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People and wilderness in Canada: realities, perceptions, visions

Afternoon colloquium, BACS, 19 April 2006

Four papers will be given, with ample time in each for questions and discussion. A plenary session at the end will allow comments and contributions from colleagues. A special issue of the British Journal of Canadian Studies is planned, to be published in 2007, for which contributions of 5-8,000 words on the ‘wilderness’ theme are invited.

1. 1.30-2.10 pm Shared visions, shared prairies: contemporary attempts to conserve wilderness in the grasslands of Saskatchewan, Ken Atkinson, University of Leeds

Human modifications of prairie ecosystems over the past century-and-a-half have produced the ‘most humanly-modified’ natural region in Canada. The paper explores recent measures to restore wilderness through the combined efforts of environmentalists, NGOs, land-users, government specialists and land-use planners. Success depends crucially on adaptability, cooperation, compromise and vision.

2. 2.10-2.50 pm Foe, friend and fragility: evolving settler interactions with the inland wilderness of Newfoundland from early settlement to the present, David N. Collins, University of Leeds

To the first European settlers the Newfoundland interior seemed a foe; nature dominated fragile people: daunting, trackless, yet with care capable of supplying some necessities of life in that harsh location. To contemporary Newfoundlanders the interior seems a friend; nature, now dominated, allows adventure from hiking to hunting, the tracklessness overcome by snowmobiles, atvs and helicopters. Ironically this has turned the tables: the erstwhile terrifying wilderness is now the fragile party; we pose the question - can a lasting balance be developed, turning foes into friends, protecting the fragilities of people and nature?

2.50-3.20pm TEA

3. 3.20-4.00 pm Beyond survival: wilderness and Canadian national identity into the 21st century, Emily Gilbert, University of Toronto

The paper draws out general ideas about the relationship between wilderness and national identity, past and present, and how integrated these two spatial constructions have been. New ways of thinking about wilderness and national identity are suggested by drawing upon a range of contemporary cultural products in literature, film and art.

4. 4.00-4.40 pm Aboriginal people, the land and environmentalism: issues of conflict, tradition and development, Roy Todd, University of Leeds

The relationship between Aboriginal people in Canada and the land is not encompassed by the concept of wilderness. This paper explores issues of conflict, tradition and development mainly with reference to Aboriginal people in British Columbia. It focuses on themes of ownership, traditional ecological knowledge and environmentalism to explore dimensions of conflict and development with reference to the land.


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(C) 2008 British Association for Canadian Studies