Feb. 6, 2023

What We Are Learning This Week with Dr. Doreen Barrie!

Indigenous rights to water in Alberta
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February 6, 2023 in POLI 502 Politics of Water

This week in POLI 502 Politics of Water, Dr. Barrie is exploring the status of Indigenous water rights in this province. The Alberta government’s position is that these rights have been extinguished, but there has not been a court ruling that has unequivocally confirmed or denied this. In addition to legal rights, we will be contrasting Indigenous views on water with those in settler society.


Can you tell us a little more about this topic?

Waters are deemed to be sacred givers of life by Indigenous people. They regard themselves as stewards with responsibilities to preserve water and life. These responsibilities have long time horizons, extending to the seventh generation. They also believe that all living things are connected, that water and land have inherent value apart from their use to humans.

Barrie Headshot

What else do you cover in your course?

Historically, governments have been solely responsible for decision-making in this area. However, there is now a move towards shared governance, allowing a broader spectrum of groups including Watershed Councils, Indigenous and environmental groups to have some input.

A different approach is to leave decision-making to the marketplace where water rights are traded between willing buyers and sellers. Water markets have been touted as one solution to scarcity and we will be examining markets in Australia and the United States to determine what lessons Alberta might learn from them.

How did you come to develop this course?

There’s plenty of research on water done by scientists and legal scholars but less by political scientists. Since politicians are the major decision-makers on these matters, it is important to examine water through a political lens.

Finally, what other courses would you recommend for students interested this topic?

This is an inter-disciplinary topic and students would do well to undertake studies in other disciplines.


Our Thanks to Dr. Doreen Barrie for sharing your course with us!