Tag Archives: politics

The complicated politics of resource extraction

25 Jul

I flew home the other night from Saskatoon. I had just spent 7 days in Sasktaoon, 6 days at Otter Lake (about an hour north of La Ronge, 6 hours north of Saskatoon), and 2 days at Ness Creek, near Big River, at a music festival. All three areas feature the diverse landscapes of the province, with rivers cutting through grasslands, Boreal forest along the Canadian Shield and other sights that I could explain here, or you could just go and see for yourself.

While I was at Otter Lake, I spent a lot of time gazing at everything around me: from the roots, rocks, mosses and lichens to trees, lakes, sky, bugs etc., the entire place was alive. I didn’t spend much time thinking of what was below my feet but it’s likely that, if extracted, mixed with seriously toxic shit, boiled, cooled, boiled again, put into a magic hat and spit upon, it could make some asshole really rich.

On my flight, I met a guy who was flying home to New Brunswick. He was a worker at a uranium mine very close to where I was staying at Otter Lake. He works 20 days straight, 12 hours a day for ~$120K. Then, he’s flown home for 10 days with his family.

As we were talking, the guy in the seat ahead stuck his head around. He was from NB too. Jealous of a 10 day break as he was returning in 8.

It occurred to me that most of the men on my flight were on the same schedule, doing the same trip.

In this context, the Air Canada labour negotiations this past year made total sense: flying in thousands of workers to Saskatchewan and Alberta from economically depressed regions of Canada must be a huge chunk of their business. If government is in the pockets of the resource extraction industry, they have an interest to prevent Air Canada workers from striking.

So, wildcat strikes will become even more important. They’ll be a means to kick not only management, but also profiteering land pirates in the junk.

But I’m jumping around. What about an industry that steals from the land, destroys forest, land, water, eco-systems and traditional ways of life, fueled by willing workers who will leave their homes for a six-figure pay cheque? What does the reliance on out-of-province workers mean for the sustainability of these industries?

As unemployment climbs and as the middle class falls into the lower class, Canadians are going to be more willing to take on these jobs and generate profits for major multinationals. Government  should be protecting Canadians from such exploitation, but instead, our current lot of clowns would likely rather see Canadians continue to slide economically. More workers, lured by the promise of less wages to work five or six provinces over from where their families reside.

It’s really sick. And, in absence of a social solidarity that would make taking a job like this an impossibility, it’s only going to get worse.

I have no solution to this issue. Hell, I’ve barely articulated it in a way that makes as much sense as I set out to do. So I’ve written a song about this that I’ll put out there once recorded. Which, because of my current unemployment, I’ll post later.

Or, hell. Maybe I should get a job out in Northern Saskatchewan…I love it there. Free trip? OK Work? Six figures? Damn.


Honour the Treaties and do your homework

10 Jul

This week and next, I’m in Saskatchewan for the second intensive summer of three for my MEd in Critical Eco Justice.

Sometimes I feel like I can write pages about my experiences here, and sometimes there’s nothing to say. Chrystalizing it all into explaining how intense and amazing the time I spend here has been seems futile: nothing I write is good enough for what I want to say. But I’m going to try anyway.

Today, my class did a Sweat. Lead by an Elder in the Dakota tradition, a dozen of us entered the Sweatlodge as many times as we could handle it. We prayed. Some of for the first time, others not.

The Crown, governments and corporations have tried very, very hard to eliminate First Nations culture, traditions, languages and ways of life. They tried to erase entire peoples through a centuries-long project of genocide.

The brave men and women who maintained these and taught these traditions have helped ensure that the knowledge and way of life that grew out of the Land have not been eliminated. Instead, in many places in Canada, they thrive.

Of course, traditions that grew from thousands of years of living on the Land that Canada occupies can (and should) teach us about this Land: how to treat it, how to live in a good way, etc. I say “of course” because it should be obvious. But, it’s still actively suppressed.

Rather than these traditions, ceremonies and understandings being mainstream, they’re pushed to the fringe and still sometimes demonized and ridiculed.

Learn these traditions in any way you can.

With environmental destruction that’s likely to kills us all, hairbrained schemes like the Ring of Fire, the Plan Nord and the Tar Sands that will make some dudes quite rich and kill/injure/poison thousands of people, animals etc., isn’t it clear that we don’t know how to live with and among this Land any longer? Isn’t is the most obvious thing since the existence of sexism that they (the privileged who dominate halls of power) have no fucking idea whatsoever about how to run a country without killing off the poor, oppressed, marginalized? Or, isn’t it clear that this project is ongoing?

To those of us who are settlers and who are not the privileged few who run this place, I beg you: do your homework into the cultures and traditions of where you live that predate those WASPy names you’ve probably memorized.

The Treaties that remain in force that have allowed settler-descended Canadians the lives we’re living now (yeah the docks/beer/long weekends/shit-pay at mind-numbing jobs/sports etc. all thanks to the Treaties) Settler-Canadians got a lot out of the Treaties that were signed, but we have a side of a bargain to uphold. Unfortunately, our representatives in Ottawa aren’t the most unracist folks out there and we’ve sucked at upholding our side of the agreements. 

The Treaties allowed many Canadians to live their lives without fear of violence, after fleeing it from home.

So, if you needed another issue to pile onto your inbox of things to do to unfuck this world, I think you should add this: research, read, meet, understand and know about the history of this land. Balance your reading by hearing from people who lived it, who didn’t go to university, who you may or may not be related to.

If our representatives won’t do it, we must force change in other ways.

Place decolonization at the centre of work that you do, regardless of what that work is. All people who care about the Land must resist “progress” that is supported by Stephen Harper and any other neo-con-man out there in the most accessible, public and powerful ways we can imagine.

How will you do it?