Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Master of Laws




Steyn, Elizabeth

2nd Supervisor

Randall, Melanie


The Arctic’s rapid warming is increasing the potential for mining activity in Nunavut, and, consequently, Inuit women are increasingly at risk of experiencing the adverse and gendered impacts of mining, including gender-based violence. Through a theoretical framework influenced by feminism, Indigenous legal scholarship and legal anthropology, this thesis examines the flaws in the mining industry’s voluntary efforts to acquiring a social licence to operate and in the Nunavut mining regulatory regime, while also considering how the law can provide legal recourse through tort actions and Inuit Impact Benefit Agreements. In every instance, is clear that climate justice for Inuit women in Nunavut mining communities cannot be achieved without applying a gender-based analysis to laws and policies and that Inuit women must be afforded the opportunity to govern their own lives.

Summary for Lay Audience

The climate crisis is causing the Arctic to warm at a rate greater than twice than that of the rest of the world. As a result of the Arctic’s melting ice and snow, minerals have become accessible for extraction. As the extractive industry increasingly invests in opening mines in the Arctic, Inuit communities, who inhabit the majority of the Arctic, will experience the greatest direct impacts to their culture and every day lives. Mining has a tendency of harming women disproportionately, and often leads to an increase in gender-based violence such as domestic violence and sexual assault. Accordingly, the Arctic’s warming and increasing potential for mining also increases the potential for Inuit women to be adversely impacted.

Mining companies often engage in voluntary effort to ensure that Indigenous communities effected by a mine will not resist their presence, and will embrace the economic opportunities arising from the mine. This thesis examines to what extent these mining companies engage in mitigating the unique harms faced by the Indigenous women, and why even the current best efforts fall short of what is needed.

This thesis also explores how Nunavut’s mining regulations are not designed and implemented to protect Inuit women from the likely harms caused by mining, and recommends including Inuit women as decision-makers and necessary participants in the consultation process. This thesis also explores the potential to advance the interests of Inuit women in mining communities through Inuit Impact benefit agreements and civil actions against mining companies.

This thesis concludes that advocating for climate justice for Inuit women requires unpacking assumptions within Canadian law that Inuit women are inherently protected. The law must be intentionally shaped to protect the rights and interests of Inuit women. Otherwise, it will continue to have an oppressive effect. This thesis aims to provide policy-makers and law-makers the opportunity to utilize the law in this context as a tool for social betterment and climate justice, rather than as a an instrument for dominance.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.