Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Master of Arts


Geography and Environment


Lewis, Diana.


University of Guelph


Pictou Landing First Nation (PLFN) has experienced the impacts of being exposed to the effluent treatment facility for a pulp mill for decades, but in 2020, it was announced that the treatment facility would finally close. In my research, I will investigate and compare two sets of PLFN health data from 2014 and 2019 to answer the following research questions: 1) Does community health for the PLFN improve over time when community members have more autonomy over environmental decision-making?; and 2) Does Pictou Landing First Nation's relationship to place improve with more autonomy in environmental decision making? I will use the lens of environmental dispossession, repossession, and the Piktukowaq environmental health cultural framework as a guiding theoretical framework to position PLFN relationships to land, autonomy, and each other. I will use community-based participatory research (CPBR) as a guiding methodology to emphasize the relationship between researchers and community and employ quantitative methods comparing secondary data from the 2014 and 2019 surveys. Through my findings, physical health, mental health, and relationship to place improve when Piktukowaq have more autonomy over their environmental decision-making.

Summary for Lay Audience

Indigenous peoples face harm to their environments and health through the negative impacts of development and are trying to gain more control of their territories for their health and well-being. Pictou Landing First Nation (PLFN) is a Mi'kmaw community in Nova Scotia. PLFN's sacred water source is called A'se'k. In 1967, Nova Scotia constructed a pulp and paper mill, and the Boat Harbour Effluent Treatment Facility (BHETF) on A’se’k. The construction of BHETF on A'se'k has caused ongoing community concerns regarding their health and well-being.

With the community wanting to know more about the environmental impacts of the effluent, their women’s group created a community survey tool to provide more insights into their health. After an effluent leak in 2014, Nova Scotia announced a commitment to stop the effluent flow and start Boat Harbour remediation (stopping/reversal). Looking into the impact, the government came to PLFN to determine their health assessment, giving more control to PLFN in managing their environmental decision-making. In 2019, PLFN decided their community would conduct another survey as the second phase of health data.

In my research, I will compare the two community health surveys to see if PLFN health and relationship to place improves when PLFN has more control over environmental decision-making. I will use the framework of environmental repossession (the ways Indigenous peoples are reclaiming their territories, knowledge, ties to place) to position PLFN's act of control. I will also use the Piktukowaq environmental health cultural framework to position PLFN relationships to place, self-determination, culture, and knowledge. As a guiding methodology to lead my research, I will use community-based participatory research (CPBR) to show the necessity of relationships between the community and the researcher. I will also use quantitative methods (surveys) to compare the data from the surveys to answer my research questions. My study found that with more control over environmental decision-making, PLFN physical health, mental health, and relationship to place improve. Through my study, I plan to inform government policy to create more space and freedoms for Indigenous communities in environmental decisions for health outcomes and relationships to place to improve.