Experiences of Opportunity in the Northern Resource Frontier

Resource booms, including those currently occurring in northern Canada, are anchored in narratives of economic opportunity. As a consequence, the Northwest Territories, Yukon, and Nunavut are currently seeing an increase in immigration from some non-traditional source countries of the global South. Those who arrive in Yellowknife and Whitehorse have different expectations of experiences of the North. Relatively little literature has explored the ways in which place is being constructed by such new Canadians. Where do these notions of place and place identity in northern communities fit within broader and dichotomous discourses of the North as ”hinterland or homeland”? This article examines how transnational labour migrants position their life experiences in relation to dominant discourses of neoliberalism and resource frontier values—historically sites of economic opportunity that have valorized characteristics such as masculinity and individualism that have come to ideologically define resource-based communities. Data for this article is drawn from thirty-five narrative interviews with new Canadians who had resided in Whitehorse or Yellowknife for between three and six years on average. The results suggest that transnational newcomers into the North negotiate multiple socio-economic challenges as they engage in place making within a rapidly changing northern economy.

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