Doug Ford’s repeal of the Far North Act won’t gain the respect of Indigenous communities


Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Natural Resources Minister John Yakabuski seen at the Conservative government’s swearing-in ceremony on June 29, 2018. Photo by Alex Tétreault

Late last month, Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government confirmed that it plans to repeal the Far North Act, seeking to reduce “red tape” and increase “business certainty” in the Ring of Fire – a mineral deposit located near James Bay. While Premier Doug Ford is not the first to think he has found a key to unlocking the resource potential of Ontario’s north, this strategy is sure to backfire.

Ontario’s far north is inhabited almost exclusively by Indigenous peoples with ancestral homelands in the area covered by Treaty 9. It is a vast landscape of swampy boreal forest, a gigantic carbon sink that is also home to rare creatures such as the woodland caribou and the wolverine. Except for the De Beers diamond mine near Attawapiskat, there has been almost no industrial scale development in the whole region, which is why mining the hyped-up nickel and chromite deposits in the Ring of Fire region will require major new roads and other infrastructure.

When the Liberals first introduced the Far North Act in 2010, they did so over the objections of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN). The plan was to “protect” 50 per cent of the boreal wilderness, while “partnering” with First Nations in decision-making and revenue-sharing so as to facilitate mining. But while celebrated as an ecological victory, the scheme was actually designed to manage the increasing volume and credibility of claims to Indigenous governance authority in the region. Ontario, in the years prior to the act’s passage, had been forced to pay off mining companies to settle litigation alleging that Ontario was failing to facilitate access to companies’ mineral assets in the face of Indigenous resistance.

With the Far North Act, then, Ontario was trying to maintain the facade that it alone has the jurisdiction to make land-use decisions in Treaty 9 territory. Under the scheme that Mr. Ford now wants to scrap, remote First Nations are given funding to create community-based land-use plans that map out in detail the historical and contemporary uses of various parts of their territories. Communities can identify areas of significant value such as burial sites, fishing areas or traplines, and may designate areas as open for – or closed to – mineral exploration. But, in the end, the Minister decides whether to approve the plan; final authority remains with the province to make a decision in the “best interests of all Ontarians.” MORE

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Ford government proposes to scrap controversial law placing ‘restrictions’ on development in northern Ontario

‘Livelihoods are at stake’: Senate under pressure to overhaul controversial Bill C-69

Industry lobbying senators for changes to proposed environmental assessment laws


Opponents of the Kinder Morgan oil pipeline protest outside a Liberal Party fundraising event in Vancouver, B.C. Industry groups representing virtually every natural resources sector in Canada are warning the government’s environmental assessment overhaul needs a major overhaul. (Ben Nelms/Reuters)

The federal Liberal government’s controversial overhaul of environmental assessment legislation has united virtually every major natural resources industry association in opposition — and they’re asking the Senate committee studying Bill C-69 to make some fixes to avoid threatening the viability of key sectors of the economy.

Amid the barrage of criticism, the government itself has recognized it may have to agree to some tweaks to get the legislation — expected to be one of the last major pieces of the Liberal agenda to pass before the fall election — through the Red Chamber.

Speaking last week at an event for Canada’s mining companies — one of the few sectors that has offered support for the elimination of some federal and provincial regulatory duplication in Bill C-69 — Trudeau thanked miners for their “measured” approach to the legislation.

“Quite frankly, [a] number of thoughtful submissions and amendments to that, to improve it, [came] from this industry,” Trudeau said.

Since the Senate began its study of Bill C-69 last month, however, industry representatives from the oil and gas, hydro, nuclear and uranium sectors have appeared before the energy committee with a long list of suggested amendments. Rather than a few tweaks, these industries are proposing major rewrites. MORE

The Climate Kids Are Coming

With a Green New Deal and Student Strikes For Climate, will young people save us yet?

Greta Thunberg at Davos 2019
Greta Thunberg speaks at World Economic Forum in Davos. (AP Photo / Markus Schreiber)

If you don’t know who Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg is, you can think of her as an international climate-change counterpart to Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Like the rock-star congresswoman from New York, Thunberg is a charismatic young woman whose social-media savvy, moral clarity, and fearless speaking truth to power have inspired throngs of admirers to take to the streets for a better world and call out the politicians and CEOs who are standing in the way.

Ocasio-Cortez, 29, is known for championing the #GreenNewDeal and schooling right-wing haters on Twitter. Thunberg, 16, is known for launching the #SchoolStrike4Climate movement—tens of thousands of high-school students worldwide are skipping school on Fridays until their governments treat the climate crisis as an emergency—and for torching billionaires and heads of state at the World Economic Forum in Davos last week.

Demolishing the convenient notion that we are all to blame for climate change, Thunberg told a Davos panel that included president Trump’s former chief economics adviser Gary Cohn, “Some people, some companies, some decision makers in particular have known exactly what priceless values they have been sacrificing to continue making unimaginable amounts of money.” She paused before a final thrust of the knife: “I think many of you here today belong to that group of people.”

Call them the Climate Kids. Like Ocasio-Cortez and Thunberg themselves, the grassroots activist movements they have roused are comprised almost exclusively of teenagers and twentysomethings. These are not your father’s environmentalists: supplicant, “realistic,” and accepting of failure. These young people are angry about the increasingly dire climate future awaiting them and clear-eyed about who’s to blame and how to fix it. And they seem to have the bad guys worried. MORE

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The Green New Deal: Movements (Finally) Get Visionary Again

Discount Frenzy: The dirt on discount oil

We are being inundated with discount frenzy and it’s not just annoying, it could be life-threatening.

Image result for Discount Frenzy: The dirt on discount oil

I’m not talking about the onslaught of huckster ads encouraging us to buy, buy, buy on Black Friday, or even today, Boxing Day. No, the truly crazy-making discount frenzy is the barrage of half-truths, misinformation and outright lies blaming Alberta’s woes on the so-called discount on Canadian oil. That’s some serious snake oil (aka propaganda) that is sabotaging our chance to keep the world habitable for our children.

Lower quality = lower price

Politicians in Ottawa and Alberta are spinning a good yarn. Their tall tale taps into deeply entrenched Canadian insecurities as well as anxieties about U.S. control of Canadian resources. The problem is, like any good yarn, it’s full of blarney. The truth is that there is no discount on Canadian oil as most people understand the term. MORE

 

 

INTERNATIONAL CLIMATE ACTION MUST INCLUDE LIMITS ON FOSSIL FUEL SUPPLY

“Efforts to reduce demand for fossil fuels are helping, but it is now quite clear that demand-side actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are not enough,” Le Billon and Kristoffersen noted last week, as negotiations in Katowice, Poland reached a crescendo.

“Increasing carbon taxation on consumers has been relatively effective, but carbon taxes are facing increasing political resistance and can lead to a major backlash, as we are seeing with France’s current fuel riots. While the shift to renewable energy is gaining momentum, it is too slow. Per capita demand for energy has also been on the decline in the U.S. and many European countries for the past decade, but major new energy consumers such as China and India will take time to follow suit. As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently pointed out, the current transition is still too slow to meet climate change targets.” MORE

Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation seeks to stop Syncrude tar sands expansion project

Chief Allan Adam (left) from the Athabasca Fort Chipewyan First Nation chats with Grand Chief Serge Simon from the Mohawks of Kanesatake at a Special Chiefs Assembly in Gatineau Que. on Dec. 8, 2016. Photo by Mike De Souza

The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation is seeking to block a major oilsands expansion project, adding another Indigenous legal challenge to the region’s resource exploitation.

In a filing to the province’s energy regulator, the First Nation asked to stop the expansion of Syncrude Canada Ltd’s Mildred Lake oilsands operation.

“We can hardly get a boat through the Delta, migratory birds don’t fly over, the fish are diseased, and our people are sick,” said Chief Allan Adam of Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, fighting the expansion of Syncrude’s Mildred Lake project.

If approved, the expansion would add around 184,000 barrels of oil per day to Mildred Lake’s production. Hearings on the matter are to be held by the Alberta Energy Regulator in Fort McMurray from Jan. 22-Feb. 8, 2019. MORE