early on in the process to be able to conduct their own assessments to figure out how they want to engage in the assessment process. In the context of COVID-19, the single most important thing is to understand that not all communities are going to want to respond in the same way.

Sandra believes that a good practice would be to involve the youth in impact assessment in an informal manner. She discussed how youth may not want to speak in a formal setting about things they are concerned about. She provided an example of how Indigenous youth took part in a poster competition where they drew what they wanted their community to look like in the future. These posters were hung up at hearings and had a very large impact on government officials and community members. One poster in particular had a large impact. The individual created one side to represent a happy environment with lots of greenery, animals, and a family participating in traditional Indigenous activities. The other side was depicted as dark and stormy with few animals, little surrounding water and a sad/frightened family.

Bonnie believes there needs to be an intersectional human rights framework developed. Canada has to begin leading on intersectional human rights monitoring to ensure all human rights are being respected. In terms of COVID-19, she believes Canada has failed people with disabilities. Up to now there have been no additional resources or funding for people with disabilities. She believes this is why Canada needs more intersectional human rights analysis being done in impact assessment.


Q&A from the Audience
1. To what extent the panelists think that private interests ought to be involved in the assessment process at all. Isn’t any level of involvement in the process effectively coercive, given the power relations? Or are they saying more engagement between community and private interests is needed? Isn’t the latter concerning?

Jacqueline thinks it's important for communities to have the opportunity to freely and fully engage in the assessment process. There needs to be participatory, robust, and early engagement of communities right at the beginning of the planning stages, so communities can figure out more about the project and how it will impact them.

Bonnie believes Canada needs to take a front-end civil society approach. Before companies come in, communities need time to address cultural needs, accessibility and more. Only this will lead to a win-win situation.


2. In what ways to recent graduates and young professionals get involved, especially those who have focused on academic research on IBA GBA+ or impact assessment

Sandra stated that whenever opportunities come your way, take those risks. Even if they do not seem like your direct path or work in your skillset, take advantage of whatever it is because they will open more doors for you.

Bonnie suggested to never set any limits when you think something is important. Reach out to people even if you're afraid of being shut down.

Jacqueline believes in creating the opportunity for yourself, whether through academic research, looking at communities for involvement, or volunteering.


3. With community led assessment, we know in the impact assessment act it requires agency to take community led assessments into account and further provisions that empower Indigenous governing bodies to lead part or all federal assessments. In the experience of the panelists, do you think it's important for community assessments to operate outside of the legislation to create their own scope of assessment or integration within the federal process itself, possibly limiting the scope?

Bonnie stated that there are no small groups for supporting women with disabilities. For community led projects to work, the community must follow guidelines to ensure that everyone is involved and stays committed.

Jacqueline believes flexibility is needed for communities to figure out the urgent needs of the community and to look at what level of engagement is going to work best for them. There need to be guidelines on how to make sure that assessments are inclusive. 

Sandra believes this goes back to a key message from the report, there is a need for assessments and engagements to be culturally relevant and culturally humble. Community leaders need to know how to exactly engage people outside of ways that are typically thought about.

Resources from the Panelists

Culture and Rights Impact Assessment. A Survey of the Field.pdf

Firelight Group_(2017)_Indigenous Communities and Industrial Camps.pdf

Firelight Gwich'in Indigenous led review. Impact Assessment in the Arctic.pdf

Gender Based Analysis Plus: A knowledge synthesis for the implementation and development of socially responsible impact assessment in Canada.pdf

Indigenous YouthPoster Competition.pdf