Gender, Place and Culture
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Developing a better understanding of the factors underlying health and environmental risk perspectives has been the focus of significant research in recent years. Although many previous studies have shown that perspectives of risk are often associated with gender, sociocultural variables and place, our understanding of the relationship between these factors and risk remains equivocal. A research study was undertaken to develop better insights into the understanding and perspectives of various types of health risks in two sets of northern Canadian Aboriginal communities – the Yellowknives Dene First Nation communities of N’Dilo and Dettah in the Northwest Territories and the Inuit communities of Nain and Hopedale in Nunatsiavut. Gender was found to have a limited overall effect on risk perspectives, consistent with other studies that found no gender differences in communities stressed by multiple and concurrent risks. Nonetheless, subtle gender differences were seen in the qualitative responses, with women focusing more on community impacts and mitigating actions. Threats to ‘place-identity’ associated with changes in traditional lifestyle and connection to the land were strongly associated with risk perspectives. These results reinforce the need to be cautious in making assumptions about the complex effects of community and personal attributes, such as gender and gender relations, in assessing the factors underlying risk views and concerns. They also suggest the importance of gathering multiple types of data (both quantitative and qualitative) in order to fully assess the effects of both gender and place. Ultimately, understanding risk in a northern context requires recognizing the unique circumstances and identities of northern Aboriginal peoples.