How to stop an oil and gas pipeline: The Unist’ot’en Camp Resistance

I had a chance to have dinner with several members of the Unist’ot’en Camp a couple of years ago, and here is a recent short piece on their activities.

No running water: documentary series on First Nations in Manitoba

This is a special investigative series from the Winnipeg Free Press and you can view it here, along with a number of articles and videos documenting the state of First Nations Drinking Water and Sanitation in Manitoba.

Government problems: water-energy-mining-spying

Well, quite a week in Albertan and Canadian resource policy.

Last week, a judge issued a verdict against Alberta’s regulatory decision to exclude Pembina, an environmental NGO, from hearings on oil sands projects. And it wasn’t just a decision, it was a scathing indictment, which you can download here (PDF). Among the judge’s comments was that it was  “difficult to envision a more direct apprehension of bias” than the regulator’s decision to exclude Pembina.

Alberta also released a new consultation policy for development of resources affecting First Nations. It has been characterized as misguided. And that is not good timing, since the federal government sent an armada of ministers to B.C. recently to create some momentum for a pipeline through First Nations territory on that side of the two province deal that would pipe bitumen to Kitimat. It could be that the federal government and First Nations are headed for conflict.

On the other side of the country there is the on-going standoff over fracking in New Brunswick. A judge issued an injunction against a Mi’kmaq barricade yesterday, and the province’s premier is planning negotiations. The embarrassing issue for the New Brunswick government is that the chair of their Energy Institute was recently exposed as a fraud. So the credibility of the government is in serious doubt.

Also yesterday, Brazil called Canada out on its spying program that targeted Brazil’s mining and energy ministry. It will be interesting to see how this unfolds since, according to reports, there are more documents on Canada’s intelligence gathering that may be released as well.

Review of Mascarenhas’ “Where the waters divide”

Last December, I mentioned the new book out by Michael Mascarenhas titled,

Where the waters divide: neoliberalism, white41DTGUpKqIL._SL500_AA300_privilege and environmental racism in Canada.

My review of the book is out in the journal Canadian Public Policy and is available here. I am not as enthusiastic as other reviewers (see here or here) although I agree fully that this is an exceedingly important topic on which we need further scholarship and policy.

My main criticism is that the book isn’t rigorous enough. It was perplexing to not find a more carefully constructed argument that situates Mascarenhas’ account in the broader Canadian context. The examples draw predominantly from Ontario and make claims about Canada in general. There is certainly a lot of structural injustice regarding First Nations water rights, and it would have been good to provide the reader with some of the specifics on that front. For instance, the ways that irrigation development in the west was timed to interfere as much as possible with First Nations cultural celebrations. The ways that battles over hydropower in Quebec led to new “modern treaties” or what are sometimes called comprehensive land claims agreements. And so on…

Why are Canadians getting sick from tapwater? – And some other news too

Lots going on in Canadian water lately. There is a new Act going through the house of parliament on drinking water – an Act that some believe will fail First Nations.41spd6fqg1L._SL500_AA300_ Sean Atleo stated that he doesn’t think the Act is anything different from the government (once again) deciding it knows best and enforcing its will on First Nations.

There was also a recent book put out by Chris Wood and Ralph Pentland titled: Down the Drain: How we are Failing to Protect Our Water Resources

The book has been getting some coverage over at The Tyee. And Chris Wood was speaking on CBC’s great show “The Current” yesterday. You can hear that conversation or read a description of it here.

These are all pretty timely given the large spill of “produced water” (which is the wastewater from energy extraction) last week in Northern Alberta.

Yesterday, Alberta announced a voluntary agreement to increase water use efficiency.

And, in addition to the Rosenberg Report on the Mackenzie River Basin last week, the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives issued a report on that makes the case for improved water use reporting in British Columbia (PDF).

Dancing on our Turtle’s Back: Leanne Simpson lecture and new book

Leanne Betasamosake Simpson is a writer, scholar, artist and activist. She is a powerful voice. Her latest book is Dancing on our Turtle’s Back and I have posted information on it below. Here is a lecture she gave at the University of Victoria with the same title:

Many promote Reconciliation as a “new” way for Canada to relate to Indigenous Peoples. In Dancing on Our Turtle’s Back: Stories of Nishnaabeg Re-Creation, Resurgence, and a New Emergence activist, editor, and educator Leanne Simpson asserts reconciliation must be grounded in political resurgence and must support the regeneration of Indigenous languages, oral cultures, and traditions of governance.

Simpson explores philosophies and pathways of regeneration, resurgence, and a new emergence through the Nishnaabeg language, Creation Stories, walks with Elders and children, celebrations and protests, and meditations on these experiences. She stresses the importance of illuminating Indigenous intellectual traditions to transform their relationship to the Canadian state.

Challenging and original, Dancing on Our Turtle’s Back provides a valuable new perspective on the struggles of Indigenous Peoples.

“This work is alive with insight and creativity. Simpson’s words dance through the heart of Anishinaabe resurgence with hope, grace and beauty. It is a must read for everyone interested in re-energizing Indigenous movement throughout Turtle Island.” John Borrows, Robina Professor in Law, Policy, and Society, University of Minnesota Law School

Water ethics and First Nations

A couple of recently published pieces examining issues of water, justice, policy and First Nations in Canada. In addition, here is a 2003 article from Glenn C. Reynolds that is not specific to the Canadian case, it was free to download on the web so here is the  PDF.

(1) The first is by Kenichi Matsui, who also authored Native Peoples and Water Rights in 2009 through McGill-Queens Press.  It is published by the International Indigenous Policy Journal and is available under a Creative Commons License so here is the pdf of: Water Ethics for First Nations and Biodiversity in Western Canada, and here is the abstract:


The increasing division of academic disciplines and bureaucracy has led to the compartmentalization of knowledge on water security, biodiversity, Indigenous rights, and traditional ecological knowledge policy. The attempt to re-establish links among these issues in academic studies can shed light on integrated water governance and the establishment of water ethics. In order to facilitate this effort, this paper discusses three propositions: (1) the establishment of strong legal and ethical frameworks is needed; (2) policymakers and scientists alike need to recognize links between biodiversity and water security; and (3) they need to improve cross-cultural understanding and communication in using the traditional knowledge of Indigenous peoples and local people. This article examines these issues in Western Canada (British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba) because this region has invited cross-cultural and inter-jurisdictional conflicts since the twentieth century.

(2) The second is a book that came out this past summer by Michael Mascarenhas titled: Where the water’s divide: neoliberalism, white privilege, and environmental racism in Canada.

Here is the blurb from the publishers website:

This timely and important scholarship advances an empirical understanding of Canada’s contemporary “Indian” problem. Where the Waters Divide is one of the few book monographs that analyze how contemporary neoliberal reforms (in the manner of de-regulation, austerity measures, common sense policies, privatization, etc.) are woven through and shape contemporary racial inequality in Canadian society.Using recent controversies in drinking water contamination and solid waste and sewage pollution, Where the Waters Divide illustrates in concrete ways how cherished notions of liberalism and common sense reform — neoliberalism — also constitute a particular form of racial oppression and white privilege.
Where the Waters Divide brings together theories and concepts from four disciplines — sociology, geography, Aboriginal studies, and environmental studies — to build critical insights into the race relational aspects of neoliberal reform. In particular, the book argues that neoliberalism represents a key moment in time for the racial formation in Canada, one that functions not through overt forms of state sanctioned racism, as in the past, but via the morality of the marketplace and the primacy of individual solutions to modern environmental and social problems. Furthermore, Mascarenhas argues, because most Canadians are not aware of this pattern of laissez faire racism, and because racism continues to be associated with intentional and hostile acts, Canadians can dissociate themselves from this form of economic racism, all the while ignoring their investment in white privilege.
Where the Waters Divide stands at a provocative crossroads. Disciplinarily, it is where the social construction of water, an emerging theme within Cultural Studies and Environmental Sociology, meets the social construction of expertise — one of the most contentious areas within the social sciences. It is also where the political economy of natural resources, an emerging theme in Development and Globalization Studies, meets the Politics of Race Relations — an often-understudied area within Environmental Studies. Conceptually, the book stands where the racial formation associated with natural resources reform is made and re-made, and where the dominant form of white privilege is contrasted with anti-neoliberal social movements in Canada and across the globe.